Psychological Implications of Helping – Altruism and Egoism

In the first section of this online course we explained motives and expectations of helpers and the roles altruism and egoism and their combination play in helping behaviour.

The following video gives a short summary.

You can activate subtitles by clicking on the cog symbol in the video player.

You have learned that the motives for helping others usually are rooted in a mixture of altruistic and egoistic motives. Altruistic reasons e.g. are empathy, compassion, respect of others and the wish to support those who are in need of a helping hand. Altruistic reasons might be joy, satisfaction, a sense of meaning or a higher degree of self-esteem.

If you are interested in this issue you may read the article The Secret to Happiness is Helping Others in the American Time Online Magazine.1

We would like to discuss the altruism/egoism topic through an example:

Click here to read the example

It is one day before Christmas Eve. David is walking through the city to do some gift shopping. The weather is cold, wet and windy. At a draughty corner he sees a homeless man sitting on some newsprint paper. At first, David walks by and wants to continue his shopping tour. But after some minutes he feels somehow uncomfortable. He does not feel compassion with the homeless man but something like a bad conscience and guilt. “At Christmas you have to do something good” he thinks. So he walks back, appoaches the man and hands him a two Euro coin.

Self Reflection

Please think about the example above. Why David helps the homeless man? Which motives do you recognise?
Which of them are altruistic, which of them egoistic? Do you remember situations in your life reminding you of David in this example?





Course Syllabus