Chapter

Introduction

C. Daniel Batson

in Altruism in Humans

Published in print December 2010 | ISBN: 9780195341065
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199894222 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195341065.003.0001
Introduction

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This chapter begins by presenting a brief set-up of the question addressed by the book—what is the role of altruism in human life? —and looking at the importance of laboratory experiments in providing an answer. The book will present a theory of altruistic motivation, review evidence obtained from direct tests of the central tenet of the theory, the empathy-altruism hypothesis, and consider implications of the theory at both a conceptual and a practical level. Not only will the book make a case that altruism exists; it will also present evidence that altruism is an important force in human affairs. Altruism is not an easy topic; there are many conceptual subtleties, inferential complexities, and empirical challenges that cannot be usefully addressed by oversimplification. But neither can they be usefully addressed by obfuscation. Throughout, an effort will be made to be clear and direct, while not shying away from subtleties, complexities, and challenges.

Keywords: altruism; altruistic motivation; empathy-altruism hypothesis; laboratory experiments

Chapter.  2455 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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