Evidence for Altruism: Toward a Pluralism of Prosocial Motives

Psychological Inquiry 2 (2):107-122 (1991)
Abstract
Psychologists have long assumed that the motivation for all intentional action, including all action intended to benefit others, is egoistic. People benefit others because, ultimately, to do so benefits themselves. The empathy-altruism hypothesis challenges this assumption. It claims that empathic emotion evokes truly altruistic motivation, motivation with an ultimate goal ofbenefiting not the self but the person for whom empathy is felt. Logical and psychological distinctions between egoism and altruism are reviewed, providing a conceptualframeworkfor empirical tests for the existence of altruism. Results of empirical tests to date are summarized; these results provide impressive support for the empathy-altruism hypothesis. We conclude that the popular and parsimonious explanation ofprosocial motivation in terms ofuniversal egoism must give way to a pluralistic explanation that includes altruism as well as egoism. Implications of such a pluralism are briefly noted, not only for our understanding ofprosocial motivation but also for our understanding of human nature and of the emotion-motivation link.
Keywords altruism  egoism  empathy
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Citations of this work BETA
Joshua May (2011). Egoism, Empathy, and Self-Other Merging. Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):25-39.
Jesse Prinz (2011). Against Empathy. Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1):214-233.

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