Pathological Altruism - An Introduction
Barbara Ann Oakley
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Michael G. McGrath
Unity Health System
December 7, 2011
PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM, B. Oakley, A. Knafo, G. Madhavan, D. S. Wilson, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, 2011
Many harmful deeds - from “co-dependency” to suicide martyrdom to genocide - are committed with the altruistic intention to help companions or one’s own in-group. Thus, it is worthwhile to study how well-meaning altruism can shade into pathology. In essence, pathological altruism might be thought of as any behavior or personal tendency where either the stated aim, or the implied motivation, is to promote the welfare of another. But instead of overall beneficial outcomes, the “altruism” instead has irrational (from the point of view of an outside observer) and substantial negative consequences to the other or even to the self. This introductory chapter provides a broad perspective presents psychological, neuropsychological, biological, and evolutionary approaches that help account for pathologically altruistic behavior, and goes on to discusses its diverse and profound societal implications. The result is a nuanced counterbalance to the study of altruism and a call for further research.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: Altruism, pathological altruism, behaviour, biological, genetic, evolutionary
JEL Classification: B00, D00, D64, E00, F00, G00, H00, I00, J00, K00, L00, N00, O00, P00, Z10Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: December 7, 2011
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