Episode 162: What Motivates Altruism?

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On January 2nd, 2007, 50-year old construction worker Wesley Autrey jumped onto the tracks of a New York City subway platform, saving a stranger who had suffered a seizure and fallen. Mr. Autrey’s actions on that day were remarkable, but there a countless examples that showcase incredible acts of human selflessness. So what motivates altruism? What causes human beings (and animals, for that matter) to behave in such a way? Doesn’t this all contradict the Darwinist notion of ‘the survival of the fittest’? Download the podcast for the answers!


Notte, J. (2013). Why The Poor Are More Charitable Than The Rich. MSN Money, March 22 2013.

Jacobs, T. (2012). Brain Scientists Locate Home of Altruism. Pacific Standard, July 11 2012.

Lichtenberg, J. (2010). Is True Altruism Possible? New York Times Opinion Pages, October 19 2010.

Levitt, S. and Dubner, S. (2009). Unbelievable Stories About Apathy and Altruism. New York Times, October 16 2009.

Dingfelder, S.F. (2006). Altruism: An Accident of Nature? American Psychological Association, 37 (11), 44.

Biological altruism. Stamford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Altruism and happiness. PBS.org.

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