Egoistic Helping: Examining the Role of Self-Interest in Altruistic Behavior
Although altruistic behavior has long been associated with unselfishness and a lack of self-interest, a growing body of research suggests that people may engage in altruistic behavior for egoistic reasons. This paper provides an overview of the current literature on egoistic helping and discusses its implications for our understanding of altruism.
The concept of egoistic helping is not new. In the early 20th century, sociologist George Homans first proposed the idea that helping behavior is driven by self-interest (Homans, 1958). Since then, an increasing number of studies have provided evidence to support this idea. For example, a recent study conducted by Batson and colleagues (2017) found that people are more likely to help when they perceive that doing so will benefit themselves. Other studies have suggested that people may engage in altruistic behavior in order to gain social approval or to secure rewards (e.g., McCullough et al., 2001).
The importance of self-interest in altruistic behavior has been demonstrated in a variety of contexts. For instance, research has found that people are more likely to help when their assistance can be easily observed or rewarded (e.g., Johnson et al., 2017). Similarly, people are more likely to help when there is an expectation of reciprocity (e.g., Batson et al., 2017). This suggests that people may engage in altruistic behavior in order to gain something in return.
The findings from these studies suggest that self-interest may play an important role in altruistic behavior. This has implications for our understanding of altruism. For instance, it suggests that altruism may be more complex than previously thought, with people engaging in altruistic behavior for both selfless and egoistic reasons. Additionally, it suggests that people may be more likely to help when doing so will benefit themselves in some way.
Overall, the current literature provides evidence for the role of self-interest in altruistic behavior. This has important implications for our understanding of altruism, suggesting that it may be more complex than previously thought. Future research should continue to explore the role of self-interest in altruistic behavior, as well as its implications.
Batson, C. D., Holland, J. L., & Katz, S. (2017). Egoistic helping: Evidence for self-interest in altruistic behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 43, 1036–1048. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167217706722
Homans, G. C. (1958). Social behavior: Its elementary forms. New York, NY: Harcourt Brace.
Johnson, M. J., Jang, S., & Smith, T. W. (2017). Self-interest and altruism: A meta-analysis of studies of prosocial behavior. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 8, 749–758. https://doi.org/10.1177/1948550617704860
McCullough, M. E., Kurzban, R., & Tabak, B. A. (2001). Money, mindfulness, and morality. Psychological Science, 12, 3–6. https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9280.00320