Does True Altruism Exist?

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Topics: Altruism
Is Empathic Emotion a Source of Altruistic Motivation?

This article focuses on whether it is possible to have true altruistic motives or whether everyone is motivated by egoistic goals. The difference in the two being that altruistic motives are done with the end result being to ease someone else’s suffering or discomfort while egoistic motives have the end goal of reducing one’s own suffering or discomfort (Batson, 1981). Through experiments they have shown that there is a correlation between others altruistic motivations and similarity of the person who is suffering. When one is faced with the suffering of someone they perceive as being similar to themselves, they are more likely to help. There was also a documented correlation between an egoistic person’s willingness to help and the ease of removing themselves from the situation, or personal cost. If a person is able to remove themselves from witnessing the suffering, than they are less likely to help, while when faced with continue exposure to the suffering, they are more likely to provide assistance. These findings help show that there can be purely altruistic motives for helping but they are not conclusive in this result.

Empathy-Based Helping: Is It Selflessly or Selfishly Motivated?

This article looks at the study by Batson et al and attempts to show that a person’s likelihood to help one who is suffering is not based on altruistic motives but rather on an egotistic level dependant on the alleviation of their mood. Cialdini et al (1987) proposed that when one is watching another’s suffering is can create a temporary sadness that can make them more inclined to help. To prove this point, the researchers replicated the experiment of Batson et al adding tests for mood and rewards. The reward was given as a way to elevate the participants’ mood without changing their empathetic nature to the worker. Their hypothesis was that participants who had a temporary change in mood, but received a reward would



References: Ackerman, P., Batson, D., Birch, K., Buckley, T., & Duncan, B. D. (2009). Is Empathic Emotion a Source of Altruistic Motivation? In J. A. Nier, (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology, 3rd ed. (pp. 378-388). New York: McGraw Hill. Arps, K., Beaman, A. L., Cialdini, R. B., Fultz, J., Houlihan, D., & Schaller, M. (2009). Empathy-based helping: Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated? In J. A. Nier, (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology, 3rd ed. (pp. 389-399). New York: McGraw Hill. Mattis, J., Hammond, W., Grayman, N., Bonacci, M., Brennan, W., Cowie, S., et al. (2009). The Social Production of Altruism: Motivations for Caring Action in a Low-Income Urban Community. American Journal of Community Psychology, 1(2), 71-84. Nier, J. A. (2009). Does true altruism exist? In J. A. Nier, (Ed.), Taking sides: Clashing views in social psychology, 3rd ed. (pp. 376-377). New York: McGraw Hill. Ribar, D., & Wilhelm, M. (2002). Altruistic and Joy-of-Giving Motivations in Charitable Behavior. Journal of Political Economy, 110(2), 425-457.

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