A Contextual Behavioral Approach to Pathological Altruism

Roger Vilardaga and Steven C. Hayes

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
A Contextual Behavioral Approach to Pathological Altruism

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This chapter argues that maladaptive patterns of behavior, such as pathological altruism, can be explained by the influence of the verbal/cultural context. Once established, those maladaptive patterns can be very pervasive, regardless of their lack of apparent benefit. The chapter presents an evolutionarily consistent approach to language and cognition in which the cultural environment precisely selects certain patterns of behavior that, although useful for the survival of the species, can also keep the individual in a vicious cycle of behavior that can damage himself as well as others. The chapter describes four processes that may be key to pathological altruism: experiential avoidance, perspective-taking, values-based actions, and conceptualized self. The human species is characterized by high levels of adaptability. However, it is crucial not to underestimate the complexity of verbal and cultural influences, and to create models that allow us not only to understand, but to modify them.

Keywords: conceptualized self; experiential avoidance; pathological altruism; perspective-taking; values-based actions

Chapter.  8306 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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