A man in the street suffers and needs assistance, and we pass him by without stopping because we are in a hurry. Yet we then experience a feeling of guilt and go back to offer help. If the man had been an acquaintance of ours, would we have hesitated? Did we return to help the man because we were authentically concerned for his well-being, or only to ease our sense of guilt? Are we born altruistic or are we selfish by nature? What are the benefits of altruism? Embedded in the evolutionary history of the human race, helping others also derives from psychological processes of motivational, emotional and cognitive nature.
Alberto Voci teaches Group Psychology and Prejudice Reduction Strategies at the University of Padua.