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This paper presents an examination of the phenomenon of 'altruism' among humans.

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Name : C Sountharam Address : 9/42 John Street, Ashfield, NSW 2131 Email : csountharam@hotmail.com Tel (h) : 61 2 97164827 Module : Social Determinants of Behaviour Trainer : Mrs Christine Chinchen Assignment : Assignment No 3 - Part A & Part B- Altruism Term : 1 -year 2003 Date : 2003-05-19 Abstract This paper presents an examination of the phenomenon of 'altruism' among humans. Altruism is defined as a behaviour that may be to one's advantage but is also to the advantage of others. The questions of why we behave this way or what motivates us to behave in this manner and the relevance to society today are the focus of this paper. Various research and theories has explained why altruistic behaviour is undertaken intentionally in the human world. Introduction We often read or hear about acts of generosity and courage, such as, fund raisers or concerts to help homeless people, the fostering of a child and sponsoring his or her education, or of volunteers risking their lives to help victims in incidents like September 11 terrorist attack in the United States. We could have donated some money to orphanages or cared for a wounded dog. Such humane acts are defined by Psychologists as 'altruism' (Moghaddam, 1998).Altruistic acts could be unselfish or done for personal gain or egoistic reasons. Indeed in a psychological paradigm, psychologists believe that true altruistic behaviour does not exist (Moghaddam, 1998). ...read more.


The volunteer's family has been a role model for her and encouraged her involvement in volunteering services. She claims her motivation for involvement in the 'worthwhile activity' is her good health and part of her purpose for living. A small proportion of personal benefits derived from volunteering have sustained her commitment. Discussion Altruism is an ethical concept that describes behaviours aimed at furthering pleasure and alleviating pains of other people without self interest. To uphold the well being of others is an end in itself (Oung, 2003). There are several problems with this definition which have been pointed out in the 'sociological paradigm'. In order to explore this idea interview was conducted with a woman who has been involved in 'helping behaviour' for nearly sixteen years. I have been a volunteer for nearly thirteen years. Both our experiences will attempt to answer why we behave altruistically or what motivate us to behave in this manner and its relevance in society today. Initially, I became a volunteer because of media glamour. I was involved in acting and to become more popular I chose to be involved in fund raising activities and hosting shows with no monetary benefits. This proposes the 'good image motive'. The cameras clicking, the bright lights and seeing myself and my altruistic acts mentioned in paper raised my self-esteem. But truly I was not involved in the altruistic acts with a genuine desire. ...read more.


Such altruism in the face of danger reveals compassion, in a moment of risk to ourselves. Acts of altruism are easier to study than feelings of compassion. To understand or interpret how one feels we must rely on what we are told, while altruistic acts take place, in a sense, before our eyes. In order to understand why people are altruistic, we have to try to understand the culture of the people (Moghddam, 1998).Culture teaches us when it is appropriate to seek and offer help. In some cultures, service to others is justification for a person's existence and others encourage self sacrifice as being good. I chose my path in helping profession because I want to become a part of humanity. My gradual transition in the volunteering field made me realise that showing kindness to others is a cardinal virtue of my religion and of humanity.My interviewee's engagement in the 'worthwhile activity' seems to be genuine love for a number of people in need. Conclusion In conclusion, volunteering is an act of altruism. Such helping behaviour motivated by personal benefit or gain, genuine love, compassion, empathy and instinct tends to improve our ability to get along with others in the world. The world would be a better place to live in if everyone worked for the benefit of others. Therefore 'altruism' is beautiful. It is a beautiful idea, that inspires us when other people act on it, and makes us feel very good about ourselves when we act upon it. ...read more.

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