Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5d6d958fb5-ls6xp Total loading time: 0.194 Render date: 2022-11-27T10:16:06.591Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Altruism and selfishness

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 March 2003

Howard Rachlin
Affiliation:
Psychology Department, State University of New York, Stony Brook, NY 11794-2500 howard.rachlin@sunysb.edu

Abstract

Many situations in human life present choices between (a) narrowly preferred particular alternatives and (b) narrowly less preferred (or aversive) particular alternatives that nevertheless form part of highly preferred abstract behavioral patterns. Such alternatives characterize problems of self-control. For example, at any given moment, a person may accept alcoholic drinks yet also prefer being sober to being drunk over the next few days. Other situations present choices between (a) alternatives beneficial to an individual and (b) alternatives that are less beneficial (or harmful) to the individual that would nevertheless be beneficial if chosen by many individuals. Such alternatives characterize problems of social cooperation; choices of the latter alternative are generally considered to be altruistic. Altruism, like self-control, is a valuable temporally-extended pattern of behavior. Like self-control, altruism may be learned and maintained over an individual's lifetime. It needs no special inherited mechanism. Individual acts of altruism, each of which may be of no benefit (or of possible harm) to the actor, may nevertheless be beneficial when repeated over time. However, because each selfish decision is individually preferred to each altruistic decision, people can benefit from altruistic behavior only when they are committed to an altruistic pattern of acts and refuse to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2002 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
99
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Altruism and selfishness
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Altruism and selfishness
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Altruism and selfishness
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *