What Counts As Altruism? People Judge Good Acts Harshly When They Are Performed For Selfish Ends


Philosophers have long debated what constitutes genuine altruism. Some have argued that any acts, no matter however charitable, that benefit both the actor as well as the recipient, are altruistically “impure”, and thus can’t qualify as genuinely selfless. However, other scholars have argued that the act remains altruistic if the benefits of prosocial behaviour are an unintended consequence. From this perspective, if the meal is unexpected, our actions are still deemed selfless. For their recent paper in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology Ryan Carlson and Jamil Zaki have shed light on these questions by investigating what the general population thinks of different prosocial acts, depending on their motives and consequences. Continue reading →

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