Altruism refers to any helping behavior whose intended goal is to improve another’s welfare, typically at some cost to the helper. Altruism norms are defined as the typical patterns of behavior seen surrounding these selfless acts. This chapter will summarize prototypical norms of altruism that are commonly seen in families and societies.
Altruism norms have evolved and changed throughout the course of human history and can include things such as self-sacrifice, philanthropy, or just doing a good deed. It has been suggested that altruism is influenced in part by genetic factors but more so by the types of societies to which individuals are exposed (Bell et al. 2009). Altruism can be seen as an evolved mechanism that is molded to fit within the norms of different cultures, yet it operates automatically when loved ones, family members, or even strangers require help.
Kin Selection and Pro-family Norms
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