altruism

Not Exactly Rocket Science

Tag archives for altruism

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it appears that capuchins believe it too. These very sociable monkeys gravitate towards humans that mimic their actions, spending more time in their company and even preferring to trade with them. Annika Paukner, who studied this monkey business, thinks that imitation is a type…

Two years ago, a group of Ugandan chimps provided a blow to the idea that humans are the only animals that truly behave selflessly to one another. These chimps showed clear signs of true selflessness, helping both human handlers and other unrelated chimps with no desire for reward. The question of why we help each…

Some people go out of their way to help their peers, while others are more selfish. Some lend their trust easily, while others are more suspicious and distrustful. Some dive headlong into risky ventures; others shun risk like visiting in-laws. There’s every reason to believe that these differences in behaviour have biological roots, and some…

What happens when you remember a good deed, or think of yourself as a stand-up citizen? You might think that your shining self-image would reinforce the value of selflessness and make you more likely to behave morally in the future. But a new study disagrees. Through three psychological experiments, Sonya Sachdeva from Northwestern University found…

The effect that violent films and games have on our minds, and the implications for their place in society, has been a source of much heated debate. Now, a new study looks set to fan the flames even further. Several studies have found that violent media can desensitise people to real acts of violence, but…

Imagine that you’re driving along a country lane. As often happens, the road suddenly transforms from a well-paved street to a pothole-ridden nightmare. As your suspension and your stomachs start to tire, your friends in the back suddenly force you to stop the car. To your amazement, they jump out and lie across the potholes,…

Punishing slackers and do-gooders

Humans have an extraordinary capacity for selflessness. We often help complete strangers who are unrelated to us, who we may never meet again and who are unlikely to be able to return the favour. More and more, we are being asked to behave in selfless ways to further the common good, not least in the…