Are Humans Ever Truly Altruistic?

Selflessness, selfullness, and the concept of generosity

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Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash

Many evolutionary biologists question if pure altruism is possible? They speak more of reciprocal altruism, a behavior whereby an organism acts in a manner that temporarily reduces its fitness while increasing another organism’s fitness, with the expectation that the other organism will act in a similar manner at a later time.

The concept was initially developed by Robert Trivers to explain the evolution of cooperation as instances of mutually altruistic acts. The concept is close to the strategy used in game theory and HAGT (Harrison’s Applied Game Theory). Trivers’ examples of Reciprocal Altruism are actually examples of a similar concept called delayed return altruism.


It would seem based on what we know, that few humans are purely altruistic. Reciprocal altruism in humans seems more likely. Here we are referring to individual behavior that gives benefit conditionally upon receiving a returned benefit, which draws on the economic concept — ″gains in trade″. Human reciprocal altruism would include the following behaviors (but is not limited to): helping patients, the wounded, and the others when they are in crisis; sharing food, implement, knowledge.

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By L Harrison

“Lewis is amazing. I recommend him to anyone who wants less stress and more energy.” — Jack Canfield, Co-author, The Chicken Soup for the Soul books and films.

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I offer advice on the arts, innovation, self-improvement, life lessons, mental health, game theory strategies, and love.

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