Helping someone in need or getting the feeling of wanting to help someone in need is something that happens in everyone’s life. It is a common thought that animals help each other expecting to gain something in return. But in some cases, helping is not linked to immediate returning benefits or these are inexistent. This type of behavior has caught the attention of psychologists interested in understanding the ideas and thoughts behind it. Can this be considered real altruism? Psychologists have been studying this issue suggesting different ideas to explain altruistic behavior. This essay will talk about altruism and some of the real ideas over the thinking that altruistic behavior comes from real altruistic ideas, helping with the goal of benefiting others, without any self-benefit.
The discussion over the real thoughts of altruistic behavior is not a new idea and has been in papers for long time, from Aristotle to Freud (Batson and Shaw, 1991). The view of most psychologists, philosophers and biologists was that egoistic ideas for most part was of human behaviors. Pro-social behavior is considered and studied different from other human behaviors because it is the only thing that is looked for as benefit or punishment. Altruism is considered a part of the pro-social behavior (Hogg and Vaughan, 2008). Auguste Comte make up the word altruism when writing about the two different ideas, egoism versus altruism, which are always in a person`s thinking and that make-up the person`s behavior`s. Altruism refers to those social acts that are “an expression of an unselfish desire to live for others” (Comte, as cited in Batson and Shaw, 1991, p108). Despite the pro-social meaning, most psychologists through the years have held the idea that real altruism cannot exist because all behaviors are made up by selfish or self-gratification.
Evolutionary psychologists like Rushton (1991) argue how altruism is part of evolution that originates from genetic purposes. Most studies show that people would rather help a relative or a friend that they have known for a long time instead of someone they are not related or don’t have a connection too. It is understandable that helping a relative or someone we have known for a while could be a normal thing and bring us benefit in some way, but it is hard to explain when people and animals show compassion for complete strangers. This apparent altruistic behavior suggests that real altruism does exist. To study this opinion some tried to look at the emotions and cognitive things that were happening to the person before they were helping this person.
Piliavin, 1981, as cited in Hogg and Vaughan, 2008, suggested that the act of not helping someone in need could result in costing the people around them. These could be either an emphatic or of a personal nature. That is, the person helping someone may feel bad if choosing not to help someone. They did a study on three cognitive areas a person standing...