Altruism: Are Your Relative's Lives More Important Than Yours?

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Altruism is a behavior that benefit others at a cost to oneself. For humans, most altruistic acts serve to relieve distress, experience the joy when helping others, or anticipate helps from the people they helped in the future. I previously learned about altruism in a biology class that I took. The class mostly talked about altruism found in animals. Most of the time, animals help their close relatives in order to benefit the survival of their kins. One example is the altruism observed in Belding's ground squirrels. The squirrels usually feed in groups with certain individuals spreading out as sentries and watching for predators. When a predator approaches, a sentry gives an alarm call and the other squirrels retreat into their burrows. The sentry has a higher risk of being attacked as its alarm call draws the predator's attention. The sentries' altruistic behavior might danger them but it increases the survival of their kins. Another example of altruism is shown in this video, showing food sharing between vampire bats. In here, a vampire bats observer shows that bats, which need to feed on blood to survive, could depend on their friends for food. If they could not get any blood, they could ask from their friends. Alternatively, their friends could do the same thing at other time. Those who are never willing to share their food would not be helped by others in the future. To apply the above examples to humans, I think most humans will be willing to share their food like the vampire bats because the task is fairly simple. However, most might not be willing to act as sentries like the Belding's ground squirrels. Imagine you are hiking with your sibling in the mountain and saw a bear. Would you immediately run away or attract the bear's attention away from your sibling?


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This was a very interesting blog! I thought that you did a very good job giving good examples to illustrate your topic. I have also learned about altruism in my Anthropology class, and I agree that many humans would not be willing to do the alarm calls if it put themselves at risk. I also enjoyed the video and the Peanuts cartoon!

Nice blog. That charlie brown comic is hilarious! I also learned about inclusive fitness in another class; where animals act altruistically in order to pass more of their genes on to future generations, not for their own enjoyment. But that is where humans are different. We have emotions and better thinking capabilities which enable to receive joy in helping others because we understand what a great relief we are providing.

I also learned about altruism in an anthropology class with the same examples. it would be interesting to see if people would be willing to help others. In theory everyone obviously would but I wonder how generous people would be? I think most would help each other out because they know that if they ever needed help then they would be able to receive it.

I liked your post and how you illustrated your ideas. However, I believe that people may risk their life like the squirrel did to save others’ life. I agree that majority will not attract the attention of the bear to themselves to save others, but some people would. Be optimistic, we are at a young age to be cynical.

This is a very interesting behavior. I think as a society we are more accepting of people who are helpful to others as opposed to people who only look out for their well being. I remember once hearing a story on the news about a a man who left his son in his foreclosed home because there were no jobs for him where they lived and he had to leave. Although he thought what he was doing was best for both himself and his son, I believe it was really a selfish choice to make. This story was not told in good way, but looked down on this man, and I am sure everyone that was watching thought he was a horrible person.

I thought you did a really nice job on your blog! It was very interesting and you gave many good examples. It is cool how animals have can have this altruistic behavior and care for the lives of their kin and not just themselves.

Altruism is a very interesting topic. I liked your example of the Belding's ground squirrels and how their sentries have a greater chance of being killed by the predators. I don't think there is really any sort of purely altruistic behavior though. Although there might be a cost to the individual to begin with, the individual also usually either feels good about themselves or is rewarded later. Personally though both of these results somewhat negates the original cost. Nice article!

This is something my family values a lot. The younger generations are responsible for protecting and providing for the older generations once they finish college as the older generation had done for the younger before then. It is the intertwining of viewing your family as first. I would definitely try and save anyone in my family before saving myself!

Very interesting entry! The title really caught my eye. You did a great job of giving examples that I wouldn't have thought of, like with the squirrels. I never would have thought of animals using a concept like altruism.

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This page contains a single entry by leex4811 published on April 21, 2012 2:20 PM.

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