Altruism. Part Two.

Give and take

Adam Grant (see Bibliography at the end) identifies three different ways of relating to others: three basic patterns of behavior in people:

  1. Donors: Those who normally give more than what they receive. They are generous in their relationships and like to help others without conditions. They naturally share their knowledge and solve problems for others without looking for anything in return.
  2. Recipients: Those who like to receive more than they give. They are people, by contrast, generally competitive, who try to get as much of us as possible without giving anything in return. They operate under the premise that if they do nothing for themselves, no one will. They are masters at grabbing credit and self-promotion and their ultimate goal is to make sure they are alone at the top.
  3. Balancers: These are people who strive to maintain a balance between giving and receiving. They are equitable and tend to seek reciprocity in their relationships. When they do someone a favor, they expect it to be returned on another occasion.


Otrist and altruistic donors

Otrist donors are those who have a high concern for the interests of others and also for their own. They are considered to be successful donors or smart donors.

Altruistic donors unlike previous donors have a low concern for self-interest. They sacrifice themselves.

Altruism and religions


For Christianity, altruism is the basis of morality, as it underlies the command Jesus gave before he died: “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15: 9-17). This mandate should replace the old Jewish laws, inspired by the Law of the Talion (An eye for an eye) and incites to love even the enemies.

“Love your neighbor as yourself”
Leviticus 19 and Matthew 22


In Islam, the concept ‘īthār’ (إيثار) (altruism) is the notion of ‘preferring others to oneself’. For Sufis, this means devotion to others through complete forgetfulness of one’s own concerns, where concern for others is rooted as a requirement made by Allah in the human body, considered to be the exclusive property of Allah. the sacrifice for the greater good; Islam considers that those who practice īthār respect the highest degree of nobility.


Judaism defines altruism as the desired goal of creation. It is defined as bestowal, or giving, which is the intention of altruism. Altruism towards humanity leads to altruism toward the creator or God. The Kabbalah defines God as the force of giving in existence.

The modern Kabbalah developed by Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag, in his writings on the future generation, focuses on how society could achieve an altruistic social framework. Ashlag proposed that everything that happens serves to elevate humanity to the level of altruism, the love of one another.


Altruism occupies a prominent place in Buddhism. Love and compassion are components of all forms of Buddhism, and focus on all beings equally: love is the desire that all beings be happy, and compassion is the desire that all beings be free of suffering.
“… So whether it is personal, family, national or international, altruism, love and compassion, are the foundation of success, happiness and a happy environment.” Dalai Lama


The well-known and popular text, the Bhagavad Gita supports the doctrine of karma yoga (disinterested action) or action without desire for personal gain that can be said to encompass altruism. Altruistic acts are generally celebrated and well received in Hindu literature and are fundamental to Hindu morality.

Swami Sivananda points out that karma is insensitive and of short duration, and ceases to exist as soon as a deed is executed. Therefore, karma can not bestow the fruits of actions at a future date on the merit of one.

The Altruistic Brain

From the beginning of the history of which we have recorded, law and religion have provided “rules” that define good behavior. When we obey these rules, we assign some external authority the ability to determine how we should act.

Anthropologists have been wondering, at least since the time of Hobbes, whether humans are essentially selfish or altruistic.

Neuroscientists, psychologists, and evolutionary biologists argue that the source of good human behavior emanates from our physical constitution. Our brains, hormones and genes literally embody our social behavior. In “The Altruistic Brain” Donald Pfaff provides an extensive argument on the subject, explaining in detail how our neuroanatomic structure favors altruistic behavior in the first instance, so that unsolicited spontaneous goodness is our predetermined behavior.

The evolution of altruism in the human species

The main theories that have been proposed to explain the evolution of human prosociality and its altruistic behavior, emphasize kinship, reciprocity, indirect reciprocity, punishment and morality. Recent models of cooperative evolution suggest that individuals can benefit from cultivating a reputation for generosity, which in turn elicits the help of others. Signaling that one is generous can give rise to benefits for the person designated, such as being chosen as an exchange partner, friend or partner.

A crucial issue in the evolution of cooperation is the role of punishment. In populations where certain behaviors are punished, people feel better if they resist engaging in these behaviors. Often, not always, people punish others who have violated moral standards, even when rape leads people to be better rather than worse.

Altruism and open innovation

Altruism is behavior that fits perfectly with open innovation. Open Innovation favors and encourages free exchange among cultural groups of knowledge, skills and abilities, emphasizing the widest possible access to new resources and favors so-called “inclusive prosperity“.

Altruism opens up a promising perspective for all types of collaboration and for the outward-oriented approach to innovation, seeking to maximize co-operation even among competing firms with the coopetence or coopetition model, a competitive and at the same time cooperative approach of the collaboration (Formica, 2017).

In the processes of Open Innovation, selfless and altruistic talent is essential in team members whose skills for critical thinking and their ability to communicate, collaborate and pursue new opportunities are their highest value as a factor of production.

The Age of Altruism

The opinions of the consulted psychologists coincide in recognizing that altruism must be fostered, especially among young people and promoted as something common, attractive and expected. To this end, society as a whole should provide as many attractive altruistic models as possible, in public life, in the media and in our own lives. We must celebrate that celebrities from the different spheres of culture try to be altruistic.

Therefore, the promotion of an altruistic society would be accelerated with a greater active engagement of people with altruism and at the same time strengthening character traits complementary to altruism, such as resilience.

Forni (2002) says: “I am optimistic about our capacity for improvement. We can learn to be decent and careful; We can learn to give of ourselves; We can learn to love. How do we do it? In the same way that we learn to speak, to read, to swim or to ride a bicycle: we need someone to teach us, and we need to practice. Before we think we can love we need basic training: First we discipline our ego to look beyond the narrow confines of its immediate needs; Then we will have the opportunity to understand what true love is. After training there will be those who are capable of loving others, even strangers, as they love themselves. And there will be those whose love will be limited to their friends and family. Everyone, however, will have learned to practice respect, moderation, concern, and benevolence to some extent. Manners are the soul’s first steps toward love. ”

Babula (2013) in his book “Motivation, Altruism, Personality and Social Psychology: The coming age of Altruism” says: “My prediction as to how political values ​​will evolve in the future is that even if a few pure altruists do so in public sphere, then we will begin to witness the end of the present dark ages and the dawning of an era of altruism. The research carried out […] not only confirms the sequence of motivational development that I have observed over the years, but also offers the hope that we are on the cusp of something really extraordinary and that in the coming decades we will be able to witness: series of peaceful revolutions that will see the end of the government of the artificial aristocracy and the emergence of a new civilization that works to solve collectively urgent problems instead of causing them “.

In addition, as citizens and as psychologists we have a choice and perhaps a responsibility to decide what kind of society we want. One possibility is to try to promote a true civil society, in which people tend to be altruistic, to act on the concerns for the well-being of others, as well as for their own. In such a society, everyone would benefit from giving as well as receiving attention and consideration (Post, 2005).


If you want to know a little bit more … … see the main bibliography in Altruism. Part One.


Grant, A. (2014) Give and Take : Why Helping Others Drives Our Success. Orion Books Co. United Kingdom.

Forni, P.M. (2002). Choosing civility. New York: St. Martin Griffin.

Kolm, S-C. y Ythier, J.M. (ed.) (2006) Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity: Foundations 1. North-Holland.


Other websites of interest on the subject: