Altruism has been defined as spontaneously doing a good deed with the pure and sole aim to decrease the suffering or sorrow of another person and to increase that person’s happiness, even at some personal cost. For example, suffering discomforts, including sometimes fainting, yet determined to help those in need, blood donors continue to give blood regularly without any recompense. Or to lengthen a stranger’s life, a woman enrolled in the National Bone Marrow database enters a hospital to undergo the procedure to donate marrow to a stranger who was a “match.”

Altruism contrasts with prosocial behaviors, such as sharing, donating, and soothing that may occur with a variety of other motivations. A neighbor might generously lend you a cup of sugar figuring that someday ...

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