Assignment: Advertisements to Increase Altruistic Behavior Psychology Paper
Altruism describes behavior motivated by the goal of increasing someone else’s welfare. In contrast, egoism defines acts driven by our self-interest (Batson, Ahmad, & Lishner, 2020).
For example, the motivation behind stopping to help someone with a flat tire:
Egoistic view – the driver stops so that they appear caring in front of their new partner.
Altruistic view – the driver is motivated to stop by their concern for another’s wellbeing.
The underlying motivation defines whether an action is altruistic.
But, isn’t altruistic behavior commonplace? After all, many of us give to charitable appeals, visit relatives in the hospital, or help one another with loss.
Not everyone agrees.
The theory of universal egoism is commonly held by psychologists, biologists, and economists, partly due to its simplicity and lack of nuance (Batson et al., 2020).
According to this model, the goal or motivation behind each act is self-benefit.
We behave in such a way to feel good about ourselves, receive material rewards, or avoid feeling shame about our actions or inaction.
We help a friend because we do not want to lose the closeness we share with them. If we see them upset, it causes us to feel bad, so we intervene.
We offer someone a ride because at some point we may need their help.
Even a heroic life-saving act, according to universal egoists, is an attempt to escape guilt and be seen in a positive light (Batson et al., 2020).
And yet, believing that every action is motivated by self-interest alone seems cynical and devoid of humanity, and offers a bleak view of the world.
Can we believe that there are no selfless actions?
The altruist is more generous with the motivation they attribute to such acts.
While much of our behavior is underpinned by egoistic motivation, under certain circumstances, help is given with the sole aim of improving or safeguarding the wellbeing of others – this is altruism.
If we assist someone in trouble, we are therefore not motivated by a future, unknowable reward or recognition.
But why would we engage in behavior that favors another over ourselves?
Our actions are motivated by our emotional reactions – including empathy and sympathy – to a situation.
In a literal sense, we experience the pain of our friend’s grief, so we offer our time and help. Ongoing brain research has confirmed that mirror neurons help us represent the actions or emotions of the people around us (Rizzolatti & Sinigaglia, 2010).
When we see a starving child on a TV commercial, we feel their distress and that of their family before donating.
Empathic motivation results from a combination of our feelings – tenderness, compassion, and sympathy – and the recipient’s sadness, loneliness, and distress.
We perceive the needs of another or imagine their feelings.
Egoists counter this view by suggesting that we are still motivated by self-interest; we help another to remove or reduce our uncomfortable feelings that result from our empathy.
Collectivism (or group selection)
The collectivist believes that the ultimate goal behind the way we act is to benefit the group, rather than oneself.
Instead of focusing on ourselves or the person we help, we are motivated to improve the wellbeing of the group to which we belong.
It is perhaps best summed up by psychologist Robyn Dawes, it is “not me or thee but we” (Dawes, Kragt, & Orbell, 1988).
However, when framed by egoists, the motivation to benefit the group also promotes self-interest.
Logically, behavior that motivates us to keep the group safe may indirectly (or even directly) harm those outside the group. Principlism, however, avoids this dilemma, suggesting that altruism is motivated by the goal of upholding a principle and is therefore universal and impartial.
However, even behavior motivated by principlism can be seen as egoism if upholding moral principles is for personal gain.
While egoism remains a strong challenge to altruism and is dominant in many social sciences, there are plenty of human and animal examples that appear to counter this stance.
Recent research supports the idea of altruism, finding that people feel happier when they engage in behavior motivated by others’ wellbeing (Aknin, Broesch, Hamlin, & Vondervoort, 2015).
Important information for writing discussion questions and participation
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Please read through the following information on writing a Discussion question response and participation posts.
Contact me if you have any questions.
Important information on Writing a Discussion Question
- Your response needs to be a minimum of 150 words (not including your list of references)
- There needs to be at least TWO references with ONE being a peer reviewed professional journal article.
- Include in-text citations in your response
- Do not include quotes—instead summarize and paraphrase the information
- Follow APA-7th edition
- Points will be deducted if the above is not followed
Participation –replies to your classmates or instructor
- A minimum of 6 responses per week, on at least 3 days of the week.
- Each response needs at least ONE reference with citations—best if it is a peer reviewed journal article
- Each response needs to be at least 75 words in length (does not include your list of references)
- Responses need to be substantive by bringing information to the discussion or further enhance the discussion. Responses of “I agree” or “great post” does not count for the word count.
- Follow APA 7th edition
- Points will be deducted if the above is not followed
- Remember to use and follow APA-7th edition for all weekly assignments, discussion questions, and participation points.
- Here are some helpful links
- The is a great resource