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Home » , » What is Altruism— Definition, Uses & Examples

The word altruism was created in the 19th century by the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who established its meaning as the antithesis of selfishness. The concept of altruism defines a wide range of human behaviors and dispositions, individual or collective, which incline human beings towards actions of aid and dedication to others – such as sacrificing their own life to save another person, donating to charities, practicing some kind of volunteering or simply holding open a door for a few seconds for a stranger.

People often behave altruistically when they see others in challenging circumstances and feel a desire to help them. Therefore, over time, the word altruism has become synonymous with solidarity, and is also strongly associated with the feeling of empathy.

In the history of evolution, altruism has played an important role. Cooperative behavior allowed our ancestors to survive in harsh conditions, and it still serves many purposes in today's complex societies.

Altruistic impulses and attitudes bring families and social groups together, helping them to cooperate and prosper. Altruistic individuals, who go out of their way to help others, usually receive something in return, whether it be an intangible reward such as admiration and respect, or material support at a later time. Thus, the reciprocal altruism between members of a community acts to ensure that everyone has support when needed.

What makes us altruistic?

Neurological, cultural, and other factors can make some people more altruistic than others. In so-called “extreme altruists”, it was found that the size of the cerebral tonsils and the ability to respond to distress signals seem to differ from average individuals.

In some cases, acts of altruism lead people to risk their own health and well-being to help others. These behaviors are often performed altruistically and without any expectation of reward. Other instances, known as reciprocal altruism, involve actions to help others with the expectation that others will offer help in return.

Types of altruism

1. genetic altruism

As its name suggests, this type of altruism involves engaging in altruistic acts that benefit close family members. For example, parents and other family members often engage in sacrificial acts to meet the needs of family members.

2. reciprocal altruism

This type of altruism is based on a mutual give and take relationship. It involves helping someone else now, because they might one day be able to return the favor.

3. Altruism selected by the group This type of altruism involves engaging in altruistic acts towards people based on their group affiliation. Rather than helping their children or other genetically related individuals, people may direct their efforts to helping others or supporting social causes that benefit their social group.

4. pure altruism Also known as moral altruism, this form of altruism consists of helping other people, even in risky situations, without the expectation of receiving any reward. Pure altruism is motivated by internalized values ​​and morals.

Positive effects of altruism

better health

Research reveals that altruistic behavior can improve physical health in several ways. People who volunteer have been found to have better overall health, and regular engagement in helping behaviors is associated with a significantly lower risk of death.

Better mental well-being

Doing nice things for other people can make you feel good about yourself and the world. Studies have found that people experience greater happiness after doing nice things for other people.

best romantic relationships

Being kind and compassionate can also lead to a better relationship with your partner. Researchers have found kindness to be one of the most important qualities people of all cultures look for in a romantic partner.

In addition to these benefits, altruism can also help improve social connections and relationships, which can ultimately contribute to improved health and well-being. So when you have the opportunity to be selfless, don't let it slip away. Helping others is also a way to do good for yourself. 


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