Too Much of a Good Thing? Foreign Aid and Pathological Altruism

Guruprasad Madhavan and Barbara Oakley

in Pathological Altruism

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738571
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918669 | DOI:
Too Much of a Good Thing? Foreign Aid and Pathological Altruism

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Altruism and emotional contagion have a powerful capacity to mobilize financial and humanitarian aid to impoverished nations. Although external economic assistance has been helpful for many countries, a large number of nonstrategic, foreign aid programs over the past several decades have failed—worsening the very situations they were meant to help. Many other humanitarian programs have also been ineffective, at enormous cost. Altruistic efforts for social improvements must be guided, not purely by emotion, but with a well thought out objective strategy and endpoint. Neuroscience is allowing us to understand how default emotional approaches to helping others can backfire and cripple otherwise noble intentions. Public policies and interventions that have incorporated smart, strategic, and tempered altruism may be effective in alleviating poverty and stimulating economic development.

Keywords: empathy; engineers; E-S theory; foreign aid; humanitarian aid; pathological altruism; poverty; public policy; United Nations

Chapter.  4313 words. 

Subjects: Social Psychology

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