Altruism: The Helper’s High

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*Welcome to Part II of The Science Behind Altruism, our series of posts exploring the new scientific discoveries surrounding altruism.

“When I do good, I feel good.” – Abraham Lincoln

Leave it to Honest Abe, who provided America such oratorical masterpieces as the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural, to sum up altruism in seven simple words.  Plain yet spot-on, what Lincoln described is the core experience of being altruistic: that doing good for others really provides us an unmatched feeling of well-being, simply from knowing we helped another person.

Psychologists call it the “Helper’s High.”  But here at AltruHelp we know it’s more than that.  Why?  Because of the flurry of cutting edge research that is bringing new understanding to how and why this sensation of “feeling good” happens, and the possibilities ahead for recognizing the contributions of altruism to our health and happiness.

Thanks to advances in brain-imaging technology and the advent of neuroeconomics, a new field that applies neuroscience to study economic behavior, scientists have designed several experiments that actually trace altruism—and the pleasure we gain from it—to specific regions and systems in the brain.  In fact, two studies offer striking evidence that our brains are naturally wired to help us be altruistic.  Read More

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Tap Your Inner Child: The Science Behind Altruism

Do humans have an innate desire to help others without expecting anything in return? It’s a simple question that has tested the wits of scientists and philosophers across millennia, including the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Hobbes and Darwin. Now it’s AltruHelp’s turn to weigh in on this perennial question.

Today’s post marks the start of a three-part series examining the emerging research on how humans are naturally altruistic—i.e. how we are innately composed via our brains, genes and neurons to help others selflessly. By looking at recent experiments conducted at leading institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the German-based Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, as well as articles from prominent science and psychology journals, our goal is to shed light on the cognitive, genetic and neurochemical processes that likely combine to make altruism an innate human behavior.

One of the most fascinating areas of research focuses on whether young children have a natural (versus a learned or socialized) willingness to be altruistic. Read More