Altruism can appear in different forms. Whether it’s donating to a charity or volunteering, it is an act of kindness. It is seen everywhere, especially on social media. People post and talk about themselves giving a homeless man food, rescuing an animal, giving back to the community, most of all, just being a hero. However, there has been an ongoing controversy about those that help people. As sad as it sounds, there are people in this world who do actually take advantage of it either, so they can feel good about themselves or let others perceive how good of a person they are. With that being said, some people believe true altruism does exist, while others think otherwise. The textbook, “Taking Sides: Clashing View in Social Psychology” Nier (2013) defines altruism “as an unselfish interest in helping others”. Researchers are starting to investigate whether true altruism exists. The real question here is, is there really a reason behind the act of being nice or is it simply just out of care and generosity?
In multiple studies, assumptions are made that people only like to help for their own benefit. For instance, when asking why they choose to help someone, their responses are oftentimes out of remorse or guilt. This illustrates the egotistic response in which helping was not due to generosity, instead, it was an act to reduce their own distress. Along with other researchers, Cialdini (1987) believed that egoistic was the reasoning behind altruistic behavior. The first research conducted observed that in a high-empathy set, subjects displayed increased helping scores. However, when receiving a sadness eliminating the reward, they were not helpful. In the second experiment, Cialdini et. al, (1987) tested the Negative State Relief model. This time it was predicted that people help others as a response to their own selfish behaviors. Results revealed that subjects tended to be helpless when they were given to see their personal sadness as fixed. Both experiments conducted ended up showing that helping another in distress was a decision of lessening their own sadness within the observer that occurred from the elevated empathy the observer felt for the sufferer.
Other different theories believe true altruism exists. Batson argues empathy represents a huge part of why people are driven to help others. According to Baton, “when we feel empathy for another person we become genuinely concerned for their well being and are more likely to help for altruistic reasons” (pg. 421). Baton et. al (1981) led a study where subjects were to witness a woman getting electric shocks. In this case, subjects were given the choice to help. Researchers hypothesized that if empathy does lead to altruistic acts that the subject would help the woman whether the cost of escaping without helping can either be easy or difficult. As predicted results were shown and supported that empathy influences altruistic acts. Furthermore, in the second experiment, when conditions for escaping were difficult without helping, a low empathic response led to help. This indicates that when subjects were being forced to help, they would proceed to help if it was for their own good.
Taking both into consideration, I believe true altruism does exist but to a certain extent. As humans, we do have some sort of altruism in us. We have the tendency to feel and understand another person’s way of being. In other words, we can visualize what it would be like to be them. The majority of it honestly depends on the person and who they are. Some people can do things out of random kindness, while others do it for other reasons. I can also see why people say altruism is not a real thing. The choices we make in our daily life frequently result in our self-centered thoughts and, or, feeling of satisfaction when helping others.