Altruism as Survival Strategy

December 7, 2010 at 8:23 PM

New research suggest that humans may give in order to avoid being the target of the envious, reports the Association for Psychological Science.

A group of Tilburg University professors had decided that envy comes in two flavors, benign and malicious:

[They] found that people with benign envy were motivated to improve themselves, to do better so they could be more like the person they envied. On the other hand, people with malicious envy wanted to bring the more successful person down.

They then devised some clever studies: First to make people feel like they would be the target of either malicious or benign envy, then to see if people behaved more or less generously in the immediate aftermath. People who had reason to believe they might be the target of malicious envy behaved more generously.

These sorts of claims are always disconcerting. Is even charity ultimately selfish, if only in origin?

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Entry filed under: Why We Give.

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