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date: 06 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Do we humans ever, in any degree, care for others for their sakes and not simply for our own? The empathy-altruism hypothesis offers an affirmative answer to this question. It claims that empathic concern (defined as “other-oriented emotion elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of another in need”) produces altruistic motivation (“a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing the other’s welfare”). Research over the past 40 years testing this hypothesis against egoistic alternatives has provided quite strong support. Empathy-induced altruistic motivation does seem to be within the human repertoire. This empathy-induced altruism may have its biological roots in generalized parental nurturance. Practical implications of the empathy-altruism hypothesis include both benefits and liabilities—for the targets of empathy, for others, and for the person feeling empathic concern. Implications of the empathy-altruism research for the content and conduct of compassion science are suggested.

Keywords: altruism, compassion science, egoism, empathic concern, helping, parental nurturance

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