Empathy-Altruism Theory

Discussion in 'Soap Box' started by Sadeyes, Aug 19, 2012.

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  1. Sadeyes

    Sadeyes Staff Alumni

    For more than 20 years, there has been "a debate over whether other-helping behavior is motivated by self or other interest... The prime actors in this debate are Daniel Batson arguing for empathy-altruism and Robert Cialdini arguing for self-interest." (Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy-altruism)

    In the past, I was a strong believer in Cialdini's theory of personal gain from good acts, but after reading the literature more closely, I am now on the fence and wanted to get some input. What do you think/feel?
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2012
  2. triedtoomanytimes

    triedtoomanytimes Well-Known Member

    Speaking from experience, I've found few people are able to empathise. Many can sympathise but seem unable to go that stage further and empathise. As for altruism, that's a tough one. I haven't read the link you gave yet, but again, in my experience the debate should perhaps be how do we define altruism...
    I volunteered for an excellent organisation at a time when I needed to rebuild my emotional health. Over the years that need dissipated until my reasons for doing the job were because I felt I helped the people we were in contact with. One may have argued my actions became altruistic, but the truth is I had, and still have a firm belief such an organisation is an absolute neccessity in society...so perhaps that negates any idea of altruism?
  3. Baldr

    Baldr Moderator Staff Member Safety & Support

    I think because of self interest, we gain something by being good to people, even if it might not be clear to others (or perhaps even yourself) at first.
    People often feel down when they've been good to a person and that person drops them, I doubt that would happen if you would solely act out of other people's best interests, I think it happens because you expect something back but that's not going to happen anymore.
    However, it doesn't make people worse in my eyes if they act out of their own interests. In both cases they did a good deed, so the end result is the same for the other person, but if you act in your own interests it has a beneficial result for you too.
  4. Acy

    Acy Mama Bear - TLC, Common Sense Staff Member Safety & Support

    I am kind of on the fence on this one.

    When we make it our personal practice to be kind and giving in small ways, we generate a habit of mindfulness for others. Does altruism have to be giving up everything for others, or just giving up a little that helps others? Does it have to be at our own expense? And can altruism be harmful?

    The best example of how altruism could possibly be "harmful" that I can think of is from The Road by Cormac McCarthy. The novel is set in a post-apocalyptic period. A surviving father and son find enough food for themselves. A third person comes along. The father will not give food to this third person because then NONE of them could survive. But the son - and the father - WANT to give the person food. It is heart-breaking when the father explains the reasoning to his son.

    I think that giving to others (whether it's in big or small things) can become a natural way to live. Is that altruism? Or just habit?
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