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Evidence for Altruism: Toward a Pluralism of Prosocial Motives

C. Daniel Batson and Laura L. Shaw
Psychological Inquiry
Vol. 2, No. 2 (1991), pp. 107-122
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1449242
Page Count: 16
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Evidence for Altruism: Toward a Pluralism of Prosocial Motives
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Abstract

Psychologists have long assumed that the motivation for all intentional action, including all action intended to benefit others, is egoistic. People benefit others because, ultimately, to do so benefits themselves. The empathy-altruism hypothesis challenges this assumption. It claims that empathic emotion evokes truly altruistic motivation, motivation with an ultimate goal of benefiting not the self but the person for whom empathy is felt. Logical and psychological distinctions between egoism and altruism are reviewed, providing a conceptual framework for empirical tests for the existence of altruism. Results of empirical tests to date are summarized; these results provide impressive support for the empathy-altruism hypothesis. We conclude that the popular and parsimonious explanation of prosocial motivation in terms of universal egoism must give way to a pluralistic explanation that includes altruism as well as egoism. Implications of such a pluralism are briefly noted, not only for our understanding of prosocial motivation but also for our understanding of human nature and of the emotion-motivation link.

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