« Back to Glossary Index


Altruism means acting in the best interest of others rather than in one’s own self-interest. Some people believe altruism constitutes the essence of morality.

Although we often act selfishly, we also seem to be wired to cooperate with others. For example, studies show that when people look for mates, they tend to look for kindness more than any other quality.

People’s moral judgments are often driven by emotion. And empathy for others seems to encourage altruism. Another emotion, called “elevation,” appears to inspire altruistic behavior, too. We feel elevation when we see another person act virtuously, such as by helping someone in need.

Altruism also builds social connections. For example, studies show that people who are altruistic tend to be happier, to be healthier, and to live longer.

So, while altruism leads us to do what’s best for others, it also makes us feel good in the process.