Example Of Does True Altruism Exist? Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Altruism, People, Volunteering, Family, Psychology, Behavior, Friendship, Genetics

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2020/12/27

For years, people have always been able to specifically define everything in their environment and some of the things that they could not define was either of greater importance than they could comprehend or it was just not worth it to them. However, the one thing that people can define is when someone else is looking out for them and doing whatever it takes to make sure that no harm come to them and this course of action has caused a lot of people to ask the question ‘what is in it for you?’ Throughout time, people have been known to question people’s motives about things and why they do the good deeds that they do especially if that person is not capable of loving or helping out anyone but themselves. Most people do not know or realize is that when they do things like take a bullet for a friend or family member, get arrested in another person’s place or tell an officer that they were the ones behind the wheel drunk while their drunk friend get away, it is more than just looking out for a friend or doing the right thing; it is altruism. Day to day actions of people doing nice things for one another can hardly be called altruism, that is just people doing nice things or considerate things like washing hands after meals, taking their phone call into the other room so as to not disturb people or even pick their wet towel up off of the floor after they dry off; those are all considerate things but not a form of altruism. It can be argued that people are born with some sense of altruism because at some point in their lives, there is someone in their lives that matter to them that they are willing to endure the max amount of pain for or kill for. Let it be known that people all over the world are altruistic in one way or another, some people learn altruism through other things and some are taught altruism but it does definitely exist. Make no mistake, no matter who the person is or what they are, they possess altruistic qualities. Humans are capable of showing altruism if the situation called for it and there are some people who are altruistic in nature then spend their lives doing things for people. This paper will discuss altruism and other things that affect it.

What is Altruism?

Altruism is described as a greater good or a person doing something for the greater good at the expense of themselves. An example of this is a guy who is with a woman who disrespects and treats him like garbage, his friend finally sees him snap. The guy beats his girlfriend up really bad to the point where she is put in the intensive care unit, the guy’s friend takes the blame for his friend who snapped and is put in jail on charges of domestic violence and domestic disturbance. Most people would wonder why the guy’s friend did what he did, it could have been that the guy’s friend did it to protect his friend from going to jail for another 5 years because he just got out and he is trying to make sure that his friend does not go back to the penitentiary. According to Jeffries et al (2006), ‘altruism is all about people looking out for people no matter what, the welfare of other people that are in dire need of help takes precedence’ (Jeffries, 2006). When a person does something at the expense of themselves so that other person can benefit then it is them doing something for the greater good, another example of this is when a person wins the lottery but gives their ticket to a homeless friend who just lost everything. According to Mattis et al (2009), ‘altruistic qualities are unique per person, but that person’s motivation for altruism is each his own’ (Mattis, 2009). It can be argued that altruism can create enemies because there are so many people in the world who freely give to those that they can, but the concept of enemies and altruism does not exist. Altruism describes a person doing the greatest good at the expense of themselves so that other person or people can benefit from it no matter what that something is, it can be a person buying another person some food for a whole month while they are trying to come up with money on how they are going to survive. Altruism has existed for as long as time has, people have found different ways to express altruism but the theme of it is still the same; looking out for the person at the expense of themselves so they will suffer so that the person they are helping do not.

How is altruism different from pro-social behavior and egoism?

Altruism is different from pro-social behavior in the aspect that pro-social behavior usually depends on a person doing a good deed’s with the expectation of getting a reward, an example of this is when a child is told to share their favorite candy with another kid in hope of pleasing that other child’s parent. Another example is when a teenager is told to spend time with their grandmother because it is the right thing to do and their grandmother will be grateful which is the ultimate reward, altruism is the teenager spending time with their grandmother the whole afternoon and giving her a wheelchair tour of the city. According to Cherry (2015) ‘altruistic behavior and prosocial behavior are similar but there are differences, each one still benefits the next person’ (Cherry, 2015). What makes Egoism different from altruism is that Egoism describes the person doing something for a price, they are more interested in how it benefits them. An example of this is when a girl offers to give her ex-boyfriend another chance to get back with her, but her motive is that he has to do a lot of embarrassing things in order to get back with her if she decides to take him back. Egoism is driven by a person’s self-interest in what they gain from whatever is motivating them to do what they are doing for the other person. According to Post (2005), ‘altruism is the key to a long life and good health, being a sacrificial altar for those around you can help them in the best way possible’ (Post, 2005). Altruism is and always has been about people doing things for the greater good, not doing the greater good based off of self-interest and motivation or to do the right thing because that person is being told to do it; altruism is all about people doing the right thing at the expense of themselves. People often confuse altruism with egoism and prosocial behavior because they are using their time or power to do something that they would rather not be doing, an altruistic person offers to let a homeless family stay at his house until the local shelter is rebuilt; that is true altruism and it does exist.

How do we define personal rewards?

Personal rewards can be defined as something that drives a person to do something that they can look forward to after they do a job, an example of this is when a person looks forward to getting a bar of their favorite candy after they mow the lawn or a gamer looking forward to trying that new game they bought after they get off of work. Personal rewards can be described as something that someone does in accordance to something that they are doing or something that they have to do, an example of this is when a person offers to buy a starving clerk a whole pizza to themselves and the personal reward is that the buyer of the pizza get karma points which would count as their personal reward. It can also be said that the definition of a personal reward is solely based on what that person loves or loves to do, personal rewards are unique to the person; ultimately. According to Reuter et al (2010) ‘altruism is not about personal rewards nor is it about self-interest, altruism is all about people doing the right thing despite whatever the reward is’ (Reuter, 2010). It can be argued that personal rewards are motivational tools that get people through all of the hard jobs or to have something to look forward to, intrinsic rewards is another way of defining this. People look for different things to drive them, something that gives them a reason to get up in the morning. For example, a person who has worked two straight weeks without a day off finally get two days to do whatever they want to do, sitting back and playing video games for two straight days is the personal reward of the person who has worked two straight weeks. According to McGinley (2014), ‘personal rewards often drive people to altruism but most of the time, altruistic people are driven to do the right thing without rewards’ (McGinley, 2014). People define personal rewards based off what they are trying to get out of it which, if that is a favor, then their personal satisfaction is whatever they take from that favor no matter what it is and it can be anything that the person wants.

What do evolutionary scientists say about altruism?

Evolutionary scientists have made various notions and scientific analyses about altruism versus human beings, they have theorized that altruism have been a part of human development for generations. They have also found that altruism is not just something that is learned or can be learned, some people are born with altruistic traits, there are people that are born knowing how to give and sacrifice when the time comes for them to. People are not born selfish or completely devoid of selfless behavior, take mothers for example. Scientists have gathered that all of this started with mothers to animals who show an extraordinary ability to care for their young, this behavior was later transferred from mammal to human beings so as to protect their young from the dangers of the world. According to Fisher (2006), ‘human altruism origins started with the Callitrichidae which was in possession of the altruism gene originated from animals in that same group’ (Fisher, 2006). Evolutionary scientists have stated that altruism is completely genetic from one animal to another, from one human being born to another and altruism has been able to exist through people. Evolutionary scientist have also concluded that altruism is the key to why human beings’ ancestors have survived as long as they did because they were able to use their understanding of altruism to help and evolve their community, this was a central part of people’s core values at that time. It can be argued that earlier humans and animals were able to survive based on altruistic values and techniques. According to Balter (2014), ‘altruism had an ancestral start, altruistic people were born that way because their ancestors were already born with the knowledge of altruism’ (Balter, 2014). People’s traits started through ancestral breeding as well, but altruism is the only trait has helped tribes of animals and earlier human stay alive for thousands of years. Evolutionary scientists has foretold that altruism will continue to exist from generation to generation for years to come.

What factors might influence altruistic behaviors?

There are a lot of factors that influence a person’s altruistic behavior and it can be argued that a lot of those factors could have a profound effect on a person’s altruistic behaviors. One of the factors is an individual’s personality which involves the person making choices about behaving altruistically toward someone, decisions based on this is usually based on how a person feels about something or someone or even raised to behave altruistically. For example, if a person has been raised to not care about helping the homeless and downtrodden then they will not act so altruistically toward them because their personality is such that they do not sympathize with homeless people. According to Lindbeck & Nyberg (2006), ‘parents make it their life’s work to teach their children about altruism just like they were taught because it would complete their development’ (Lindbeck & Nyberg, 2006). Another factor that could influence altruism is a victim’s appearance as well as their gender, this signifies that a person would be more inclined to help someone whose been made a victim either male or female. An example of this is when a person is likely to side with and pay more attention to those of the same gender instead of listening to the other person, altruism is a choice made between people sometimes based on gender. According to Oliner, Oliner & Swartz (2012), ‘altruism is in the eye of the beholder, it is not in everyone’s best interest to not altruistically help those who are not of the same gender’ (Oliner, Oliner & Swartz, 2012). It can be argued that a person can pick and choose who they behave altruistically toward which would hinder a lot of people. An example of this is when a campus police officer helps a campus personnel remove another person and their belongings off campus, the police officer is more than likely to take the campus personnel’s side because they will argue that the person who does not go to school there should have been smarter and that the campus personnel is in the right; the campus police are likely to behave altruistically to the campus personnel.


Personality can drive a person’s altruism even if they were taught or were not taught that, people usually develop altruism through other people or through their parents. Altruism can affect an individual’s personality to the point where that individual only behave altruistically toward people they know, an example of this is when a person chooses not to behave altruistically toward someone they know because they feel such a strong dislike for that person. It can be argued that self-interest and egoism is what is driving a person’s altruistic behavior, they do not see fit to help them unless they are going to get something out of it or if they are not interested in self-interest then it could just be are choosing to behave non-altruistically because it is in their personality to leave that person without if they see fit. Altruism can drive an individual’s personality, it solely depends on the person being willing to fight past their personal feelings and personality issues in order to altruistically help that person. It can be argued that even though mankind was born with altruistic traits, their personality can still affect how they behave altruistically or if they decide that they are not going to behave altruistically toward that person or people at all. People would not think that personality would have anything to do with or have any effect on altruism because it is all about doing whatever they can to preserve a group of people at the expense of themselves, but the choice of whether that group of people are worth it is up to the person alone. Personality can indeed affect the altruism of a person because an altruistic person has something of great value to offer people or a person and if they do not see fit to help them then they will not, parents can teach their children the values of altruism because it is one of the greatest lessons that a person will ever learn; altruism not just benefits a group of people but ultimately the world over. Altruism is one of the greatest core value in the history of humankind and the personality of an individual can affect altruistic behavior of everyone.


It is believed that people can be genetically altruistic which means that no matter what they have the “altruistic gene” which drives them to behave altruistically to anyone no matter who they are, there is no sense of self-interest because since altruism is genetic or can be genetic then that person is inclined to be altruistic. An example of this is when someone goes into the armed forces because they want money to be able to feed their family and take care of their bill problems, it is like the person is willing to join the armed forces at great physical harm to himself or herself in order to help their family. It can be said that everyone who is born into this world is genetically born with altruism, it is just the person’s choice if they want to practice altruism when the opportunity arises. No one is born without being genetically altruistic because as man’s earlier ancestors has illustrated and recorded, they understood the power of altruism; it is what caused them to survive for thousands of years. It can be said that everyone is in charge of altruism to some genetic degree because as mothers take care of their children until they are 18, so do the kids take care of their parents in their old age; it is a genetic trait for children and parents to take care of each other over a certain amount of time. Altruism is genetic within everyone, there is no one person on Earth who was born without altruism; this is what gives birth to people taking care of other people and kids sacrificing themselves for the greater good of their group. Ironically, despite altruism being genetic, there are some people even young adults who have to be taught about the importance of giving to charity for the benefit of the greater good. An example of this is when people give to the wounded warrior project, people are genetically inclined to give to these kinds of organizations because they feel that they are making a difference in the lives of those brave servicemen who served their country. It is a known fact that people who go into the armed forces do it out of love for their country.


A person’s environment can cause them to completely tap into altruistic abilities and behaviors, an example of this is when a person chooses to hang out at a nursing home to stimulate the senior citizens by introducing them to things like the Wii to get them active or choose to spend every single day at 3:30 pm hanging out with senior citizens because they want to do something bigger or make a difference in their community. Another example of this is when a person volunteers at a homeless shelter every day at 5:30 pm to give back to the community. A person’s altruistic qualities can be conducive to their environment, it is like if a person volunteers at a pet shop because they love taking care of animals even though they cannot have one of their very own. Environments can completely have an effect on a person’s altruistic qualities often times leaving people to be singled out or completely forgotten, an example of this is when distant relatives who are visiting with someone they know do not get a plate of food to eat. The server’s altruistic qualities were non-existent and did not do anything for any of those visiting because they did not see it fit to, a person’s environment can muddle their sense of the greater good which would have been to feed everyone instead of feeding no one. Environments can put a person in a situation where they do not see the greater good or even doing the greater good at all, it is more just a person driving their own self-interest in doing whatever they want to do; the same can be said for those who choose to not do the right thing because they have the means. Case in point, Rodrick has 33.50 and everyone at his girlfriend’s house is starving, he and his girlfriend just got done having a fierce argument. Rodrick decides that he is not going to be bothered with Starletta and her family right now, leaving them alone. Rodrick could help them but chooses not to because his environment had an effect on his altruism which overshadowed his ability to do what’s right in the name of the greater good.


Millions of scientific and parental minds have had one question on their minds for generations, can a person be raised to be altruistic? The answer, yes. A person’s upbringing can have a profound effect or an even greater effect on their altruism, a person who likely grows up around altruistic people are more times likely to use that out in the world to help people who need it or who are in dire need of help. Children can be brought up to be altruistic because as every parent well knows that children are territorial and do not like to share, but if that child is brought up to believe that altruism is the true key to happiness then they would feel more inclined to do the right thing because of the karma rewards that would befall them.. A young person’s upbringing can open doors to various opportunities, it can be argued that people learn altruism traits or learn altruism based on their upbringing. For generations, people have been brought up to believe that altruism is a very positive trait that have caused people as well as those around them to partake in rewards reaped from acting in the interest of the greater good. Most parents try to bring their children up on altruism because it is something that would impact their lives greatly, there are some people who were born into families of altruists where they go above and beyond. Case in point, Daniel and Monique are having people over and had the idea of H’orderves along with other finger food. Altruistically, they both decide to come out of their pockets and spring for pizza and pop, their finances take a critical hit but their guests are happy. Daniel and Monique did what they did for the greater good which is dipping into their finances in order to go above and beyond to please their guests. Altruism comes in all forms and let it be known that altruistic people always go above and beyond in order to please other people whether they are related to them or not, raising children on altruism not just put them on the fast track to living a positive life but learning to take care of their fellow man no matter who they are.

Cultural Values?

Cultural Values can also affect altruism, it can make a person do something good or bad based on whatever their definition of the greater good is. Socially, cultural values can turn an upright citizen into a vigilante or a villain. For example, a man goes to great lengths to get his home back after it was taken from him by the bank who told him that his mortgage would be lowered. This causes the man to turn to vigilantism in order to get his house back and fight the unfair treatment that he was forced to succumb to, he starts off by using a flamethrower to set fire to the bank. The guy feels that by him doing this, he is sending a message that the bank cannot say one thing and do something completely different the next; it is not fair to the patrons who are patronizing their business which people can easily turn their back to. An example of this is when a person goes to jail for injustice caused by a police officer, a person choosing to follow his friends to jail just to support them because the greater good of this is that he is just there to support his friends which counts as the greater good to him. Case in point, Reginald and his friends goes hunting in the woods. After spending 9 hours in the woods, they find their first deer but Reginald shoots, misses and the shot ends up hitting a random guy’s Rottweiler. Reginald fears retribution from the dog owner if he finds out that Reginald shot his dog, Reginald’s friend Hector takes the blame in Reginald’s place. The dog owner then shouts at Hector about his dog, but Hector says it was an accident which it was. Hector behaved altruistically in the interest of his friend because Hector did not fear paying the price for accidentally shooting another guy’s dog. Reginald felt more at ease because of altruistic behavior of his friend which saved him. Cultural Values can impact how a person does something in the name of the greater good, it can make a person do something bad like shooting a dog, going to jail in the name of support, lying about their whereabouts or even telling the friend the truth about themselves.


Altruism is a great thing that most people have knowledge of or are taught the importance of, mankind’s ancestors have taught lessons of altruism to their young and their descendants for generations. Throughout time, there have been situations where people have gotten a chance to show off their altruistic qualities. Genetically, everyone is born with altruism because as previously stated, no one is born selfish or not caring about their fellow man. Altruism have allowed people to do great things and reap great rewards as well, it is a known fact that altruism is not something that people have to know. Environments can also have an effect on an altruistic person, they can choose to help whoever they want to. Or, if they decide to go to a place where they want to do something bigger that would impact a lot of people then that they would get a chance to perform an altruistic action. For example, if they go to a homeless shelter to help the downtrodden and homeless then they are impacting their lives positively because the altruist is using his time to help those around him thereby stating that his time is a commodity. Upbringing is another way that people can learn about altruism, but not just learn but be taught because the lesson will serve the person well throughout their life and teach them that not every form of altruistic activity warrants a reward. Altruism is all about people doing whatever they can to help other people at the expense of themselves which is why a lot of people go into the armed forces, they want to serve their country and help their fellow man continue to enjoy the freedoms that they have been enjoyed for the last 239 years. It is legitimately known that people are likely to hang out with altruistic people because of the leadership qualities an altruistic person has, a person’s altruism can derive from their personality which in turn forces the person to make a choice based on altruism or self-interest. There is no greater love than an altruistic person looking out for people like they and their ancestors were taught.


Cherry, K. (2015, January 1). What is Altruism? Retrieved March 12, 2015, from http://psychology.about.com/od/aindex/g/what-is-altruism.htm
Post, S. (2005). Altruism, Happiness and Health: It's good to be good. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 12(2), 70-70.
Mattis, J., Hammond, W., Grayman, N., Bonacci, M., Brennan, W., Cowie, S., So, S. (2009). The Social Production of Altruism: Motivations for Caring Action in a Low-Income Urban Community. Am J Community Psychology, 43(1), 3-3.
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Fisher, R. (2006, December 1). Why altruism paid off for our ancestors. Retrieved March 12, 2015, from http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10750-why-altruism-paid-off-for-our-ancestors.html#.VQHkrvnF-Sp
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