Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Functions

Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Functions

ISSN 2055-3447
Review

Theories of human altruism: a systematic review

Svetlana Feigin1*, Glynn Owens2 and Felicity Goodyear-Smith2

*Corresponding author: Svetlana Feigin svetlana.feigin@auckland.ac.nz

1. Department of Psychology, Faculty of Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Author Affiliations

2. Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, Faculty of Medicine and Health Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Abstract

The goal of this systematic review was to summarise the social psychological literature on theories of altruism in humans from 1960 to 2014. Material was sourced through online databases, book sections, grey literature and hand searches. All social psychological literature on altruism in humans from 1960 to June 2014 was eligible for inclusion in the review. Items were critically reviewed according to key characteristics and findings. Non-English items and original research papers were excluded. Of 1881 potentially eligible items, 308 were selected for critical appraisal; of these, 97 were included in the review as 'Theory' articles, being separated into pseudo-altruism (selfishly-motivated) and true (selfless) altruism. Within these categories lie a range of models. The influences behind altruism are complex and do not arise from a single source but rather a multitude of sources both within and outside the individual. Future theoretical models would greatly benefit from being inclusive rather than exclusive in allowing for the possibility of co-existing motivational drives (egoistic and altruistic).

Keywords: Altruism, altruistic behaviour, empathy, helping behaviour, pro-social behaviour

ISSN 2055-3447
Volume 1
Abstract Download