Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pay It Forward-The Role of Altruism in Our Society by Paulo Guimaraes

                               Paulo Guimaraes                           March 12, 2012

                                                     Pay it forward

At the beginning of mankind’s existence, acting according to the needs of the group was beneficial in the strength and lifespan of the group. Many times in present-day society, individuals will act out of kindness, without a moment’s notice, to help another person. This act comes out of certain beliefs, but mostly out of the need for unity and protection of fellow human beings. I  will be discussing my role in helping my fellow man and how it made me feel about myself, about others, and about psychology, and its role.

        The roles of altruism, personal and professional social responsibility, and codependency

The one act of kindness that I can recall was the day I came home on the subway from an EMT class in the borough of Manhattan (NYC). I had just gotten off the platform and was going to walk down the stairs. On the stairs at the same time was a mother with her stroller and baby. Obviously, it was going to be hard for to walk down the stairs, so I asked if she needed help and she yes, thanking me afterwards. Altruism deals with this act of kindness because I had no inclination of receiving a reward or any other selfish desire. I jumped to action because I saw one of my fellow humans in trouble, it was my duty. In my personal and professional lives, I try to look out for individuals, either with a joke to cheer them up, a compliment, a suggestion to help with a problem. At work (homeless shelter), I have experienced the idea of codependency. One day, I was asked by a client for change to buy a cigarette, so I gave it to him. Another day, the same client asked me for some change again for a cigarette. Because I had given him the change the first time, he was starting to become codependent on me for money and I had proved to be wrong for giving him the change in the first place. 

      Altruism and its effect on psychology, psychological principles, and the future

Altruism deals with  the heart of psychology and its principles. The idea of psychology was to discover how and why people acted as they did, according to abnormal circumstances involving the mind. The creation of the first lab for psychological study by Wilhelm Wundt, paved the way for the evolution of psychology, thus, the spread of altruistic action by psychologists, helping individuals discover why they have trouble with life (Cherry, 2012). The structural functionalism theory deals with society and its ability to maintain a state of balance according to factors, such as proper health care, religious involvement, and kindness and   understanding toward fellow man (Cheney, 2009).  Psychology aims to help extract the underlying information so individuals can return to a state of equilibrium, possessing the ability to be a part of society again on a fully functional level. As long as psychology keeps sessions at a personal level, psychology will keep evolving and working at better theories to help individuals. However, if technology takes over, the need for a live person may dwindle down.
                     Altruism and its help and limits on the human condition

Altruism helps the human condition by allowing a unification mentality. During early man’s time, the group was important in maintaining the welfare of all within it. Selfish behavior may have occurred but was minimal, the tribe and its strength mattered. Individuals would watch each other’s children, cook together, and work on building dwellings or hunting. Although altruism has its benefits, there may be times it does not work. For example, if a psychologist works with a violent offender because no one else with, just because he or she want to help for it is his or her duty. The violent offender just does not respond well to treatment and has threatened the psychologist several times. The psychologist refuses to end the treatment, hoping to have finally a breakthrough. There can be limits to whom, when, and where unselfish help can benefit someone, many may not want the help because it is below them (pride) to receive it, or they may feel a person is intruding on his or her business. 
                Personal and professional responsibilities related to altruism

In the professional field, depending on the location and type of job, altruism is needed at all times. Obviously, psychology is one area where altruism is crucial. The ability for sympathy and empathy for an individual will allow for that person to open up to the psychologist, and progress can happen. Another area that deals with individuals is a hospital. Doctors, nurses, technologists, everyone is the face of the hospital, so proper respect for the patients is a must. Also schools are another place where altruism must be used. Teachers are the respected adults and protectors of the children in school, not to mention the principal. They all must be able to address children’s concerns without hesitation. In all these examples, the idea of helping should be second nature, not just part of one’s job description. In a personal capacity, altruism builds strong bonds between family, friends, and acquaintances for the benefit of each other in present and future. For example, parents should not even think twice about providing for their children, not just because they are related, but because of love for them, and an innate bond. Society has to evolve past selfish manners and possessive qualities to grow, and working together always adds to the efficiency, if all focus on togetherness.


Altruism has been around for a long time, because the time of the earliest ancestors. The group or tribal mentality saw everyone acting as a family, caring for the well-being of all. In present-day society, selfless acts go on either in the eyes of all, or between those involved. Either way, the progression of society will last as long as selfishness disappears. In many areas of work, such as hospitals, schools, or psychiatric clinics, caring for others without thought is a given, besides a part of the job. For the world to evolve and grow strong, more respect for fellow man must present, as it has with the present-day fight against bullying.

Cheney, P. (2009). Chapter 03: social theories. Retrieved from http://freebooks.uvu.edu/SOC1010/index.php/03.html

Cherry, K. (2012). Wilhelm Wundt biography. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/wundtprofile.htm

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