Essay on Altruism Is Ultimately Selfish

1469 Words Feb 5th, 2013 6 Pages
Discuss the proposal that pure selfless altruism does not exist.
Bartel (1976) defines prosocial behaviour as ‘behaviour that intentionally helps or benefits another person’. Batson (1987) defines altruism as ‘helping another person for no reward, and even at some cost to oneself.’ This definition of altruism seemingly depicts the behaviour as selfless, however there is a wealth of research which suggests that this is not the case.
Dawkins (1976) also provides evidence that altruism is ultimately selfish. He separated individuals into three categories in regards to prosocial behaviour displayed. These were grudgers, cheats and suckers. Grudgers were deemed to be the most evolutionary stable category, as they could control and ‘punish’
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There is evidence to suggest that people do operate by this model (Wagstaff, 2001) which implies that decisions of whether to display prosocial behaviour are weighted in fairness, meaning that altruistic acts may only be displayed if the individual perceives it to be fair to others.
Cialdini and Kendrick (1976) devised the Negative state relief model to offer a possible explanation of altruism. This suggests that we help others to relieve negative feelings. This has been supported by Piliavin (1981) who argued in his Arousal: Cost reward model that negative feelings, such as guilt, instigate negative arousal and therefore people may provide others with help to alleviate this negative emotion. Both of these models suggest that we are helping others to help ourselves, which supports the claim that true, selfless altruism does not exist. However, other research has found that helping behaviour increases in correlation with positive mood states (Isen, 1999). Even so, Carlson (1988) argues that this could be due to an individuals drive to prolong their good mood state by helping others. One limitation of this view is that it assumes that helping is a rewarding behaviour.
Another norm in respect to prosocial behaviour is social responsibility, which can be defined as helping those in need. Altruistic or prosocial acts tend to be more frequent towards ingroup (such as friends

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