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Selfish Helper or Selfless Helper: Altruism

Altruism

Humans are social being living together in a small unit, group or society and as members of a society, we are inclined to help each other but what is the reason for our altruism.

Why we help each other which cost us but give an advantage to other. There are various theories and the subject is still a  debate as to what motivates humans to help each other.

Some say that humans help each other without greed, just for the welfare of others.

The helper expects nothing for himself from the person being helped but others disagree with this theory of altruism and give reasons for humans helping each other in hope of reciprocity or to gain fame or favor or by helping other they get a good feeling and basic purpose is not to benefit other but to seek benefit for ourselves.

In this context, pure altruism is the theory that define us as selfless being helping each other without desire of benefit or gain for ourselves and also in process incurring cost to us but this theory collides with the economic and general theory of human being as ‘Homo Economicus’ acting as a rational being always trying to maximize our utility giving image of selfish being .

But if pure altruism is colliding with the general theory about human as rational being than what will be suitable theory that will satisfy both condition of altruism in us and we being a rational person always working to maximize our utility.

Another hypothesis to expound the phenomenon of people helping each other because we feel good simply in helping others, it is called warm glow model of altruism.

That a person in order to feel good as neurologist have observe that helping other activate same neural circuitry in brain that is activated on a person being rewarded is the reason for helping others.

So, we help each other to have a good feeling not because of welfare of others which is justified as rational and selfish being who only care for utility maximization of self.

The warm glow altruistic helps because of good feeling derived from helping, while pure altruist helps to make poor better off.

But there can be other reasons beside feeling good in helping other. We tend to help each other in hope of reciprocity.

We expect that if we help other in return we will be helped if required. We also help others to show our status on society or to gain fame.

We also show altruistic behavior to get cooperation from other as it is widely believe that people tend to cooperate with a person whom they consider more altruistic as they think altruistic people are trustworthy. We might not know each others ability, wealth or preferences. We person might only want to do business with people who are more altruistic because they are less likely to cheat us. So, by helping people, we are giving signals to other about our trustworthiness for cooperation.

Altruism is also being used for signaling through which one party credibly convey some information about itself to other party. It can be for economic or financial gain.

For example, I have made a image of myself as a helping person and philanthropist and it makes me dear to people and make them more willing to pay for buying my products. For this purpose, selfish person will also show altruism and helping tendencies.

In evolutionary biology, altruistic signal can also be used to attract partner for mating in sexual selection. This signal can be honest and dishonest.

In between pure altruism and Warm glow altruism comes Impure altruism, a combination of both.

In which, a person help for both welfare of other and also good feeling derived from helping. The feeling of goodness can be initiated from welfare of people or it can be a product of increase is status or fame among people or for acknowledgement and praise etc.

In second it does not arise from welfare and utility of others than it will mitigate the basic and most important purpose of helping to end discomfort and misery of others.

Now, it is agreed upon that selfish person also show altruism and help others but how can we differentiate between selfless helper and selfish helper.

The answer lies in intention of an action performed. If intention is to help for welfare of a person than helpers utility is linked with the utility of person being helped.

But if intention is of personal benefit and gain than utility of person being helped is of no importance and priority is given that our utility has increased or not.

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