The Empathy-Altruism Hypothesis
The empathy-altruism hypothesis states that empathic concern produces altruistic motivation. To unpack this deceptively simply hypothesis, it is necessary to know what is meant by “empathic concern,” by “altruistic motivation,” and even by “produces.” Empathic concern—other-oriented emotion elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of someone in need—is distinguished from seven other uses of the term empathy. Altruistic motivation—a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing another’s welfare—is distinguished from four other uses of the term altruism. Altruism is contrasted with egoism—a motivational state with the ultimate goal of increasing one’s own welfare. The question of why empathic concern might produce altruistic motivation is addressed by considering the information and amplification functions of emotions in general, as well as the relationship of emotion to motivation.
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