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Kids like to help

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Here's the link:

http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/disco...sm_x.htm?csp=15

The article suggests that being helpful is an evolutionart survival trait. It's an interesting position. Here's an exerpt.

Roots of altruism show in babies' helping hands

By Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Oops, the scientist dropped his clothespin. Not to worry — a wobbly toddler raced to help, eagerly handing it back. The simple experiment shows the capacity for altruism emerges as early as 18 months of age.

Toddlers' endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.

Psychology researcher Felix Warneken performed a series of ordinary tasks in front of toddlers, such as hanging towels with clothespins or stacking books. Sometimes he "struggled" with the tasks; sometimes he deliberately messed up.

Over and over, whether Warneken dropped clothespins or knocked over his books, each of 24 toddlers offered help within seconds — but only if he appeared to need it. Video shows how one overall-clad baby glanced between Warneken's face and the dropped clothespin before quickly crawling over, grabbing the object, pushing up to his feet and eagerly handing back the pin.

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You know you're an ivory tower idiot if...

...you find yourself equating handing back a clothespin to "the capacity for altruism" !

Actually humanity has evolved altruism as a survival skill. We are as interconnected as a hive of bees and is the hive doesn't do well the bees don't either. We are totally dependent on altruism for the survival of humanity.

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Actually humanity has evolved altruism as a survival skill. We are as interconnected as a hive of bees and is the hive doesn't do well the bees don't either. We are totally dependent on altruism for the survival of humanity.

That's an interesting concept. Unfortunately you're completely wrong. Why are you on this forum Jayden? I suggest that you read the Forum Rules before posting further.

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The researcher spent time and money to conclude that young kids like to help! How insightful is that?

Altruism is not "helping people". This forum is run by volunteers who are against altruism; go figure.

For this discussion to be meaningful, you'll need to define your terms more clearly. Otherwise, all one needs to do is present you with a conuter example. Here's one from the world of kids (fictional, but realistic):

A researcher who previously concluded that 18-month olds are hard-wired to be altruistic, now thinks the truth is more subtle. In new research conducted on 3 year olds, he found that they want to be as independent as possible.

When presented with tasks of varying degrees of difficulty, the kids seemed happiest when they succeeded at the tasks. However, the surprise came in the tasks that the kids could not do. He found that kids who could not do a task, finally gave up but shows minimal signs of disappointment. However, when an adult tried to help, they cried, protested, threw tantrums, refused to watch. They seemed to reject the rational approach of learning from the adult, in preference to doing things for themselves.

The researcher has concluded that humans have evolved to be independent.

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Altruism is not "helping people". This forum is run by volunteers who are against altruism; go figure.

Yep - providing this free forum is an example of an altruistic act. The Ayn Rand institute is supported by the altrustic donations of others. It's interesting to see people who are dependent on Altruism require that others accept they anti-altruism position on "faith".

It's interesting that Yoism, the Church of Reality, American Atheists, Secular Humanism, and the Brights, all reality based religions are pro altruism. So there's not agreement in the reality based community about altruism with most being for it.

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Yep - providing this free forum is an example of an altruistic act.
Well, if you're going to use the word "altruism" to mean something other than what everyone else on the forum means, it's going to make for a confusing discussion. It is true that most Atheists support altruism. Communism is based on Altruism. What of it?

If you're saying that the motivation that leads to creating things like this forum is a good thing, then surely no user of this forum is going to challenge that. If you're saying that when I help a fellow Objectivist understand something, or give a stranger directions, or give my son the last chocolate from the box, I might be doing the right thing, I wouldn't disagree.

The key is: the act of helping others as against the objective reasons for that act. The same act may be altruistic or selfish. To understand which, one has to look deeper. Altruism implies that helping others is good, because the beneficiary is someone other than yourself. If you are helping others out of motives like love, friendship or goodwill, that is not altruism according to the Objectivist concept of altruism.

If you want to continue to call all acts of helping others altruism, then Objectivism does not condemn your notion of altruism. What Objectivism does reject is the notion that helping others is good because they are others, and the idea that you need no other reason.

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Yep - providing this free forum is an example of an altruistic act. The Ayn Rand institute is supported by the altrustic donations of others.

Your concept of "altruism" is clearly vastly different from that of the members of this board. (Perhaps you could provide a definition?) Those who own and operate this message board value it more than the alternative uses of their time and resources. It is a non-sacrifcial act. That others happen to benefit from their efforts does not make their activity "altruistic." Likewise with those who donate their financial support to ARI: they value the mission of ARI more highly than alternative uses for their money.

The Objectivist morality is primarily about an individual's values, not those of others, and consequently benefits accruing to others do not make an action altruistic. Only the sacrifice of the values of the individual in question can do that. This is probably the most difficult thing to get past for someone who is new to Objectivism (at least it was for me): that its vision of morality doesn't consider the effects, positive or negative, of an individual's actions on others at a fundamental level. (This is not to say that one may disregard the effects of one's actions on others; if one expects to reap the benefits available in a civilized society, one must respect those with whom one chooses to deal.)

It's interesting to see people who are dependent on Altruism require that others accept they anti-altruism position on "faith".
See above explanation regarding alleged "dependence on altruism."

Faith is precisely what we do not demand. We don't even demand that you agree with us, so long as you don't ask us to bear the burden of your error.

It's interesting that Yoism, the Church of Reality, American Atheists, Secular Humanism, and the Brights, all reality based religions are pro altruism. So there's not agreement in the reality based community about altruism with most being for it.

What in the bleeding heck is a "reality-based religion?" I can only assume from your choice of terminology, both in this instance and the "faith" comment above, that you regard the acceptence of reason as itself an article of faith. Am I correct?

It's also interesting that you deny the existence of agreement on the subject of altruism in the "reality-based community" (whatever that is) and in the same sentence attempt to imply that, apart from Objectivists, there is agreement, or least a more-or-less general consensus in favor of it. Even if everyone agrees on the wrong answer, it's still wrong.

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Okay, let's try to end the confusion.

The definition of altruism as used on this forum:

Putting other people's interests above your own. More specifically: Harming yourself for other people's good.

Your definition of altruism:

Doing something that benefits other people.

The reason for this verbal fight is the simple fact that you can do something of benefit to other people without having to sacrifice your own needs.

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Yep - providing this free forum is an example of an altruistic act. The Ayn Rand institute is supported by the altrustic donations of others. It's interesting to see people who are dependent on Altruism require that others accept they anti-altruism position on "faith".

It's interesting that Yoism, the Church of Reality, American Atheists, Secular Humanism, and the Brights, all reality based religions are pro altruism. So there's not agreement in the reality based community about altruism with most being for it.

I define Altruism as the exchange of value for non-value.

That said, those who donate to the ARI, are not altruists. They are practicing the selfish desire to see the ARI prosper and educate more people, so that the world becomes a more rational place in which to live. I think it is safe to say that those at ARI have a SELFISH interest in educating the world in Objectivist ideas.

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This is terrible, terrible methodology; you cant infer universal statements about human beings/genetics from the behavior of a child 18 months after its birth. The capacity for a child to be influenced by cultural beliefs within the first year of its life is immense. At best, you can conclude that some Western babies are socialised into altruistic practices.

This is the sort of poor experimental controls that blighted evolutionary psychology during the first few decades of its existence; I would have thought they'd have learned by now.

Edited by Hal
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A researcher who previously concluded that 18-month olds are hard-wired to be altruistic, now thinks the truth is more subtle. In new research conducted on 3 year olds, he found that they want to be as independent as possible.

When presented with tasks of varying degrees of difficulty, the kids seemed happiest when they succeeded at the tasks. However, the surprise came in the tasks that the kids could not do. He found that kids who could not do a task, finally gave up but shows minimal signs of disappointment. However, when an adult tried to help, they cried, protested, threw tantrums, refused to watch. They seemed to reject the rational approach of learning from the adult, in preference to doing things for themselves.

The researcher has concluded that humans have evolved to be independent.

Excellent! This describes my 2-yr-old perfectly.

I think what is going on with these studies is that evolutionary theory suggests that altruism has little or no survival value, yet some people seem to think that altruism is a good thing. Some also think that all behavior is genetically determined. So they need to somehow find a way to interpret observations to show that altruism occurs naturally.

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Yeah right -- and dogs are altruists too because they will bring you back a frisbee...

<_<

By Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Oops, the scientist dropped his clothespin. Not to worry — a wobbly toddler raced to help, eagerly handing it back. The simple experiment shows the capacity for altruism emerges as early as 18 months of age.

Toddlers' endearing desire to help out actually signals fairly sophisticated brain development, and is a trait of interest to anthropologists trying to tease out the evolutionary roots of altruism and cooperation.

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This thread just jogged a memory from a college Psychology-101 class, taught by a Freud-fan. Somewhere in his ramblings, he gave us this little piece of "wisdom": "Imagine you are holding some small item in your palm and I ask you to give it to me. Picture how you do it; picture your fingers holding it and giving it to me. Now, have you ever seen the way an extremely young child would do the same thing? He will not grasp it with his fingers; instead, he'll open up his palm and offer it to you. It is only as we grow that we lose this open trusting approach and develop a grasping approach to life; we start by loving to give; we end up loathing to give."

This guy was a Phd.

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Over and over, whether Warneken dropped clothespins or knocked over his books, each of 24 toddlers offered help within seconds — but only if he appeared to need it. Video shows how one overall-clad baby glanced between Warneken's face and the dropped clothespin before quickly crawling over, grabbing the object, pushing up to his feet and eagerly handing back the pin.

When I read this story the first thing I thought of wasn't altruism, but more of a way to get attention. Young kids tend to like being the center of attention, so I think if they see a way to help the adult, it's more of a way to get their attention and have the adult interact with them.

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  • 3 months later...
When I read this story the first thing I thought of wasn't altruism, but more of a way to get attention. Young kids tend to like being the center of attention, so I think if they see a way to help the adult, it's more of a way to get their attention and have the adult interact with them.

Exactly. I was just going to comment on this. What is there that proves the children's acts were altruistic? Altruism doesn't mean simply doing things that benefit others (at least from everything I have learned about the matter) but rather giving up something yourself to benefit someone else, without any benefit to yourself. The children in the study were helping; were they helping because they were sacraficing of themselves to help another human being, or were they helping because they gained some sense of satisfaction/pleasure from doing so? If the latter is the case, you could hardly call their actions altruistic.

Mike.

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Exactly. I was just going to comment on this. What is there that proves the children's acts were altruistic? Altruism doesn't mean simply doing things that benefit others (at least from everything I have learned about the matter) but rather giving up something yourself to benefit someone else, without any benefit to yourself. The children in the study were helping; were they helping because they were sacraficing of themselves to help another human being, or were they helping because they gained some sense of satisfaction/pleasure from doing so? If the latter is the case, you could hardly call their actions altruistic.

Mike.

I agree. Kids like to hear "good job!" and to get attention.

Some kids do like to help out, depending on what you are doing, and if they actually value the activity or the person they are helping, or the reason. My kids don't especially like doing chores, but man, they will hop to it when they know the sooner they get them done the sooner we can all leave the house on a Saturday to go to the pool or maybe some other activity we had planned that day.

My 8 year old enjoys doing things for her little sisters, like reading to them. She GETS a lot out of it: joy. She really enjoys reading to them..I think it is partly because she does value them, and partly because she likes to hear the sound of her own voice. That may sound cold, but its true. This kid can talk from the sun up until the sun down non stop. Yak, yak, yak. I love her dearly...and thank goodness she has figured out a way, all on her own to satisfy a few of her own needs: spending time with her sisters, and hearing the sound of her own voice.

That isn't altruism. That is a kid being smart.

She is probably the most generous of my children, and shares her toys and will even give her sisters things. However, she doesn't part with her very special toys, and she does get upset if they use her stuff without asking. She won't let them walk over her. Hell hath no fury when this daughter of mine has had her property rights violated.

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I define Altruism as the exchange of value for non-value.

That's a good definition for sacrifice, but a sacrifice is only altruistic if it's done for the benefit of others.

I'd like to emphasize that the meaning the original poster in this thread has attached to "altruism" is not merely different from the way people on this board or Objectivists in general use the term, but it is different from the way the term has traditionally always been used.

The term "altruism" (which literally means "other-ism") was coined by Auguste Comte, as a description of Immanuel Kant's approach to ethics. For Kant, an action was outside the scope of morality if any personal motive at all could be attributed to the action. Kant was very adamant in insisting that helping others, as a means of furthering one's own ultimate interest, was not moral.

To make this more clear, I'll give more examples. Sacrificing your welfare for the sake of others, in order to gain "treasures in heaven," is not altruism. Giving up 99 cents to a cashier in order to buy a hamburger from Mc Donalds when you're hungry is not altruism (assuming it's worth that much to you). Donating money to an organization, such as ARI perhaps, that you value and that is doing things that you want to be done is not altruism-- assuming you're confident that they will produce something with that money which is a greater value to you than the money was. Kant emphasized that even if you do something out of the motive that you like to be virtuous, you are not acting morally.

So when is an action altruistic? According to Kant, only when an action is performed because it is your duty. Any personal motive eliminates it from being properly altruistic. For a true altruist, sacrificing for others is a categorical imperative. Clearly, this experiment has not shown that this kind of altruism is innate in children. "Helping others" is the simpleton Christian version of altruism, but it contains a fatal contradiction because often times helping others is self-interested.

Edited by Bold Standard
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"Helping others" is the simpleton Christian version of altruism, but it contains a fatal contradiction because often times helping others is self-interested.

Oh, reading over this I thought I should clarify. I meant that "helping others" as a definition for altruism is the legacy of simpleton Christian moralists, rather than the more strictly philosophical legacy of Kant and Compte. I didn't mean to imply that Jayden was a simpleton for using it this way. It's common for people to confuse the two, because there are elements of altruism in the Christian morality (and the Xian morality is still extremely popular and influential in the West), but Kant's version is much more extreme, with virtually no elements of egoism (self-interest) left.

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