Manual Altruism and Aggression: Social and Biological Origins

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Imagine your response, for example, if after you've stood in line for hours to get game tickets, the person just ahead of you gets the last ones. Social learning , acquisition of behaviors by watching others, is believed to function in learning aggressive behaviors. Research has shown that children model aggressive behavior, and data exist that suggest that exposure to media violence increases a person's tendency to be aggressive.

Domestic violence in which a person is beaten by her or his spouse is a serious modern social problem. Studies indicate that male abusers often come from families in which the mother was abused or have frequently observed other violence. However, you feel that you are strong enough to help to move one year-old person to safety, and so you start to drag a stranger near you off the bus.

Just as you leave the bus with the stranger, you hear someone X in the car crying out for help. But you only have time to rescue one person. Would you rescue X instead of the stranger from the bus if you recognize X as …? There are nine X s in this dilemma, and they are quite similar to those in the sinking boat dilemma. His empirical findings indicated that the altruistic orientation of an actor is larger to a recipient of close relationship in any situation. In other words, kin altruism is true across different dilemma situations. Ma 21 , 22 , 29 — 31 , 33 used several hypothetical moral dilemmas in his MDT to study this hierarchy.

In the two dilemmas mentioned above, subjects were asked to rate each X i on a seven-point scale from definitely yes to definitely no. Similarly RD i refers to the situation 2 car accident dilemma. Since the RB i and RD i use the seven-point Likert scale, the maximum and minimum values of these scores are 7. The coefficient of human relationship is defined as:.

Similarly, h i 2 is defined as:. The range of the coefficient of human relationship h i s is from 0. For example, the coefficient of human relationship h 1 1 is about 0. On the other hand, the coefficient h 5 1 for some people is very low, perhaps smaller than 0.

Details of the hierarchy of human relationships are given in Ma The degree of affective closeness decreases consistently from R 1 to R 5. The general findings the mean of the h i s indices supported the proposed hierarchy of human relationships for both male and female samples Apart from a few minor reversals, Ma 23 , 31 found that the means of the h i s indices supported the hierarchy among primary school, junior secondary school, senior secondary, and university student samples.

The five types of human relationships R 1 — R 5 form a hierarchical structure. Ma 33 found that the data in his London and Hong Kong studies supported the hypotheses that a the inter-correlations of the five R i indices displayed a simplex-like structure and b loadings of the principal components analysis approximated a two-factor, semicircular configuration with R indices ordered by their hierarchical positions.

He also found that similar results were found in two different dilemma situations in his Grade 4 to Grade 8 samples in Hong Kong One major limitation of the above studies is the use of hypothetical moral dilemmas.

Similarly, Pedersen et al. Based on the affective forecasting studies, some researchers argue that people may not know what they would do when faced with a real-life moral dilemma. Perhaps field studies in real-life threatening situations may help researchers obtain more useful data on the altruistic behavior of humans. In some urgent cases such as those unpredictable earthquakes, retrospective ethic approval for experienced researchers may be considered.

Indeed, the use of hypothetical moral dilemmas is a serious limitation. But this is not a good reason to reject all hypothetical dilemma studies before we are able to conduct similar studies in real-life situations.

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Jones and Rachlin 37 argued that previous studies have found similar results between real and hypothetical situations in social discounting studies and there is no reason to expect different results with social discounting from what they have found even though they are using hypothetical money rewards p. A number of features of this taxonomy should be noted: 1 it does not exhaust all possible types of human relationships, instead it depicts the most standard or common types of human relationships.

For social-related groups, the situation is even more complicated.

Key Takeaways

Also, while the choice is not exhaustive, the two hypotheses 1 and 2 mentioned above will be applied to this taxonomy of human relationships. For the primary group, the major factor affecting the social interactions is genetic relatedness and reciprocity. There are a total of 11 groups of relationships: a 6 primary subgroups which include 2 core groups, 1 intimate group, and 3 closely related groups, b 4 secondary subgroups which include 1 mildly related group, 2 stranger groups and 1 antagonist group, and 3 1 tertiary group. Based on the above proposed taxonomy of human relationships and our previous studies 21 , 22 , 29 — 31 , 33 , it is hypothesized that:.

For example, H 1a denotes the coefficient of human relationships for people with genetic relatedness of 0. Those H -coefficients in a bracket are approximately equal to each other.

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In other words, the altruistic orientation of an altruist to a person of G i decreases consistently from H 1 to H 7. Recently, in their study of human relationships in a sample of university students, Ma et al. She has proposed five domains of social life and relationships: 1 an attachment domain, 2 a hierarchical power domain, 3 a coalitional group domain, 4 a reciprocity domain, and 5 a mating domain Her theory of five domains of social life and the processes of social interactions in each domain is useful for our construction of the taxonomy of human relationships.

For example, the attachment domain is useful for explaining the social interactions and relationships for G 1a members, the mating domain for G 1b members, the reciprocity domain for G 2 members, the coalitional group domain for G 3b members, and the hierarchical power domain for G 3c members.

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She has proposed a theory of communal relationships based on a program of research on giving and receiving benefits in close relationships She also proposes six ways in which relational context varies: relational character, individual differences in approaches to relationships, relationship type, relationship histories and anticipated relationship futures, developmental stage of relationships, and placement of a relationship within wider relationship networks [ 1 , pp.

Among the six ways, the relationship type is more relevant to the present study. In particular, the communal relationships are useful for explaining the relationships in groups G 1a , G 1b , G 2 , and G 3a. Friendships, romantic relationships, and family relationships but not always! It appears that core family G 1a , G 1b and extended family G 3a are good examples of CS relationships as members of the group tend to treat others as all the same.

In other words, the AR relationships are common in a big and extended family G 3a , a political or religious group G 3b , a business organization G 3c , and a school G 3c. The EM relationships are particularly good for explaining the relationships in G 6 , and to a less extent G 4 , G 5a , and G 5b. Someone you dislike or an enemy G 6 is people you may take an eye-for-an-eye revenge for what they have done to you. The MP relationships are in general applicable for explaining the relationships in all groups G 1a — G 7 in the present taxonomy of human relationships.

Batson et al. For dissimilar victims, the proportion of actors that would help in easy escape condition is very low 0. For similar victims, the proportion of actors that would help in easy and difficult escape conditions is 0. In future if experiments are conducted using people of different relationships, some interesting results are expected. For example, in the similar condition, we can choose either kin G 1a or best friend G 2 , and in dissimilar condition, we can choose stranger G 5b or disliked people G 6. It would be interesting to see how the different relationships influence the willingness to help in easy and difficult escape conditions.

The development of altruism with special reference to the taxonomy of human relationships over the life span is proposed to follow a stage process. Since the concept of human relationships is defined in terms of altruism, higher stages tend to exhibit more altruistic behaviors to different types of people than lower stages.


Three aspects of the stages of altruism are delineated. Ma 32 has also proposed a psychological definition of altruism. There are three criteria of altruism: 1 altruistic behavior must be carried out voluntarily without expectation of a reward. These two definitions are in some sense complementary to each other.

People at this stage are struggling hard for their physical survival and would try their very best to survive by all means. The major concern of the actor is his or her self-survival, the survival of other people or other living things are not their concern.

People at this stage do not trust others and have a strong sense of insecurity in the interaction with others. The focus is on the gratification of physiological and safety needs. Psychoanalytically speaking, people at this stage are exhibiting the Id characteristic which is associated with the pleasure principle. Their ego strength is weak, and they tend to seek immediate pleasure and want to satisfy their physiological needs without delay and by all means. People are thinking with an egocentric perspective.

They think that whatever they see, whatever they perceive, and whatever they sense; the other people will see the same, perceive the same, and sense the same. Their logic is simple and straightforward [ 43 , pp.

Frontiers | Psychopathy to Altruism: Neurobiology of the Selfish–Selfless Spectrum | Psychology

People at this stage act altruistically only to gain approval or to avoid punishment by authorities [ 45 , p. They take care of a small group of significant others such as their parents who exert considerable influence on their daily life. People at this stage are lonely and alienated. Their focus is on the self G 0 and they do not care of others. They usually do not exhibit kinship and have no friends.

People at this stage are dominated by their genetic or biological nature to survive and to generate offspring directly. This is perhaps the initial or primitive stage of altruism and human relationships.

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The self-survival is basically the major task of everyone at this stage. The concept of group survival, cooperation, and reciprocity is either weak or does not exist at this stage. The focus is on the gratification of love and belongingness needs.

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People are thinking with a primary group perspective. They can argue for the benefit of their kin or primary group quite logically and consistently. People at this stage are struggling hard for the survival of their kin and mate and would try their very best to protect them by all means. What is right is to let the kin and mate survive.

If they cannot survive, I will not survive too. The primary group at this stage includes mainly the nuclear family husband, wife, and children. People at this stage build up a wonderful relationship with their kin and mate and form a strong primary group. They exhibit kinship and close relationships with members of their primary group.

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People would be willing to sacrifice for their kin at a very high cost. People at this stage are dominated by their genetic nature to survive and to generate offspring.