No Behaviour Is ‘Really’ Altruistic. Based on Theory and Research in Social Psychology, Critically Discuss This Contention.

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Altruism is a subcategory of helping behaviour, and refers to an act that is motivated by the desire to benefit another rather than oneself (Batson & Coke, 1981; Berkowitz, 1970, cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2005). The main issue with determining whether a helping act is truly altruistic is one of motivation; if we cannot determine whether an act stems from a desire to benefit others or some kind of ulterior motive, altruism is difficult to demonstrate (Rushton & Sorrentino, 1981, cited in Hogg & Vaughan, 2005). This essay will firstly discuss the Empathy-Altruism hypothesis, which rejects the claim that no behaviour is ‘really’ altruistic and will go on to discuss opposing theories of egoism such as negative state relief, reciprocity and…show more content…
For example, if we help a drunk on the street because we understand how they feel, the behaviour is altruistic, but if we also imagine how we might feel, the behaviour is not ‘really’ altruistic. It therefore depends on the perspective of the person offering help, as to whether or not the behaviour is ‘really’ altruistic.

The first of the egoistic theories that challenges the altruism notion is Cialdini's negative-state relief model (Cialdini, Baumann, & Kenrick, 1981; Cialdini, Darby, & Vincent, 1973, cited in Batson et al., 1989). It suggests that individuals who experience empathy when witnessing another person's suffering are in a negative affective state (one of temporary sadness or sorrow) and that these individuals help in order to relieve this negative state. Cialdini argued that his experiments in 1987 supported this egoistic (negative-state relief model) interpretation over a selfless (empathy-altruism model) interpretation of helping behaviour (cited in Batson, 1989). As a counter to this, Batson et al. (1981) argue that if personal gain (e.g. feelings of personal satisfaction or relief) is an unintended by-product and not the goal of the behaviour, then the behaviour is ‘really’ altruistic.

Another egoistic theory is one aspect of the social learning theory; from early childhood we

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