Types of Altruism in Psychology

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  • 0:00 Definition Of Altruism
  • 0:58 Nepotistic Altruism
  • 1:30 Reciprocal Altruism…
  • 2:12 Group-Based Altruism
  • 2:47 Moralistic Altruism
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nicole Gaines

Nicole is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a master's degree in counseling.

Altruism has many psychological forms. Have you ever wondered why people give selflessly to others? In this lesson, you will learn the various forms of altruism and how they are portrayed in our everyday lives.

Definition of Altruism

Even though we are all capable of being selfish and selfless, the most selfless or altruistic acts have proven to be the most impactful and important acts in our lives. Take, for instance, your parents' tireless efforts to provide and support you or the music teacher who taught you for free just to share her love of music and see you smile. Ever wonder why people give so selflessly? It all centers around altruism.

Altruism is the same thing as selflessness. It is as simple as that. It is the concern for the wellbeing of others and can be seen in various cultures and religions across the world. Can you remember a time in your life when you were shown altruism? How about when you showed others altruism yourself? Did you know there are multiple types of altruism? Four types of altruism include: nepotistic altruism, reciprocal altruism (or mutualism), group-based altruism and moral altruism.

Nepotistic Altruism

The first form of altruism is called nepotistic altruism and it is altruism based on family. Let's say you have a child and you work every day to ensure that your child has shelter, food, clothing and all the emotional support and nurturing she needs to survive and thrive. Your self-sacrifice to care for the wellbeing of your child would be seen as nepotistic altruism. People are often critical of this form of altruism. It can be seen as selfish if you are helping an extension of yourself, through a blood line, which is a little different than helping a stranger. However, it is still a form of altruism.

Reciprocal Altruism (Mutualism)

Reciprocal altruism is the second form of altruism, which is altruism seen through a give and take relationship. Have you ever been out to dinner with your friends and one of your friends pays the bill for you? Chances are you will return the favor the next time you go out together. In reciprocal altruism, both parties benefit.

However, it should be noted that reciprocal altruism only works if the favor of your friend is received and returned by you in some way. There is an expectation that the other person will give back or be there for you after you have done something for them. This form of altruism is also one of the key characteristics of long-term relationships or friendships, as it allows each person to lean on the other in a time of need and give back when they are able.

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