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

Explaining Americans' Reluctance to Accept Syrian Refugees

By Shawn M. Burn Ph.D. on November 25, 2015 Presence of Mind
The Syrian conflict has created the biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII yet over fifty percent of Americans oppose Syrian resettlement in the United States. Terror management theory, the principle of moral exclusion, and the study of prosocial behavior help explain why.

Beauty and Fear: Thanksgiving From a Different Perspective

The act of giving can be enhanced when you give from a cup that runneth over, from knowing the true nature of inner beauty. Looking at Thanksgiving from a different perspective.

The Healing Power of Gratitude

Science shows that gratitude is good for us both mentally and physically. As we aim to cultivate more gratitude, there are two questions to consider: what barriers do we face in feeling grateful in our daily lives, and how can we connect more fully to our feelings of appreciation?

Why Social Media Matters in the Paris Terrorist Attacks

Acts of terrorism need to be public to get attention, to spread fear. Social media amplifies it all. People around the world instantaneously see the horror and feel the sense of vulnerability and chaos. Social media also shows terrorism for what it is, senseless, reprehensible violence. Because of this, it brings people together and strengthens the resolve to oppose it.

Can Altruism Go Too Far?

By Jennifer Haupt on November 16, 2015 One True Thing
"One thing that sets extreme do-gooders apart is their willingness to ignore convention. These are people who are morally passionate, relentless, and incredibly stubborn—they invent lives that don’t make much sense to those around them."

Will This Turkey Inspire You to Trust People?

By Kevin Bennett on November 13, 2015 Modern Minds
Here's what might happen after your Thanksgiving meal this year.

Our Immigration Imperative

Immigration is a provocative subject, a red flag to many, an opportunity for humankind to many others. We are or were all immigrants, and our forebears have benefited from doors open to them. Large numbers of destitute immigrants can obviously create a financial and social challenge in the short run, but will inevitably enhance and enrich our society and culture.

“Fix You,” Conscious Uncoupling and Irrelationship

We think “Conscious Uncoupling’s promise of a “Happily-even-after” makes good sense. Our one big concern, however, is that the description of "Conscious Uncoupling" also provides ample opportunity for irrelationship to do its very best—that is, each incident of conscious uncoupling might just be an incident where a couple has stepped on a land mine of irrelationship.

Does Fairness Depend on Kindness or Justice?

By Garth Sundem on November 11, 2015 Brain Trust
Imagine you have to split a plate of cookies. Does the person who baked the cookies get the most or do you split them evenly?

4 Ways Altruism Produces Happy and Empowered Children

Behavior problems? Give your kid more to live for.

4 Things an Empath Never Says (and You Shouldn't Either)

By Peg Streep on November 02, 2015 Tech Support
Sympathy and empathy are often used interchangeably but the truth is that they are very different processes on both a neurological and social level. And the difference matters.

Earth to Humans: Why Have You Forsaken Me? Limited Behavior

By Kenneth Worthy Ph.D. on November 01, 2015 The Green Mind
What are the psychological roadblocks that explain why we’re not doing much to solve global climate change—a phenomenon that threatens the core of our society? This is the seventh and final post in a seven-part series.

Caring for Others Is What Made Our Species Unique

Are we empathetic or apathetic? Our species has evolved to be uniquely caring and altruistic, but there is a dangerous catch. Find out how to avoid it.

A Generous Spirit Is Good for Business

By Lybi Ma on October 21, 2015 Brainstorm
Generosity, not greed, is the key to better leadership.

Small Acts of Generosity and the Neuroscience of Gratitude

Neuroscientists have identified the brain circuitry that explains how and why small acts of generosity create the positive emotions of gratitude.

The Power of Awe

Awe can enhance you and your world.

A Simple Act of Kindness

Acts of kindness go a long way towards making us better people, and this a better world.

Kindness Wins, Really

One of my favorite sayings is, “If you pull a blade of grass, the entire universe shakes.”

Honoring the Rule of Reciprocation

Most of us learn over time to go to great lengths not to be considered a freeloader or a parasite. The rule is so strongly ingrained in us that we can be vulnerable to having this tendency used against us by others who wish to exploit or take advantage of us in some way.

Steve Jobs: Make People Happy via Products, Not Personally

By Stanton Peele on October 10, 2015 Addiction in Society
Steve Jobs and Sam, a local musician, have two different approaches to life. One wants to make people happy in his presence, the other by his presents, or products. Which approach is better?

Ghost Stories for Dogs

For Halloween, Ghosts of Gettysburg provides a unique socializing event for service pups in training.

How Many Foundations Of Morality Are There?

By Jesse Marczyk on October 06, 2015 Pop Psych
Our moral sense operates in a variety of different domains, from fairness, to harm, to disgust, and well beyond. Does this reflect the operations of a single cognitive mechanism or a variety of different moralities?

The Golden Rule in Love Relationships

By Stan Tatkin Psy.D. on October 05, 2015 The Puzzle of Love
Practicing the Golden Rule can transform a relationship. Couples who treat each other as they would like to be treated create a bedrock of security that will serve them well.

Five Reasons People Don't Like Atheists

By Clay Routledge Ph.D. on October 01, 2015 More Than Mortal
Atheists seem to really drive people nuts. Polls identify atheists as untrustworthy, unelectable for public office, and unworthy of marrying into one’s family.

Can You Say No To Requests?

People-pleasing has its up-sides. Generosity tends to uplift the giver as well as the receiver. Yet for the times when you really do not want to do something that someone has requested of you, here's a gracious way to say a clear no.

Sukkahs for Syrians

What if we Jews here and in Europe embraced our common humanity with Muslims and offered up our symbolic 'sukkah' shelters to the millions fleeing the atrocities of Syria? Human beings wandering thousands of miles, on foot, to seek refuge in Europe. Pregnant women. Newborn babies. Disabled elders. People without a country. Or shelter...

The Pursuit of Happiness

By Atalanta Beaumont on September 25, 2015 Handy Hints for Humans
Happiness—the elusive prize which lies inside yourself

3 Ways Money Can Buy Happiness

Anyone has the power to use money to boost happiness - yet it's got nothing to do with how much money you have to spend.

Open Letter to Angela Merkel from 100 Social Psychologists

How will Germany deal with the massive influx of Syrian refugees? Will there be a backlash--and how best to deal with it?

Test Your Evolutionary Psychology IQ!

I’ve been teaching courses related to evolutionary psychology since 1999. Here are 10 multiple-choice items that assess understanding of the basics. Good luck!