Experimental Tests for the Existence of Altruism

A program of research is described that was designed to provide experimental evidence for or against the existence of human altruism. The research tested the empathy-altruism hypothesis-which claims that empathic feelings for a person in need evoke altruistic motivation to relieve that need-against egoistic alternatives. Over 25 experiments have been conducted. With remarkable consistency, results of these experiments conform to the predictions of the empathy-altruism hypothesis. There seems no plausible egoistic explanation for these results. It is tentatively concluded that the empathy-altruism hypothesis is true. More generally, it is suggested that experimental techniques employing deception, developed by social psychologists, may be ideally suited to answering value-laden questions about human nature raised by moral philosophers.
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DOI 10.2307/192825
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