Altruism: Meaning & Characteristics

Practicing altruism entails sacrificing personal gain for the sake of others. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that humans are more inclined to work together than against one another, that even young children would assist strangers out of genuine care for their well-being, and that non-human primates show signs of altruism. Scientists who study human evolution believe that kindness and cooperation are hardwired into our species because they aid in maintaining the viability of the human population. "Sympathy" and "benevolence" are terms Darwin used to describe altruism, which he said is "a fundamental element of the social instincts." People's brains light up in pleasure and reward circuits when they do acts of kindness, just as they do when they consume chocolate.

What is Altruism?

People put themselves in harm's way in acts of selflessness. Typically, people engage in such actions because they care about others and not because they hope to get something in return. This is called reciprocal altruism, when people serve others, hoping to be helped in return. Small acts of kindness like holding the door open for a stranger or donating money to those in need are commonplace occurrences. Bigger acts of kindness, like a guy plunging into a freezing river to save a stranger or a wealthy person giving thousands to a local charity, tend to get more attention in the media. Giving to another individual without expecting anything in return. Putting one's own needs last when doing so would impose expenses on others. Being willing to help a person despite the potential consequences. In times of shortage, it is important to pool resources. Being concerned about another person's well.

The Many Forms and Manifestations of Altruism

Practicing kindness toward one's relatives is an example of "genetic altruism." The needs of relatives are typically met by acts of sacrifice, such as those performed by parents and others in the family. As the name implies, reciprocal altruism is predicated on a system of mutual assistance. It entails doing something kind for someone now in the hopes of receiving something nice in return later. In group-selected altruism, one acts of kindness towards others depending on their membership in a particular group. Individuals may prioritize aiding others who are like them socially, or they will give more money or time to social initiatives that benefit the same group. Helping another person without expecting anything is an example of pure altruism. All its driving force comes deep inside itself through morals and ideals.

In what Ways Do We Become Altruistic?

While all acts of altruism are socially competent, not all positive behavioral actions are entirely selfless. There are many motivations for helping others, including remorse, responsibility, duty, and financial gain.

Innate Propensity

Psychologists have long debated that certain individuals may have an innate propensity to assist others, which is consistent with the idea that altruism may have a genetic component. The evolutionary theory of kin selection states that individuals are more willing to aid their blood relations because doing so increases the likelihood of transmitting shared genes to future generations. Individuals' willingness to aid increases in proportion to the degree of familial relationship between them.

Incentives Based on Brain Activity

The brain's reward circuits light up when we help others. Scientists and researchers have discovered that when people act selflessly, their reward circuits light up. Compassionate behavior stimulates the brain's reward circuits. When people do kind things, they feel good about it, encouraging them to keep doing good things.

Workplace Social Condition

Social conditioning may substantially affect young children's propensity for altruism because of the importance of interpersonal relationships. One study found that kids who witnessed even small acts of altruism between peers were much more likely to do kind things themselves. However, this effect was not seen when people were friendly but not very altruistic.

Culture and Customs

The extent to which individuals participate in selfless acts may also be affected by societal norms and expectations. Among these social expectations is the rule of reciprocity, according to which we are obligated to aid those who have helped us. If a buddy lent you money for dinner a few weeks earlier, you might feel obligated to lend them again if they ask. Someone helped you out, and you feel compelled to repay them somehow.

Incentives Altruism Hypothesis

Even though altruism is defined as helping others without expecting anything in return, there may be hidden cognitive motivations. Assisting others can help us feel better about ourselves, or it can help us feel better about the world. People are more inclined to participate in altruistic conduct when they feel compassion for the person in pain.When a child learns to empathize with others, they often become more selfless as a result.

Effects of Kindness

There are negative consequences to excessive acts of generosity, but in moderation, it is a powerful force that may improve your life and the lives of others around you. Numerous positive outcomes may result from acts of kindness and generosity

Better Health

There are several ways in which selfless actions benefit one's physical well-being. Helping others, especially on a regular basis, is associated with a markedly decreased risk of death, and those who volunteer tend to have greater health as a result.

Improved Psychological Health

A direct result of helping others; doing good deeds, in turn, boosts one's sense of worth. Studies have shown that helping others boosts one's sense of well-being. People in all cultures value kindness highly in a love partner, and a person who is kind and empathetic is likely to have a better romantic connection.

Increasing Giving

Observe the examples of those who live selflessly. As you see the efforts of others to better the lives of people and communities, you may feel motivated to take on similar endeavors. Practice empathy by reaching out to people and giving a human face to the issues you encounter instead of closing yourself off them. Discover how to engage in kind acts for strangers daily. Keep an eye out for folks who may need your assistance. Do not let thoughtfulness go from your mind


The research suggests that individuals only engage in acts of altruism on behalf of the community when doing so would result in a net positive for themselves. In the setting of public goods, incentives and penalties are required to avoid' disaster because there are no positive advantages to be earned by altruistic people. This suggests that there is no such thing as "genuine altruism," or helping others without expecting anything in return, in human societies. Due to the inherent selfishness of any act of altruism, humans are not predisposed to engage in truly altruistic behavior for the larger collective. Because of the net fitness gain, any sign of 'altruistic' behavior is mutually beneficial.

Updated on: 29-Dec-2022


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