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Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism - Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Concepts and implications of altruism bias and pathological altruism


Abstract

The profound benefits of altruism in modern society are self-evident. However, the potential 
hurtful aspects of altruism have gone largely unrecognized in scientific inquiry. This is despite 
the fact that virtually all forms of altruism are associated with tradeoffs—some of enormous 
importance and sensitivity—and notwithstanding that examples of pathologies of altruism 
abound. Presented here are the mechanistic bases and potential ramifications of pathological 
altruism, that is, altruism in which attempts to promote the welfare of others instead result in 
unanticipated harm. A basic conceptual approach toward the quantification of altruism bias 
is presented. Guardian systems and their over arching importance in the evolution of cooperation 
are also discussed. Concepts of pathological altruism, altruism bias, and guardian systems 
may help open many new, potentially useful lines of inquiry and provide a framework to 
begin moving toward a more mature, scientifically informed understanding of altruism 
and cooperative behavior.
Reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.—Richard Feynman

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