Empathy Altruism Hypothesis Essay

Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis


Explanations > Theories > Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 



If we feel empathy towards a person who needs help, we are likely to help them (in proportion to the empathy felt) without any selfish thoughts. Otherwise, we will help them only if the rewards of helping them outweigh the costs.

Rewards of helping can be many and various, including relief from the distress of seeing another in trouble. This means separating true altruism from selfish concerns can be very difficult.

Beggars live totally off empathy and can be expert at putting themselves in situations to increase this, such as using children and animals.


Toi and Batson (1972) played a ‘radio station interview’ to students about a disabled person who needed help. Afterwards they received an anonymous request for help. When instructed before the experiment to be objective about what they heard, the students were much less likely to offer help than when they had been asked to focus on how the person might be feeling.


So what?

Using it

Find empathetic people or create an empathetic situation before you ask for help.

See also

Attachment Style, Ben Franklin Effect, Buffer effect of Social Support, Prosocial Behavior


Toi and Batson (1972), Batson (1991)


Altruism - True Altruism Does Not Exist Essay

711 WordsDec 21st, 20123 Pages

“True altruism does not exist”. Discuss with reference to psychological theory and research.
Many have defined altruism in a similar context, a special form of helping behaviour that is “an act that is motivated by the desire to benefit another individual rather than oneself” (Hogg &Vaughan, 2008). An altruistic act does not necessarily have a negative or zero value to the actor (Margolis, 1982) but a true altruistic act is detrimental to the actor's fitness and enhances another individual’s fitness, in other words, a selfless act (Batson, 1991). Throughout the evolution of altruism, there have been many controversies about the existence of true altruism. Most theories have argued that it stems from ulterior motives, but does that prove…show more content…

Another motive of altruism to gain indirect returns is the egoistic motives. It is suggested by Mandeville (1732), where a person who is in a situation that causes personal distress would behave altruistically to relieve that particular distress.

Although theories that suggest the non-existence of true altruism may be persuasive, it does not explain the reasons for selfless deeds done by famous figures for their love and services to people such as Mother Teresa. Batson (1991) suggested a hypothesis and feels that some people are genuinely concerned about other people’s welfare. According to his empathy-altruism hypothesis, empathic concerns produce altruism motivation and relieving their sufferings is the main priority. This hypothesis is supported by several experiments where participants are typically given an opportunity to help those in need for whom they have been led to different levels of empathic concerns.
Also, recent news has reported that chimpanzees (Choi, 2007) and toddlers (China Daily, 2006) have shown true altruistic behaviour.

In conclusion, the existence of altruism has yet to be proven but that does not mean it does not exist. More research has to be done in this field to explain about other cases to prove its existence.

Batson, C. D. (1991). The Altruism Question: Toward a Social-Psychological Answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
China Daily (2006). Experiment finds that

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