Book

Pathological Altruism

Edited by Barbara Oakley, Ariel Knafo, Guruprasad Madhavan and David Sloan Wilson

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.001.0001
Pathological Altruism

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Many harmful deeds—from codependency to suicide martyrdom to genocide—are committed with the altruistic intention of helping companions or one’s own in-group. Therefore it is worthwhile to study how well-meaning altruism can shade into pathology. Although the term pathological altruism has been used to a limited degree in psychodynamic circles, there has been inadequate study of the phenomenon in general, and almost none from a biological, genetic, and evolutionary perspective. In essence, pathological altruism might be thought of as any behavior or personal tendency in which either the stated aim or the implied motivation is to promote the welfare of another. But instead of overall beneficial outcomes, this altruism instead has irrational (from the point of view of an outside observer) and substantial negative consequences to the other or even to the self. This volume presents psychological, neuropsychological, biological, and evolutionary approaches that help account for pathologically altruistic behavior, and goes on to discuss its diverse and profound societal implications. Each of these approaches points to one disturbing truth: What we value so much, the altruistic “good” side of human nature, can also have a dark side. The result is a nuanced counterbalance to the study of altruism and a call for further research.

Keywords: pathological altruism; behavior; biology; genetics; evolution

Book.  496 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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Table of Contents

Animal Hoarding in Pathological Altruism

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Pathological Certitude in Pathological Altruism

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