Altruism is social behaviour and
value orientation in which individuals give primary consideration to the interests and
welfare of other individuals, members of groups or the community as a whole. In altruistic
regard for others is the principle of action.
The term altruism was used by
Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) to describe a Suicide as Altruistic Suicide, committed for the benefit of others
or for the community: this would include self-sacrifice for military objectives in
wartime. Sociobiologists argue that altruism and altruistic behaviour has its roots in
self-interest, the unconscious desire to protect one's genetic heritage.
Critics of sociobiology respond
that altruism is evident between individuals and in situations where people are completely
unrelated genetically and that human conduct and motivations cannot be explained without
reference to the values and norms of culture.
and the origin of cooperation - How did human cooperation evolve?
Recent evidence shows that many people are willing to engage in altruistic punishment,
voluntarily paying a cost to punish noncooperators. Although this behavior helps to
explain how cooperation can persist, it creates an important puzzle.
If altruistic punishment
provides benefits to nonpunishers and is costly to punishers, then how could it evolve?
Drawing on recent insights from voluntary public goods games, I present a simple
evolutionary model in which altruistic punishers can enter and will always come to
dominate a population of contributors, defectors, and nonparticipants. The model suggests
that the cycle of strategies in voluntary public goods games does not persist in the
presence of punishment strategies. It also suggests that punishment can only enforce
payoff-improving strategies, contrary to a widely cited "folk theorem" result
that suggests that punishment can allow the evolution of any strategy. - James H. Fowler,
Univ of California. Edited by Henry C. Harpending, University of Utah.
Religious Altruism and
David J. Dixon, M.D., M.A., F.R.C.P.C, and Susan E. Abbey, M.D., F.R.C.P.C.
From the Department of Psychiatry, Toronto General Hospital & University of Toronto
Clinicians performing psychiatric assessments of potential organ donors must consider the
motivations behind an act that isstrictly in terms of its physiological
implications, entirely altruistic. The authors present two case reports in which proposed
kidney donors conceptualized their offers exclusively in terms of their religious beliefs
and not in terms of kinship or emotional intimacy with the intended recipients. The
negative reactions of some clinicians to the offers reveal the readiness with which
religious beliefs can be pathologized and the way in which biological relationships can
unduly restrict the clinical understanding of healthy altruism.
Self Interest, Altruism,
Incentives, and Agency Theory
MICHAEL C. JENSEN, Harvard Business School; The Monitor Company; Social Science Electronic
Publishing (SSEP), Inc.
Abstract: Many people are suspicious of self-interest and incentives and oppose motivating
humans through incentives. I analyze the meaning of incentives in the logic of choice and
argue that it is inconceivable that purposeful actions are anything other than responses
to incentives. Money is not always the best way to motivate people. But where money
incentives are required, they are required precisely because people are motivated by
things other than money. Self-interest is consistent with altruistic motives. Agency
problems, however, cannot be solved by instilling greater altruism in people because
altruism, the concern for the well-being of others, does not make a person into a perfect
agent who does the bidding of others.
Theory of Mind and Altruism - Lesley
Black, Psychology Undergrad
Abstract: Taking anothers point of view, and the tendency to help others out, are
examined in this correlational study of five year-olds. Theory of mind and Altruism are
both centered on an individual thinking about others thoughts and thus should be
highly correlated. The battery consists of second-order theory of mind measures, altruism
inventories, and inhibitory control tasks. Verbal mental ability, age and the inhibitory
control measures will be used as control variables. A Guttmann scale was found for
difficulty in comprehension of the second order theory of mind tests. The two inhibitory
control variables were found to be highly correlated. Additionally the positive and
negative emotion picture tests were also highly correlated. Inhibitory control was found
to be correlated with second order theory of mind. Verbal mental age was also found to be
correlated with second order theory of mind. Altruism and second order theory of mind were
correlated, which provides support for our hypothesis.