February 18, 2015
Major and Classification
McNair Project Helping Us and Helping Others: Social Identity, Altruism, and Pro-social Behavior
This analysis reviews evidence from social-psychological and sociological studies on Altruism and Social Identity/Intergroup Relations. The purpose of this analysis is to find what connections are made between social identity theory and altruism in the past literature. When people act on their concern for another’s well-being, without regard for their own well-being, they are acting on altruistic motivation. That is not to say that altruism requires sacrifice, it does not, but altruism does require that an action was motivated by concern for another’s well-being. The purpose of the action cannot be to benefit oneself, although the outcome in the action may benefit both parties. There is significant empirical data that show a connection between empathy and altruism, and show a greater sense of empathy towards in-group members (“we’s”). However, it is unclear if people will be less likely to help a stranger altruistically if they don’t identify with them as a “we”. This analysis uses theories and models developed primarily from Batson’s empathy-altruism hypothesis and Tajfel’s theory of social identity and self-categorization to show that having a stronger social identity and weak distinction between the self and “we” may influence altruistic behavior.