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 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!

Disaster Shapes Chile's "National Psychology"

By Anneli Rufus on September 17, 2015 Stuck
Living in a land beset by frequent natural disasters creates a sense of solidarity.

It's NOT the Economy, Stupid!

Liberals mistakenly believe that people are motivated primarily by narrow economic self-interest. Research and clinical experience shows this belief to be mistaken. Needs for meaning, purpose, community, recognition, and agency are every bit as important as so-called "survival needs" (a la Maslow), and the progressive movement needs to speak to these needs if it is to win.

The Good Do-Gooders Do

In Strangers Drowning, Larissa MacFarquhar tells the stories of a handful of altruists and reflects on the lives they have chosen to live. She examines changing attitudes toward altruism; adoption and kidney donation; Alcoholics Anonymous; a leprosy colony in Indian; and a "deaf workshop" in Japan; and the subsistence World Equity Budget that seeks equity among all people.

Understanding Empathy

By Steve Taylor Ph.D. on September 12, 2015 Out of the Darkness
Empathy is more than just "putting yourself in someone's shoes." It can stem from the ability to actually sense what another person is experiencing; the ability to "feel with" another person in a way that transcends separateness.

Is Heroism a 'Guy Thing?'

By Frank T McAndrew Ph.D. on September 11, 2015 Out of the Ooze
We hold heroes in such high esteem because they act in a noble and virtuous manner, setting aside any thoughts of their own well being for the good of others. Or do they? It turns out that heroism, especially in time of war, positions men (but not women) for high status and enhanced mating opportunities if they survive the heroic action.

Living Closer to the Bone (Part 7)

By Michael Jawer on September 10, 2015 Feeling Too Much
Sentient creatures share a profound connectedness, with one another and with nature. The concept of soul can be understood in context of this innately felt connection with creation.

Campaign 2016 - In Search of Executive Presence

By Mark Goulston M.D., F.A.P.A. on September 09, 2015 Just Listen
What are the qualities of a leader we can believe, believe in and trust?

Is Your Dark Side Stronger?

By Gregory R. Maio Ph.D. on September 08, 2015 Attitude Check
Is it easier to think in a way that favors our own groups? Thinking in an egalitarian way may take time and energy.

Why Being Luke’s Father Mattered

Are you totally psyched for the upcoming Star Wars films? Understanding Evolutionary Psychology can help you appreciate Star Wars even more! Here’s how.

What Most People Get Wrong About Generosity and Selfishness

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on August 28, 2015 Ambigamy
People treat generosity as all good and selfishness as all bad. It's more complicated than that. Still, pretending it's that simple can be a great way to grab what we want.

Emotional Generosity

Here's Why We Need More Emotion In Our Relationships

The History and Psychology of Warrior Women

Warrior Women, Archetype, History, Psychology

Are You Building a Community, or an Organization?

Developing a sense of community in any organization is usually a plus, but keep in mind that a true community is a very difficult achievement. Most businesses and even non-profits ultimately must prioritize their organizational goals, otherwise they are likely to become a thing of the past.

"Eggsploitation: Maggie's Story" and Risks of Egg Retrieval

"Eggsploitation: Maggie's Story" reveals how the fertility industry takes advantage of individuals' altruistic motives in search of profit while the medical risks remain unknown.

The Altruism of the Rich and the Poor

By Jesse Marczyk on August 12, 2015 Pop Psych
A new paper finds that the rich tend to be more charitable than previously-studied groups. Interestingly enough, the poor are also a rather charitable bunch. How can we explain both of these facts?

What It Takes to Support a Conscious Disruptor

In a world in which exchange is the norm, letting go of any accounting, giving as much as I can, and asking for all I want, are radical acts. Every step of the way, I have encountered people who tell me what I am trying to do isn’t possible.

Living Closer to the Bone (Part 3)

By Michael Jawer on August 06, 2015 Feeling Too Much
Examples abound of non-human animals (dogs, pigs, bears, seals, gorillas, dolphins, whales) showing not only empathy but sympathy. In other words, these creatures not only possess an awareness of what someone else is feeling but they seek to alleviate the other’s plight.

4 Ways to Set Boundaries

Most of us must set boundaries around our helping and giving at some point in our lives. But internal conflict is common when we place limits on what we’ll do for or give to others, even when we know it’s the right thing to do. Managing this boundary-setting ambivalence is key to setting and maintaining healthy boundaries.

A New Kidney for My Father

I feel a depth of gratitude that is akin to something spiritual.

The Neuroscience of Savoring Positive Emotions

Neuroscientists have linked sustained activation of a brain region called the ventral striatum to savoring positive emotions. Ventral striatal activation is in the locus of your control. Researchers believe that regularly practicing loving-kindness meditation and compassion activates this brain region and increases the ability to savor positive emotions.

Get Real About Teamwork

When a team mate is uncooperative, you may be tempted to ignore it to maintain the harmony. But if you do this all the time, fake cooperation gets confused with real cooperation. You shouldn't have to choose between team work and reality. Here's a way to have both.

How Giving Something for Nothing Can Benefit your Health

Altruism can benefit your health - try it and see