The Societal Implications of Altruism
Empathy and Egotism:
Portals to Altruism, Gratitude, and Forgiveness
· Altruistic behaviors are helping behaviors, which can be motivated by personal egotism or through empathic desires to benefit another person.
· Altruism can be measured through self-report instruments including: the Self-Report Altruism Scale, the Prosocial Behavior Questionnaire, the Ethical Behavior Rating Scale, and the Helping Attitude Scale.
· Egotism is the underlying motive concerning personal gain.
· When discussed with altruism, egotistic motives for helping another may include public praise, material rewards, lessening personal torment, avoiding punishment, feeling good about oneself, or escaping a sense of guilt. It is one of the most influential human motives.
· To increase the likelihood of altruistic behaviors through the egotism motive, the altruistic person must accept that it is ok to feel good about helping. It is the helping behavior, and not the supporting motive that is important to the outcome. Most are happy to learn this and have also showed higher levels of self-esteem from altruistic actions. Voluntary jobs can assist people in achieving these positive feelings.
· Empathy is matching another’s emotions, which may entail a sense of pity and tenderheartedness toward the other person. When discussed with altruism, empathic motives may lead to a greater chance of helping others.
· Studies on monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins have shown moderate heritability for empathy (Davis, Luce, & Kraus, 1994; Matthews, Batson, Horn & Rosenman, 1981; Rushton, Fulker, Neale, Nias, & Eysenck, 1986).
· The prefrontal and parietal cortexes have been shown to account for empathy. When damage has been done to inhibit judgment of other’s emotions, empathy is also negatively influenced.
· Empathy can be increased in individuals simply through increased interaction with others. Empathy can also be increased by pointing out similarities between the individual and others, which allow for the awareness of likeness of circumstances between the helper and those helped.
· In the “Dictator Game,” which involved distributing tokens, women gave altruistically more often than men, particularly in a room with other women. Both genders appear to value altruism in long-term relationships.
· In collectivist societies, helping others is rewarded and is associated with higher levels of social support and prosocial behavior resulting in an “altruism niche.”
· The link between religion, spirituality, and altruistic behaviors is complex, and fraught with methodological problems. Preliminary results suggest that religious people are particularly prone to all truism towards the in group and a desire to appear socially desirable for their actions.
· Empathy-based approaches to all truism include interacting more frequently with people who need help, increasing closeness, and developing a wide and diverse social circle. Uniqueness may be an impediment to deriving pleasure from interacting with other people.
Value – Based Approaches
· The valuing of prosocial acts tends to be internalized into people’s identity of themselves.
· Those who display altruism in the “line of duty” . May promote development of prosocial qualities, and these jobs may also draw altruistic individuals to them
· Helping may be habit-forming; having volunteered as a child resulted in later greater giving per year than did fundraising alone.
Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation, gratefulness, or graciousness that accompanies another person or situation helping you. It is likely that feelings of empathy are necessary to have gratitude toward another person.
When does one feel gratitude?
· Gratitude is achieved when others act in a way that was costly to them, valuable to the recipient, and intentionally rendered (Emmons, 2005).
· Gratitude can be felt for humans as well as nonhuman actions and events.
· Larger amounts of gratitude will often be associated with events of larger magnitude, when the giving person’s actions are judged as praiseworthy, and when they are positively different from what was expected (Trivers, 1971 & Ortony, Clore, and Collins, 1988).
· Gratitude may also be present when one finds positive aspects of a negative experience. This is called “benefit finding”.
Cultural Variations in Gratitude
The phrase “thank you” produces more positive reactions in the United States; Koreans preferred use of apology phrases, designed to help another “save face”
In the United States, white Americans benefited more from using gratitude as a vehicle for increasing happiness than did Asian-American participants.
Having a cultural identity as someone who is religious may affect one’s levels of gratitude.
Religiousness is positively related to gratitude, and specific gratitude towards God. The interaction of religious commitment and religious gratitude predict emotional well-being.
Older African-Americans and older Mexican-Americans reported feeling more grateful to God than white Americans; for weight Americans, gratitude was related more to the receipt of spiritual support.
· Gratitude meditation encourages people to ask themselves, what did I receive? What did I give? And, what troubles and difficulties did I cause to others? This brings our expectations and actuality more into awareness, which allows for further learning to appreciate blessings.
· The effectiveness of gratitude interventions in the form of letter writing resulted in the greatest change among youths who were low in positive affect, and people who were lower in regular positive emotional experience. Sustain letter writing produced increases in happiness and life satisfaction and decreases in depression and emotional exhaustion.
· Times of strife may lead to an emphasis of different priorities, and produce a cohort effect of appreciating rescue workers.
· People incorrectly assume that gratefulness is synonymous with the lack of motivation and greater complacency in life.
· Gratitude journals can redirect an individual’s focus on negative or neutral life events to positive aspects of one’s life. It has been shown that those who keep gratitude journals were elevated to those who did not in terms of amount of exercise, optimism about the upcoming week, and feeling better about their lives (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
· The Multidimensional Prayer Inventory is an attempt to determine the rate of gratefulness in the context of the religious experience.
· The Gratitude Resentment And appreciation Test (GRAT) measures three factors: resentment, simple appreciation, and social appreciation.
· The Gratitude Adjective Checklist (GAC)uses self-report to measure the three adjectives of gratefulness appreciativene, and thankfulness.
· The Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ—6) is a trait self-report index measuring thankfulness and gratitude.
The Psychophysiological Underpinnings of Gratitude
· Direct measurements of gratitude are scarce, but findings from the research on appreciation are used
· Appreciation produces a calming pattern and increases the synchrony between heart rate, autonomic nervous system reactivity, and alpha brainwave activity – particularly in the left hemisphere.
· Defined by Thompson and colleagues, forgiveness is freeing from a negative attachment to the source of the transgression. This definition allows the target of forgiveness to be oneself, another person, or a situation.
· Defined by McCullough and colleagues, forgiveness is an increase in prosocial motivation, in that there is less of a desire to avoid or seek revenge against the transgressor and an increased desire to act positively towards the transgressing person. This definition is only applicable when another person is the target of the transgression.
· Defined by Enright and colleagues, forgiveness is the willingness to give up resentment, negative judgment, and indifference towards the transgressor and give undeserved compassion, generosity, and benevolence to the transgressing person. This definition is limited to people and does not include situations.
· Defined by Tangney and colleagues, giving up negative emotions is the core of forgiveness.
Individual and Cultural Variations in Forgiveness
People are more likely to forgive if the transgressor apologizes, makes an effort to “make things right,” or offers some form of compensation.
Older people may be more willing to forgive and may emphasize dispositional factors, whereas younger people may emphasize situational factors. The number and seriousness of transgressions also seems to decrease in older adult.
Forgiveness may be more common in Eastern cultures, in part because of cultural norms valuing harmony; promoting social harmony may dictate forgiveness. Collectivist societies are more likely to show forgiveness if the transgressor attempts at reconciliation or conciliation.
Some studies have found that women exerted more efforts towards being forgiven and responded to multiple types of forgiveness prompting; other studies have found that men have stronger responses to forgiveness prompting.
A propensity to forgiveness, and increase in health, may be stronger in African-Americans, particularly if they hold a strong Black Racial Identity.
Religion typically encourages a model of forgiveness with reconciliation; psychology does not always include a reconciliation, and in some cases may discourage it if it puts the individual in danger.
· According to the model developed by Gordon, Baucom, and Snyder, three steps are needed for achieving forgiveness toward another person. The initial impact stage includes negative emotions such as fear, anger and hurt. The search for meaning stage investigates why the incident happened. And the recovery stage is when the people move forward in their lives.
· The REACH model developed by Everett Worthington is a five-step process to forgiveness regarding infidelity. The acronym stands for Recall the hurt and the nature of the injury caused; Empathy promotion in both partners; Altruistic gift giving of forgiveness between partners; Committing verbally to forgive partner, and; Holding onto the forgiveness for each other.
· Self-forgiveness is aimed at lessening the feelings of shame or guilt. The individual is encouraged to take responsibility for the action and to let go and to move forward. The goal is to prevent the individual from letting the negative feelings interfere with positive living. Shame typically refers to being a “bad person”well guilt refers to having done a “bad thing.”
· Self forgiveness may consist of releasing resentment towards oneself, taking responsibility for bad acts, and moving forward.
· Jacinto and Edwards (2011) outline the stages of self forgiveness: recognition, responsibility, expression, and recreating.
· Thought stopping and examination of thinking behind negative situations are needed to forgive situations and inanimate objects. The individual will learn that they should not blame happenings in their lives for their problems.
· Some negative effects of self forgiveness can include a likeliness to continue bad behavior, and a reduction in the perceived need to change
· In Western society shame is often viewed as negative and nonfunctional, while in Eastern cultures shame may be viewed as a functional reaction to a social situation. Context determines what constitutes an “appropriate”level of shame.
· Forgiveness can be measured using self-report instruments such as the Heartland Forgiveness Scale, the Transgression – Related Interpersonal Motivations Inventory, the Enright Forgiveness Inventory, the Willingness to Forgive Scale and the Multidimensional Forgiveness Inventory.
· An evolutionary advantage to forgiveness is that it may break the violence cycle in human beings and the survival chances will be increased. With lower levels of hostility and aggression and higher levels of positive feelings, the social order may be stabilized.
· Forgiveness requires a sense of self, which is often damaged due to problems requiring the forgiveness. If one learns to forgive, one will build the sense of self up and it may become stronger.
· Forgiveness creates positive emotions.
Personal Benefits of Altruism, Gratitude, and Forgiveness
Studies of altruism show a reciprocal benefit between positive mood and altruism. Helping others helps people self-regulate negative emotions, and is correlated with agreeableness, openness to experience, honesty, and humility
Higher scores on gratitude assessments are correlated with increased positive emotions, vitality, optimism, hope, and satisfaction with life as well as with empathy, sharing, forgiving, in giving to others. Grateful people are less concerned with material goods and more likely to engage in spiritual pursuits.
Forgiveness has been is correlated with well-being in physical health, longevity, and mental health, and was reduced narcissistic feelings of entitlement.
The Societal Implications of Altruism, Gratitude and Forgiveness
· Muting empathy occurs when one is continuously exposed to negative environments or situations of others. People may also mute empathy if they believe they cannot produce the positive changes in which they wish to.
· The innocent bystander effect often influences the likelihood of helping behaviors. The diffusion of responsibility can likely reduce the chances of helping significantly. People may believe that they have acted in a moral way even if they did not offer help.
· Egotism and Empathy play a part in forgiveness, gratitude and altruism. Learning to accept oneself and realistically evaluate life situations and relationships can allow for acceptance and awareness of oneself and others.
· Empathy is a precursor to forgiveness; reinterpreting “transgressions” as a caring gesture increases forgiveness.
· In collectivist cultures, forgiveness is a necessary part of achieving social harmony.
· One can positively influence others by expressing altruism, gratitude or forgiveness, creating a cycle. The outward expression of altruism, gratitude or forgiveness may also lead those influenced by it to act prosocially. Recipients of these displays are likely to reciprocate the action to the original giver, which will also lead to feelings of empathy and esteem toward the giver.