Does altruistic behavior in human beings truly exist?
Biologically speaking, altruism is an act or behavior that decreases the biological fitness of the actor in exchange for the increase of the biological fitness of the recipient.
From an evolutionary perspective, this type of behavior doesn't seem to be genetic, seeing as something that would decrease your likelihood of passing on your genes would go directly against the theory of evolution. Basically, if this was genetic, the gene pool of individuals with this characteristic would decrease over time and eventually be eliminated from the population.
But let's focus on human behavior in social situations where it isn't necessarily fitness that is adversely affected. Rather, the actor simply does something for the benefit of another while taking a net loss.
People do nice stuff for other people all the time. Sometimes I feel like I do things that would appear to be altruistic. For instance, I'm an RA at my university. One of the responsibilities of an RA is to be "on duty" on certain assigned nights of the month. Out of my staff of 11, I was lucky enough to draw the 3rd pick of duty nights. However, my friend who was 10th was stuck with Halloween night. Without her directly asking me, I exchanged one of my easy duty nights for Halloween night. In this interaction, I gave up my early pick and easy duty night in exchange for one of the worst duty nights and a loss in opportunity to go to the many Halloween parties.
On the surface this seems like an altruistic behavior. But is it really? Even though I did this, in the back of my mind I feel like I expect her to reciprocate and do a favor for me in the future, so in this sense it isn't altruism, but rather a type of mutualism.
Do people always have some sort of ulterior motive? Or are there examples of true altruism in action?
Is altruism genetically inherited or not? If it does, how does it still exist after this many generations? If not, how does altruism exist today? Could it be due to a result of the actor's environment? But society in general appears to praise non-altruistic actions (ideology such as capitalism, etc. are all about individual success/familial). Under the assumption that altruistic behavior is rare compared to selfish/mutualistic/commensalistic behavior, why and how are these traits present?
Poll: Does altruistic behavior in human beings truly exist?
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