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Pathological Altruism
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Pathological Altruism

Barbara Oakley, Ariel Knafo, Guruprasad Madhavan, and David Sloan Wilson


Many harmful deeds—from codependency to suicide martyrdom to genocide—are committed with the altruistic intention of helping companions or one’s own in-group. Therefore it is worthwhile to study how well-meaning altruism can shade into pathology. Although the term pathological altruism has been used to a limited degree in psychodynamic circles, there has been inadequate study of the phenomenon in general, and almost none from a biological, genetic, and evolutionary perspective. In essence, pathological altruism might be thought of as any behavior or personal tendency in which either the stated ... More

Keywords: pathological altruism, behavior, biology, genetics, evolution

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2011 Print ISBN-13: 9780199738571
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738571.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Barbara Oakley, editor
Oakland University

Ariel Knafo, editor
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Guruprasad Madhavan, editor
National Academy of Sciences


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Part I the psychology of pathological altruism

Part II Psychiatric Implications Of Pathological Altruism

Part III societal implications of pathological altruism

Part IV cultural and evolutionary dimensions of pathological altruism

Part V The Development and Underlying Brain Processes of Pathological Altruism

Part VI Synthesis of views on pathological altruism