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

Stop the Search: An Interview With Gangaji

By Mark Matousek on May 23, 2017 in Ethical Wisdom
Gangaji is one of the most respected spiritual teachers in America today. Her wise words are balm for the soul in our conflicted and dangerous times.

The Age of Dissociation

We are past the point of anxiety, and our defenses are maxed out.

Why Is It So Hard to Be Altruistic?

Cooperation and generosity are the norm, not the exception.

The Karma of Creativity

By Jennifer Haupt on May 07, 2017 in One True Thing
You volunteer, help others, treat the barista with respect, and try to be kind, and when you sit down to write, your imagination turns on like a friendly lightning bolt.

Is It Truly Better to Give Than to Receive?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on May 05, 2017 in Talking Apes
When we give, we reap more than we sow, as long as we do so willingly and believe it will help.

Psychology's Final Frontier: Understanding Heroism

Stories like the Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” offer a chance to consider how we would act when facing the profound unknown and facing great moral dilemmas.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

By Grant H. Brenner M.D. on April 27, 2017 in ExperiMentations
What is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and what does it mean?

Interview: Star Trek Psychology and the Hero Coalition

Pop Culture Heroism Coalition discuss why their focus shifted from opposing bullying to promoting heroism and how examples from popular culture can make a difference in real life.

Negotiate Sexual Differences, Part 2: How Often We Do It

By Ari Tuckman PsyD, MBA on April 14, 2017 in Sex Matters
Do you and partner disagree on how often to have sex? Here's how to find common ground.

Helping Your Neighbor

We often help others with expectations of help in return at a future point. Turns out, this is a basic feature of what it means to be human.

On Raising an Honest Child

How do we teach our kids to be honest, even if it means admitting to breaking the rules? Research on children's lying behavior might be able to provide us with some helpful hints.

The Power of Awe: "A Star Is Born" Images and the Small Self

New mind-blowing photographs of a star being born 500 years ago reaffirm the "awesome" power of nature to promote self-transcendence, the small self, and prosocial behaviors.

Where Is A Psychology of Heartlessness When You Need One?

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on April 02, 2017 in Presence of Mind
How can people support policies that will increase the hardship of vulnerable groups and still maintain their belief that they are good and moral people?

Wanting Less, So Long As Others Don't Get More

If others get more, would we prefer to get nothing?

5 BIG Ideas on Who We Are

To truly understand what it means to be human, an understanding of evolution is essential. Here are five eye-opening reasons why.

On Giving

By Kate Levinson Ph.D. on March 25, 2017 in Emotional Currency
Gifting is contagious. And as the Pope says, it is "always right" to give to the needy.

A Single Act of Amnesty: the Heart of Com-passion

By Gregg Levoy on March 20, 2017 in Passion!
Passion comes from a word meaning "to suffer," and compassion means shared suffering. As with last month’s post, this month's features a second story about the power of com-passion

A Man and His Dog

By Marty Nemko Ph.D. on March 09, 2017 in How To Do Life
A short-short story

Can I Trust Him? The Psychology and Philosophy of Trust

By Neel Burton M.D. on March 07, 2017 in Hide and Seek
What is trust, when does it pertain, and can it ever be absolute?

Humanists Doing Good in Uganda, Part 1

By Phil Zuckerman Ph.D. on March 01, 2017 in The Secular Life
Humanist schools and orphanages in Africa are helping children in need.

A Better Mousetrap: The Heart of Com-passion

By Gregg Levoy on February 27, 2017 in Passion!
Passion means "to suffer," and compassion means shared suffering. This story explores what's at the heart of compassion, and asks what we're willing to pay for it.

52 Ways to Show I Love You: Helping

By Roni Beth Tower Ph.D., ABPP on February 26, 2017 in Life, Refracted
Helping someone you love, through providing needed assistance, filling their request, assuming their task, or even taking care of yourself can enhance intimacy, respect, gratitude.

Greed Is Good?

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on February 22, 2017 in The Human Beast
Greed is good! Sharing is for Communists and losers! Do such maxims capture the essence of human social behavior?

Status in a Group Affects Generosity Toward the Group

By Art Markman Ph.D. on February 21, 2017 in Ulterior Motives
Groups of people naturally form groups that have status hierarchies. How does someone's status affect their generosity toward other group members?

The Pure Hubris of "In His Shoes I'd Have Acted Differently"

Judge people for what they do. But don't pretend you can understand why they did it, or whether their motives were good.

Cultivating Generosity

By Kate Levinson Ph.D. on February 08, 2017 in Emotional Currency
Ordinary generosity is extraordinary.

Immigration and the Benefits of Other-Regarding Actions

By Mark O'Connell L.C.S.W.- R. on January 29, 2017 in Quite Queerly
Studies show that empathy, generosity, and altruism can lead to a healthier, happier, and longer life. So, let's offer it up to our fellow Americans: old, new, and aspiring.

Kurt Lewin, the Refugee Who Founded Social Psychology

A refugee from Nazi Germany, Kurt Lewin, founded social psychology. Imagine a world where the U.S. shipped him back to die with his mother and sister in the concentration camps.

Noblesse Oblige in a “Let Them Eat Cake” Nouveau Riche Era

By Christopher Bergland on January 25, 2017 in The Athlete's Way
All too often, a "greed is good" mentality makes people behave selfishly. This post presents anecdotal and empirical evidence that reaffirm the benefits of generosity and kindness.

The Psychology of Stronger Together

On January 21, 2017, millions of people around the world marched to support women's rights. The evolutionary psychology of forming communities can help us understand why.