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PSY 7520- Social Psychology U5D2- Altruism

Describe the controversy over whether true altruism exists. Does true altruism exist, as social psychologist C. Daniel Batson claims or is all prosocial behavior driven by selfish motives such as the rewards of helping?

Milton (2012) describe altruism originates from the Latin and French languages and refers to the principle or practice of unselfish concern and devotion to the welfare of others. A personal chosen commitment of human reverence. Kerr et al (2004) state altruism is behavior that benefits others at a personal cost to the behaving individual. In the framework of evolutionary biology, economics, social psychology and anthropology all encounter different kinds of cooperation and defections in situations not necessarily in agreement with the same definition.

Stich (2016) state for the past four centuries since Hobbes, people are not capable of psychological altruism. However, two concepts of altruism have emerged, psychological altruism and evolutionary altruism. Evolutionary altruism is only if it decreases the inclusive fitness of the organism exhibiting the behavior and increasing the inclusive fitness of some other organism. A psychological altruism is if and only if it is motivated by an ultimate desire for the well-being of others. Moral philosophers have expressed concerns with psychological altruism. Those that question psychological altruism criticizes people do not have ultimate desires. Possibly more appeal needs to happen to biological evolution and cultural evolution.

Okasha (2010) argues that the root of the problem is the existence of several different frameworks for modeling evolution of social behavior. This includes: kin selection theory, multi-level theory, fitness theory, evolutionary game theory and an approach from quantitative genetics based on the notion of indirect genetics effects. These disagreement leaves and impression of confusion.

Chan (2017) speaks about the self-protection tendencies allowed our human ancestors to survive and thrive. After three experiments they concluded first, self-protecting individuals helped another person more when this altruism was non-anonymous and thus the recipient could repay in kind. Second, self-protecting individuals offered more money in a dictator game where there was future interaction for the recipient to benefit again. Third, results limited to altruistic individuals who can reciprocate in kind that include safety goals and the self-protecting individuals seek. Although all three used different manipulation and different altruistic context (kind, monetary, non-monetary) however all demonstrated if the perceived opportunity the altruistic recipient can reciprocate, self-protection prompts altruism.

Chan, E. (2017). Self-protection promotes altruism. Evolution and Human Behavior, 38. 667-


Kassin, S. (2017). Social Psychology, 10th Edition. [Vitalsource]. Retrieved


Kerr, B., Godfrey-Smith, P. & Feldman, M.W. (2004). What is altruism. Trends in Ecology and

Evolution, 19 (3), 135-140.

Milton, L.C. (2012). Altruism.Nursing Science Quarterly, 25(3), 222-224




Altruism is the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Researcher C. Daniel Batson is well known for the empathy-altruism hypothesis that implies “feeling empathy for a person in need evokes motivation to help that person. The benefits to self are not the goal of helping; they are unintended consequences” (Batson & Shaw 1991, p. 114). The theory implies that pure altruism is possible, and that psychological egoism is false.

In contrast, many philosophies support that altruism is an ego defense, as a means to cover up such uncomfortable feelings as anxiety, guilt or shame. When people focus on the needs of others, they can then push their needs (uncomfortable feelings) into the background, thus never having to address or even acknowledge them. Therefore, altruistic acts are considered to be of self-interested, because they eliminate uncomfortable feelings and as a bonus lead to pleasant feelings of pride and satisfaction.

Does true altruism exist, as social psychologist C. Daniel Batson claims, or is all prosocial behavior driven by selfish motives such as the rewards of helping? Although many philosophers and psychologists believe that humankind’s behavior is motivated solely by egoism, I believe that true altruism does exist, as is the claim of social psychologist C. Daniel Batson, because there are some people who actually enjoy helping others without having a need to feed their ego. (Burton, 2012) I personally, had helped numerous people, by myself and as a volunteer in a group, without any thought of a reward.

Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Toward a social psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Kassin, S., Fein, S., & Markus, H. R. (2017). Social psychology (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage. ISBN: 9781305580220.

Burton, N. (2012). Does True Altruism Exist? An analysis of altruism. Psychology Today.

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