Philosophers, sociologists, psychologists, and biologists have debated the existence of altruism in humans for years. Two predominant views across these fields explained altruistic behavior in terms of reinforcement or evolutionary genetics. Today, psychology still adheres to the notion that pure altruism can not be demonstrated, and is better explained through other egoistic (e.g., reinforcement) models. The evidence for and against each of these perspectives is weighed. The focus of this review is on the substantial findings accumulated over the past 15 years in psychology, supporting the idea that pure altruism does exist, and is causally linked to feelings of empathy for the victim.

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