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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Do we humans ever, in any degree, care about 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 (an other-oriented emotional response elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need) produces altruistic motivation (a motivational state with the ultimate goal of reducing that need). After explicating the hypothesis and the means of empirical test, the authors briefly review research over the past 35 years testing the hypothesis against egoistic alternatives and conclude that the evidence provides quite strong support. Empathy-induced altruistic motivation does seem to be within the human repertoire. They then review theory and research regarding the implications of the empathy–altruism hypothesis, emphasizing that altruism is not always good. It can hurt as well as help at both the individual and societal levels.

Keywords: Altruism, compassion, egoism, empathy, helping, sympathy

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