Altruism refers to the desire to assist others or exhibit philanthropy towards fellow humans. This behavior of intending to assist others without expecting rewards is central part to the beliefs of many religions and societies. In the definition, the ‘others’ or ‘fellow’ used, implies human of any race or cultures as long as one is in a position to assist such a person . It is important to note that altruism is separate and distinct from loyalty or duty. While altruism seeks to add value to a party different from self, duty is defined a moral obligation to do a thing and loyalty is providing the expected support to someone. Thus, ultimate altruism is providing value to another person without expecting them to return the same.
Similar to altruism is the concept of helping. This is defined as the voluntary offer of service towards other with reward expected or not expected. Helping is pooled in the concept of Prosocial Activities which are define as voluntary measures performed for the benefit of others such as rescuing, consoling, sharing and assisting .
Myers (2005) asserts that to understand the motivating activities behind altruism and helping it is important to first understand the concept of Social Psychology. Social Psychology is defined as the branch of psychology that deals with the study of the influences of social phenomena on individual behavior as well as how people interact with each other. The study of social psychology simply puts into light why people behave as they do. It will guide us to the study of the motivation behind altruism.
The fact that ‘social behavior is goal oriented’ is the first concept that may assist in the understanding of altruism the development of such an attitude. It is quite evident that humans do whatever it is that they do for a specific reason or goal . This has played a major role is explaining the behavior of many people ranging from selfless to selflessness. The attitudes with which we view aspects regarding to humans determine how we behave in different situations.
A good example is the manner in which elementary teachers are used by psychologist to refer to good altruistic persons. Teachers especially in elementary school levels work to educate the young people in our society and the manner in which they do so has been explained to be selfless. Teachers have become a psychological social phenomenon since they work for many decades with poor pay and they still seem to exuberate in the process. The explanation of such altruist behavior is pegged on the goal or reasons with which teachers undertake the career of educating children no matter the race or gender of the child. Their goal has been to instill education to all children as an educated child is a teachers’ joy.
The other concept that motivates persons to exhibit altruistic behavior is the concept of Social Comparison Process. Sanderson (2009), defines this concept as a process inherent in humans in which a person is continually comparing oneself with the rest. This comparison is based on the beliefs, abilities and attitudes and in some cases determines how we relate to the other. Myers (2005), explains that altruist behavior is motivated by “downward social comparison” that makes an individual to compare himself with another of lower social standing. Once this comparison has been established, one is guided by the feeling of selflessness, commonly in religions, to take steps towards assisting them of low social class.
An illustration used to explain this case of altruist behavior is that exhibited by religious workers who leave their good developed homes and countries and head to remote place of the world like Africa to offer free services. These aid workers cover extremely harsh terrains and endanger their lives with motivations based on religions or social guilt. It is this concept of Social Comparison that produces such teachers, nurses and priest to help the underprivileged in this remote end of the world.
The final concept that has greatly influenced the motivation of altruism is the concept of Social cognition. This can be defined as the perception that other remember or have in mind about others. Many people really value what other people think of them. Others prefer others to have good image about them and hold this idea quite dearly. Those who profess to Mahatma Gandhi‘s teachings know that ‘what the people think of u is paramount to self satisfaction’ . Thus this teaching requires that someone works toward helping the poor to leave the earth with good thoughts on other. Using this concept, many people have live to be altruistic in an effort to improve their social image in the society.
Finally, social physiology is a field sometimes described as described as one with open ends and unexplainable variations. The ethics and interpersonal traits of an individual are as varied as there are several communities and societies we live in . Sociologists have been at pains to explain why socially accepted norms are taboos to others. Therefore, the motivation for altruistic is as varied as these communities and cultures.
Myers, D. (2005). Social psychology. McGraw-Hill.
Sanderson, C. A. (2009). Social Psychology. John Wiley and Sons.
Smith, E. R., & Mackie, D. M. (2007). Social psychology. Psychology Press,.