You scratch my back…I’ll scratch yours

Photo by Chuck Pefley

Trying to persuade people to participate in my honours study was difficult. I found the most effective way of recruitment was to remind them about what they would get out of it. Whether it was granting them course credits, or teaching them insider knowledge – I managed to convince them all. But it got me wondering…with all this coercion: Does true selflessness  even exist?

You may not enjoy hearing it… but social psychology suggests that behind every selfless act stands an even larger personal gain.

There are three main reasons that we decide to willingly help our fellow man:
  1. It makes us feel good about ourselves and develop a positive self image
  2. It makes others view us as good people and thus strengthens relationships
  3. It negatively reinforces our behaviour by preventing the feeling of guilt
Altruism itself is becoming increasingly difficult to define. Morally, one is persuaded to place altruism at the peak of all personal endeavours. On the other hand, people are encouraged from a young age to strive for independent success and wealth. This can help explain that ‘torn’ feeling sometimes experienced during times of anxiety or stress.

Fear not – The dark side of altruism is not all bad. And it certainly shouldn’t prevent you from offering a helping hand to a neighbour in the future. However, it is curious to note that after thousands of years of civilisation, human beings are still driven by their animalistic desires for survival and personal growth.

So much for evolution… 

–Everyday Phil

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