Pathological Altruism - An Introduction

PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM, B. Oakley, A. Knafo, G. Madhavan, D. S. Wilson, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, 2011

18 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2011

See all articles by Barbara Ann Oakley

Barbara Ann Oakley

Oakland University

Ariel Knafo

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Michael G. McGrath

Unity Health System

Date Written: December 7, 2011

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Altruism, pathological altruism, behaviour, biological, genetic, evolutionary

JEL Classification: B00, D00, D64, E00, F00, G00, H00, I00, J00, K00, L00, N00, O00, P00, Z10

Suggested Citation

Oakley, Barbara Ann and Knafo, Ariel and McGrath, Michael G., Pathological Altruism - An Introduction (December 7, 2011). PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM, B. Oakley, A. Knafo, G. Madhavan, D. S. Wilson, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1969382

Barbara Ann Oakley (Contact Author)

Oakland University ( email )

Rochester, MI 48309-4401
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www2.oakland.edu/users/oakley

Ariel Knafo

Hebrew University of Jerusalem ( email )

IL Jerusalem

Michael G. McGrath

Unity Health System ( email )

81 Lake Avenue
Rochester, NY 14608

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