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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Self-Enhancement and Altruism

In social psychology, empirical studies suggest that self-enhancement motives people to act on their own interest.  Self-interest can be traced in human behavior including altruism.  As Hogg and Cooper (2007) stated, “humans are clearly capable of benefiting others as a means of benefiting themselves. When the ultimate goal is self-benefit, the motivation is egoistic. This is true no matter how noble or beneficial to others the helping behavior may be” (p. 243).  Hogg and Cooper’s explanation seems contradictory to the meaning of altruism.  As defined by Myers (2012), “altruism is selfishness in reverse. An altruistic person is concerned and helpful even when no benefits are offered or expected in return” (p 386). 

As I understand, egoism and altruism co-exist within each individual.  People have great interest on themselves and at the same time they also care about others.  We experience altruism in daily life when kindness and care occur among people.  

Although social psychologists argue that self-benefits motivate altruistic behavior, I don’t think altruistic people act intentionally for self-interest purpose.  We know that helping others make ourselves feel good, but we help because others need, rather than seeking good feeling.  On the other hand, because of the effect of social exchange, the life of altruistic people is enriched as a result of their generous actions.  Great benefits may come to altruistic people without seeking. 

I agree with Hogg and Cooper (2007) that people hold purpose of life and they have desire to uphold moral principle which encourages them to extend kindness to others.   In events like Christmas time and national tragedies, people may feel more morally obligated to help others. Every individual is constantly influenced by others in the social environment. In these events, when many people respond altruistically, more individuals will join the movement and become altruistic.


Hogg, M. A., & Cooper, J. (2007). The sage handbook of social psychology: Concise student edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Myers, D. G. (2012). Exploring social psychology (6th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill

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