Putting the altruism back into altruism: the evolution of empathy.

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: de Waal, Frans B M
Year of Publication: 2008
Journal: Annu Rev Psychol
Volume: 59
Pagination: 279-300
Date Published: 2008
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 0066-4308
Keywords: Affect, Altruism, Biological Evolution, Cooperative Behavior, Empathy, Humans, Intention, Social Behavior

Evolutionary theory postulates that altruistic behavior evolved for the return-benefits it bears the performer. For return-benefits to play a motivational role, however, they need to be experienced by the organism. Motivational analyses should restrict themselves, therefore, to the altruistic impulse and its knowable consequences. Empathy is an ideal candidate mechanism to underlie so-called directed altruism, i.e., altruism in response to anothers's pain, need, or distress. Evidence is accumulating that this mechanism is phylogenetically ancient, probably as old as mammals and birds. Perception of the emotional state of another automatically activates shared representations causing a matching emotional state in the observer. With increasing cognition, state-matching evolved into more complex forms, including concern for the other and perspective-taking. Empathy-induced altruism derives its strength from the emotional stake it offers the self in the other's welfare. The dynamics of the empathy mechanism agree with predictions from kin selection and reciprocal altruism theory.

DOI: 10.1146/annurev.psych.59.103006.093625
Alternate Journal: Annu Rev Psychol
Related MOCA Topics: