Understanding Altruism

Acting with an unselfish regard for others doesn't always come naturally, even though many psychologists believe we're hard-wired for empathy. After all, cooperative behavior did allow our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. But most of us realize that when we make the effort to give without expectations of reciprocity, we feel fulfilled and energized.

Recent posts on Altruism

The Communal Narcissist: Another Wolf Wearing a Sheep Outfit

By Peg Streep on May 24, 2016 in Tech Support
This type of narcissist isn't outgoing or a show-off or even self-effacing and covert... Nope, this one is out there, promoting a cause that he or she supposedly holds dear...

Nonreciprocal Giving Isn't Generosity

When we give and give to others without reciprocation, it amounts to emotional manipulation NOT generosity.

Love and Psychotherapy

The therapist is always, first and foremost, a human being relating to another human being. Love is part of this equation.

9 Strategies for Effective Donors

Want to give with joy and maximum impact? Applying these steps will help you achieve that goal.

Introducing the Atlas of Emotions

By Paul Ekman Ph.D. on May 12, 2016 in Face It!
Backed by funding from the Dalai Lama, read about our new Atlas of Emotions.

Fight Apathy With An Unselfish Selfie

Are calls for help from every direction bringing you down? Consider taking an unselfish selfie!

Need a Hand? Just Ask (Really)

By Art Markman Ph.D. on May 11, 2016 in Ulterior Motives
We often underestimate how likely someone is to comply with a request. Why is this so—and why does it matter?

Anyone for Altruism? Calling All Republicans

Our winters are growing warmer; Americans like that. The medium-term impact of global warming may be negative. And how can we care for those adversely affected by climate change?

Mothers Are Altruists Sine Qua Non

Mothering is, by far and away, the most common form of prosocial behavior in our species. Here’s why.

6 Ways to Turn Someone Down, Politely

A favor is a category of altruistic behavior, and as such, we should be particularly pleased when one is offered. Not all favors are wanted. How do you say no?

3 Ways to Improve the Conversation on Economic Policy

We need to stop asking who has a right to our generosity and ask instead who is included in “we.”

The Selfishness of Altruism

Altruism feels good because it stimulates dopamine, oxytocin, and serotonin. In our quest for good feelings, we don't always monitor the results of our altruistic gestures.

Here's How Rewarding Good Behavior Leads to Bad Behavior

By Garth Sundem on April 26, 2016 in Brain Trust
Positive reinforcement is a cornerstone of parenting. Unfortunately, a new study shows it can have the opposite effect.


A core tenet that underlies evolutionary science is the fact that an inordinate number possibilities exist when it comes to just about anything. This fact can be an inspiration.

3 Not-So-Obvious Things Women Find Attractive in Men

By Vinita Mehta Ph.D., Ed.M. on April 25, 2016 in Head Games
For women, attraction is hardly about good looks and money.

Awaken to the Joy You’ve Been Mindlessly Chasing

By celebrating all that you bring to the world, the world is in a much better position to begin celebrating with you!

Morality, Alliances, And Altruism

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on April 09, 2016 in Pop Psych
The implicit connection between receiving altruism and being friends

Benefiting Others: Motives Or Ends?

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on April 02, 2016 in Pop Psych
Not all helping is motivated by altruism, and not all altruism is particularly helpful

Generosity as Isolation

Generosity and altruism are, of course, wonderful qualities. They are also the sheep’s clothes of irrelationship, allowing us to hide our anxiety about being close to others.

Morality, Empathy, and the Value of Theory

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on March 25, 2016 in Pop Psych
Millions of people around the world could use altruism to survive. Our empathy alone won't solve that problem, but neither will our moral systems.

Are You Smarter Than a Self-Driving Car?

By Susan K Perry Ph.D. on March 22, 2016 in Creating in Flow
A fun new look at an old problem: Should the driver of a runaway tram sure to kill five workmen redirect the tram to another track so that it kills only one workman?

How Benevolent Are You, Really?

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on March 18, 2016 in How To Do Life
Seven questions to help you self-assess

More on What Ayn Rand Got Wrong About Human Nature

By Denise Cummins Ph.D. on March 17, 2016 in Good Thinking
Ayn Rand based her philosophy on four core beliefs, each of which is disconfirmed by evidence.

The Selfless Gene

People who think that Dawkins’ “selfish gene” phrase implies that all human behavior evolved to be selfish have it completely wrong. Here’s the deal.

What Does It Mean to Do "God's Work"?

What's more important than simply enjoying our job or being good at it?

Punishment Might Signal Trustworthiness, but Maybe...

By Jesse Marczyk Ph.D. on March 10, 2016 in Pop Psych
New research claims that the function of third-party punishment is to build trust. That same research doesn't support that claim.

What Gifts Open Your Heart?

By Kate Levinson Ph.D. on February 26, 2016 in Emotional Currency
What gifts open your heart - a meal prepared by a friend, a smile from a stranger, a hot shower?

Let's Create a Brighter Future

At this juncture in time, it behooves us to learn from the Native American principle: Our decisions today should be based on how they will affect the next seven generations.