Psychological theories have long postulated that behaviours are incentivized by self-interest, with people only desiring their own well-being (Sober & Wilson, 1998), a phenomenon known as egoism. However, recent research suggests that the concept of egoism is flawed, and evidence for the existence of altruism has become recognised. ‘Altruism’ was established by Comte (1851) and can be defined as a motivational state aiming to increase another’s welfare, without any expectation of reciprocal benefit. Within psychological literature, there has and continues to be discussion whether humans are truly capable of altruism. Proponents of egoism argue that altruistic behaviours benefit the apparent altruist in subtle ways, suggesting that altruism does not exist. Despite this, there are many evolutionary strategies for altruism, such as kin selection, reciprocal altruism and indirect altruism. Various theories argue in favour of altruism, for example, the empathy-altruism hypothesis (Batson, 1991). However, the convincingness of evidence and the true existence of altruism is questionable, raising the egoism-altruism debate.
Evidence that denotes the existence of altruism emanates from various findings. For instance, Warneken and Tomasello (2006) conducted a study demonstrating the ability of infants to act altruistically. Eighteen-month-old infants could perceive that an adult struggling to achieve their goal needed help and further, without verbal request or eye contact, helped them, demonstrating altruistic motivations. A replication also found that if the adult looked sad, this did not elicit more helping (Newton, Goodman, Rogers, Burris & Thompson, 2010). Toddlers who helped in t...
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...ltruism exists and is part of human nature (Piliavin & Charng, 1990), and it has been argued that we tend to underestimate just how altruistic most people are (Miller & Ratner, 1998). However, whilst some researchers argue for altruism, others completely oppose, making it hard to be convinced that true altruism does exist. What makes it more arduous is the difficulty to objectively measure altruism and pinpoint the main influencing motive. Piliavin and Charng (1990) argue that present theories and evidence are consistent with the view that altruism does exist. However, when reviewing widespread evidence, it is evident that the existence of true altruism remains elusive, therefore less convincing. A potential problem is the challenge of defining altruism. To resolve conflict, altruism could be simply defined as behaviour irrespective of its motive to advantage others.
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