IS ALTRUISM A MYTH?GERD R. NAYDOCK, MSS, LSWPHILADELPHIA COLLEGE OFOSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE“Altruism is not … an agreeable ornament to sociallife, but it will forever be its fundamental basis. Howcan we really dispense with it?” E. Durkheim, 1933
WHAT DEFINES ALTRUISM? Altruism is a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another‟s welfare without regard to self-interest concerns.
OTHER USES OF THE TERM “ALTRUISM”1. As helping behavior, not motivational state. This simply equates altruism with helping behavior. (i.e. evolutionary altruism)2. As acting morally. Self-interest is often equated with selfishness, which is in turn often considered the epitome of immorality.3. As helping in order to gain internal rather than external rewards.
WHY IS MOTIVATION IMPORTANT? Knowing more generally when and where help can be expected, and how effective it is likely to be. The creation of more caring society. Think about some examples in your own life why this is important.
ALTRUISM IS COUNTERINTUITIVE TOEXPLAINING MOTIVATIONS TO HELPI. Social Exchange Theory Relationships are designed to minimize costs and maximize rewards. Internal rewards External rewards
SOCIOBIOLOGICAL THEORY Genes wish to maximize their likelihood of being passed on. We are more likely to help our kin and those who are more “like us” . Reciprocal altruism. Reciprocal systems increase likelihood of survival. (Especially small systems)
EVIDENCE OF ALTRUISM IN NATURE Vampire bats will regurgitate blood to feed unrelated or distantly related members of their species to prevent starvation. By doing this, the bat places itself in extreme physical jeopardy since it cannot survive without blood for more than two days.
ARE HUMANS CAPABLE OF ALTRUISTICMOTIVES? BATSON THINKS SO!
PROSOCIAL BEHAVIORS IN INFANTS ANDTODDLERS Infants and children are very capable of responding empathically and do so quite spontaneously. Fabes, Eisenberg et al., (1991)
EMPATHY AND ALTRUISM The empathy-altruism hypothesis posits that when empathy is triggered, people are motivated to help out of genuine concern for the welfare of others regardless of cost or benefits. Conversely, egoism is a motivational state which is centered on the goal of increasing one‟s own welfare.
EMPATHY VS. EGOISM Advocates of egoism do not believe that pure altruism is a motivator for the ultimate goal of helping others. Rather they cite that humans help others to: 1) Minimize their own distress (Aversive-arousal reduction) 2) Avoid punishment (social and self) 3) Seek Rewards
DOES THE BYSTANDER EFFECT ALWAYS HOLD TRUE? Suppose you are walking down the street on an extremely hot day and hear the sound of a baby‟s crying only to discover a baby laying in a car with the windows rolled up? What are your predictions?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OdKow7I Auw&feature=related
EMPIRICAL SUPPORT FOR ALTRUISM Batson and Shaw (1991) Witness a person (confederate) receiving electric shock Told they could fill in for the person taking shocks if they like Half were allowed to stop watching situation Authors manipulated whether experimenter and target knew of participant choice (WHY?)
RESULTS….. High empathy participants: helped regardless of ease of escape (interested in others‟ welfare) Low empathy participants: tended to help only if they had to continue watching (to relieve personal distress)
ENDOCENTRIC VS. EXOCENTRIC ALTRUISMKARYLOWSKI (1982) Altruistic helping can be based on one of the following motivations: A need to live up to one‟s perceived moral standards or imperatives (endocentric) OR A desire to improve another‟s condition (exocentric)
BATSON ET AL. (1987) IV(1) - High and Low Empathy Conditions IV(2) - Opportunity to help or not to help IV (3) - Half told that, by chance, the person was no longer going to receive shocks. The other half was not told this DV - Mood
RESULTS…. High empathy participants were happy (and relieved) to learn that the person was not going to receive shocks (even if it did not result from their helping) and sad if they thought the person was going to receive shocks. Low empathy participants were somewhat happy and fairly indifferent about the person receiving shocks.
ATTRIBUTES OF PERSONS PERFORMING ACTSOF HEROISM Based on 450 acts of heroism conducted during the period of January 1989 – July 1, 1993 and recognized by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission Sex of Related Know, not Didn’t know rescuer related Male 31 (7.54%) 97 (23.6%) 283 (68.9%) Female 6 (15.4%) 13 (33.3%) 20 (51.3%) Johnson, (2002)
JOHNSON (2002) CONTINUED Seventy-three of the 411 male rescuers and 39 female rescues died in their rescue attempts. (1:5 ratio) Males are more likely to be altruistic to strangers and females to persons with whom they are close. (Eagly and Crowley,1986) Urban Overload Hypothesis (Milgram, 1970) Altruism more likely in rural versus urban area.
SELF-SACRIFICING BEHAVIORS How does one account for helping behaviors directed towards strangers which are life- threatening and appear to have no personal benefits? Washington, D.C., January 13, 1982
JUMPED ON HAND GRENADE AND LIVED TO TELL ABOUT IT Lance Corporal Matthew Croucher British Royal Marines Awarded the George Cross, 2008
A NEUROSCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ALTRUISM?TANKERSLEY, STOWE & HUETTEL (2007) The right posterior superior temporal cortex
NEUROSCIENTIFIC BASIS FOR ALTRUISM? Hypothesis: If the perception of agency (i.e. empathy and perspective taking) is a precursor to altruism, then activity in the pSTC should predict subject‟s propensity for altruistic behavior. N = 45 IV – Subjects simply watched computer play reaction time game. (Watching condition) IV – Subjects played game to win money for themselves or selected charity IV – “high” altruism vs. “low altruism subjects
RESULTS: NO ACTIVATION IN BRAIN REWARD CENTERS Significant relationship between altruism and right pSTC activation. Increased pSTC activation on “watching” trials with “high” altruistic subjects. Decreased pSTC activation on “playing” trials with “high” altruistic subjects. (R= 0.57, P=<0.01) Atruistic behavior may originate from how people view the world rather than how they act in it.
WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE WITHOUTEMPATHY? Consider what it would feel like to live in a world where all people were motivated only by self-interest. What would that look like?
SOCIOPATHY “lacking in conscience and empathy, they take what they want and do as they please, violating social norms and expectations without guilt or remorse.” Hare, (1995) Sociopathic individuals do not possess the skills necessary to construct a concept of reciprocity in human relationships which is fundamental for the maintenance of social harmony.
REFERENCES:Batson, C.D. (1987). Prosocial motivation: Is it ever truly altruistic? Advanced Experimental Social Psychology, 20, 65-122.Batson, C.D., Dyck, J.L., Brandt, J.R., Batson, J.G., Powell, A.L., McMaster, R. R., & Griffitt, C. (1988). Five studies testing two new egoistic alternatives to the empathy- altruism hypothesis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55, 52-77.Batson, C. D. (1990). How social an animal? The human capacity for caring. American Psychologist, 45, 336- 346.Durkheim, E. (1933). The Division of Labor in Society. New York: Macmillan
REFERENCES:Eagly, A.H., & Crowley, M. (1986) Gender and helping behavior: A meta-analysis review of the social psychological literature. Psychological Bulletin, 100, 283-308Fabes, R., Eisenberg, N., Nyman, M., & Michelieu, Q. (1991). Childrens appraisals of others„ spontaneous emotional reactions. Developmental Psychology, 27, 858-866.Harding, T. (2008, July 23) George Cross Marine would jump on hand grenade again. The Telegraph.Hare, R. D. (1995) Psychopaths: New trends in research. Harvard Mental Health Letter, 12(3), 4-5Johnson, R. C. (2002). Attributes of persons performing acts of heroism and of the recipients of these acts. IPT Journal,12, 2002
REFERENCES:Karylowski, J. (1982) Two types of altruistic behavior: Doing good to feel good or to make the other feel good. In V. J. Deriega, & J. Grzelak (Eds.). Cooperation and helping behavior: Theories and research (pp 397-413). New York: Academic Press.Milgram, S. (1970) The experience of living in cities. Science,167, 1461-1468.Wilkinson, G. S. (1990) Food Sharing in Vampire Bats. Scientific American, February 1990, 76- 82