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Encyclopedia of Psychology Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, Editor-in-Chief

ALTRUISM

Over the years Batson has faced many other alternative explanations for the empathy-helping link. Perhaps the person feeling empathy who helps is helping out of a selfish desire to feel good about the self, a desire to receive accolades from others, or a sense that the other’s outcomes and one’s own self-interests are the same, Although not denying the existence of such selfish motivations, Batson has performed a great number of studies in which he has worked systematically at eliminating these various other explanations and still has come up with evidence for the empathy-helping link. Others have also designed elegant experiments and have provided their own experimental results supporting egoistic interpretations of the empathy-helping link. What is the bottom-line answer? It is not yet available. Many researchers (e.g., Cialdini, Brown, Lewis, Luce, & Neuberg, 1997) remain unconvinced that true altruism exists, and the debate continues. However, at least two recent reviewers of the evidence have concluded that “the preponderance of evidence from the twenty or so years of experimentation on this question strongly suggests that true altruistic motivation may exist and all helping is not necessarily egoistically motivated” (Dovidio & Penner, in press).

Tags: encyclopedia of psychology
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