Incentives and Altruism

9 02 2011

Response Questions

  1. Do you think people are altruistic or are they responding to specific incentives?
  2. Does it matter the reason why someone does something positive for another person?



28 responses

9 02 2011
Noah Schafer

2) Everywhere in the world we are exposed to billboards, computer pop-ups, and other forms of advertising informing us of all the free merchandise we are missing out on. When I see things like this I like to remember a little saying my dad taught me, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” This is to say that it is always good to be a little skeptical when something is simply given to you because as much as we like to believe that everyone is good inside, people often have ulterior motives. In the case of lets say…dinner at a friends house, the motive for them inviting you is not all that important as they are likely just looking for your company. However, if for some reason a pop-up has just informed you of the free ipad you just won, it is fair to be a little skeptical because whoever is giving you this ipod probably wants something in return. This is where the reason for the generosity may become important as ignoring it could land you in some trouble.

9 02 2011
Dani Tavroges

1. Most people in the world are responding to incentives over the act of altruistic. With most acts of kindness there is an incentive for the person who dishes it out. No matter the situation whether it is for religious tradition, philanthropist acts or giving the person in line behind you money for their coffee, there can even be an incentive of satisfying yourself. On an everyday basis people are exposed to such situations where they expect good karma when they do good for another. If someone is given an amazing present for their birthday, the other person is most likely to have at the back of their mind that they will revive an equal or almost greater present to the one they gave. People get distracted by the fact that if they do something good for someone, something must be returned. Altruistic acts do occur but are not as frequent because of the society that we live in today.

2. Any positive doing for another person is good for our society. I believe it is okay to have ulterior motives only when it doesn’t cause harm for another person. For example, if someone offers to give you a new expensive item of clothing for free, but they’ve stolen it from someone’s store or closet, it is harming someone along the way. Just as Noah said above, you have to be cautious of your surroundings and to make sure that something isn’t too good to be true. Every sitiation is different and may very, but generally speaking it does not matter the reason why someone does something positive for another person.

9 02 2011
Susan Cui

1. I believe that human beings as general are not altruistic at all and are only responding positively at times as a result of the specific incentives that motivates them to do so. Example, many major companies all around the world act as philanthropists. However, this is not because they have a heart to help out those in need, but rather because they wish to create a positive image for themselves to encourage future sales. Another example would be the free samples that some of the companies give out at times to the public. The companies act as generous organizations to the public eye; but deep inside, their real motive is to increase their future sales.

2. Yes, I believe it is very important for one to know the reason behind the generosity of another person, simply because one can never know if this generosity is only going to help them out or lead them to ruin. Majority of the times, I believe the motive for another person’s generosity to you is not exactly positive, because human beings always have a desire to be better off. Therefore, of course when some one is being too generous to you, you should be very careful because they probably want something greater in return.

9 02 2011

1. No matter which experiment you perform or a study that you do, there is never an answer you get that’s 100 % correct. Meaning, of course, people respond to incentives over acts of altruistic but we cannot say that every single person does this. An easy thing to look at is the things you do for your family. For Christmas I gave my mom an expensive handbag. But it’s not like I was expecting a big present in return. So was I acting out of pure altruism? Now that I think about it, the fact that my mom would brag to my dad, her friends and her coworkers already made me feel better. Even though I was not following an incentive, I expected her to love it and believe she raised an AWESOME son. I think that this topic goes well with the saying “treat others like you want to be treated.” This is why people feel like if they do something for someone, then that someone owes them a favor in the future. It’s because everyone wants to be treated the same, so the more good things we do, the more good things we expect.

2. I believe that doing a favor for someone else, no matter what, is the best feeling in the world. I don’t think the reason matters at all. I of course agree with the comments below as to whatever you are doing has to be legal, but when you do things out of pure goodness, you should feel a lot better about yourself. I remember not too long ago, I was about to buy a metropass with a debit card at Downsview and the debit machine wasn’t working. My alternative was to find a debit machine somewhere and take out money. But while I was arguing with the TTC personnel, an old lady came up with me, smiled, and put a tooney in my hand. That was the nicest thing a stranger ever done for me. Will I ever see that woman again? I really doubt it. So its silly to think she was expecting something in return. I know I’m rambling on off topic, but what I was trying to say is no, the reason does not matter. Our society is not used to pure acts of goodness anymore, so when others do something for us for no apparent reason, we tend to be suspicious. We feel like they expect something from us, but the truth is, if someone is feeling like doing something good for you, don’t worry about the reason and just let it be.

9 02 2011
Noah Schafer

1) (Messed up so I am using two different posts)
To be blunt, no, I do not believe people are altruistic. While the video appears to show otherwise, the one thing that is ignored is that there is almost always some sort of personal satisfaction gained when giving something for free, and according to an economist, this does not qualify as altruistic. While the intentions are pure and true during what one may call a selfless act (such as giving to the homeless) the personal sense of satisfaction gained means that there is a slight incentive, making it no longer a selfless act.

9 02 2011
Alexei Goudzenko

1. I do believe there is some sense of altruism in all of us especially when one is already happy with themselves. Human nature consists of all character traits and I do believe we express them at some point in our lives at least once. Altruism can defined as many things, it doesn’t necessarily mean giving money to the poor. It can be a simple act of appreciation such as saying “thank you” or helping somebody with their homework. It is part of who we are because when someone does a altruistic act, they have left off better and so are you feeling a warm good feeling about yourself.

2. Why we do these things doesn’t matter, I’d be more worried if we weren’t doing them. If there ever comes a time where people have no sense of altruism, then we can question it and ask “Why?”.

9 02 2011
Alexei Goudzenko

I didn’t proof read my answer so I apologize for the grammar mistakes.

9 02 2011
Alejandro Enamorado

I believe humans are not naturally altruistic. As adding to the above statements, actions are brought on by a stimulus of incentives. We do things to get ourselves ahead. Not often do people make themselves worse off without ulterior motives. We make decisions weighing what the effect will be on ourselves. One can claim that after doing something good, you do not gain anything out of it. In fact the reality is that you gain the satisfaction of helping someone out or a quench of your morality. I will use the example of a philanthropist. They do not go with the mindset, “I’m going to help these starving kids to make myself feel better.” They are very genuine in their concern, they want to do what is right; however that does not remove the fact that they will gain satisfaction for carrying out this act. And aswell the stimulus from this is a moral stimulus and thus it is not altruistic.

9 02 2011
Chris Lee

(I wasn’t here for the lesson, but will do the assignment anyways)

1. I think in many ways, our society has good balance of both altruism and incentive-based do-goodery. Although many people do things for the sake of an underlying incentive-based value (for example, religious principles or business promotion), I believe that many people are simply innately good. This is seen in many ways even in day-to-day life; a man holding the door open for somebody in a wheelchair, a child giving up his seat on the bus for an older gentleman. These are not uncommon sights and represent true altruism. Although some would argue that these are examples of social obligation, I think that in essence, people will do what they think it’s right as a natural instinct.

2. I believe that it is important to understand if someone is doing something for the sake of judgment of character. When choosing a partner, friend or someone you are going to trust, it is extremely important to know that their actions are for a good purpose, as their actions may have consequences in the future.

9 02 2011
Linda Lei

1. I believe that people tend to response to certain incentives rather than do things out of altruistism. The types of incentives can be vary because it only depends on how you interpret incentives. For example, policemen whose nature of job is to save people. But can you say they are pure altruistic, we don’t know, but the one thing we know is that they do get a nice, huge paycheck monthly and the incentive of satisfication and pleasure of helping others.

2. No, it’s not important to figure out why someone does something positive for another person. It doesn’t matter because it’s his/her choices to be generous to another person who doesn’t force him/her to do it. Why they have to care about the “true” reason behind the act, there is no point of seeking the useless truth instead of doing somethings meaningful.

9 02 2011
Steven Iarusci

1) I honestly think that no matter what, people have an incentive they respond to when they do something. Otherwise, there is no cost or reward that they can use to differentiate between whether they should or shouldn’t do it. When someone is dividing their $10 between them and their acquaintance on the other side of the wall, they want to feel nice about giving money to someone who isn’t getting any. However, when the other person has a choice of rejection, the want for the money becomes a factor as well, changing how people weigh the division. When the ability to steal money comes in, the worst one can do is take the other person’s money, so people feel like the cost of feeling bad about not giving money is less than how bad they would feel if they took it. The incentive of feeling good is what leads people to make those decisions. Overall, as you make decisions, you make them because of what they give you. I don’t think I’ve ever made an altruistic decision in my life, because, no matter how selfless I feel it is, I remind myself in the back of my mind that I am being a morally good person by being selfless. Therefore, any selfless action is for, at the very minimum, a feeling that you are a good person, which is an incentive to do your heartfelt action.

9 02 2011
Benjamin Gray

1. In my opinion, I believe that the majority of people in our world complete tasks with an incentive in mind. It is simple human nature to want to better ourselves because humans have an unlimited amount of wants. It may not always be clearly stated in a verbal or written agreement, but also in terms of a mental incentive. Even though it may not always be completely obvious, humans always gain some sort of satisfaction from committing a wilful action because they had to have a reason for completing the task in the first place.

2. I do believe that the reason behind a positive action matters simply because it clears the air of all assumptions and accusations. Knowing whether someone did something for you out of kindness or because they had another intention in mind can completely change your idea of them. A person who was given something out of kindness is more likely to return the favour, rather than if they were given something because the original party was forced to.

9 02 2011
Chris Li

1. I believe that people cannot be truly altruistic. If we assume people to be logical, then there would always be a reason behind their actions. That reason could be anything from generosity, or pity to increasing their reputation. By committing the act, all they are doing is acting on that reasoning and fulfilling their beliefs or purpose from that particular act. Consequently, even the most seemingly altruistic deed simply becomes an act of self-satisfaction rather than altruism.

2. I believe that doing positive things for other people is more important than the reason behind doing those things. Even if one does something with ulterior motives, the person who benefit from the positive deeds may feel the obligation to give something in return. However, they do not necessarily have to return anything since it is out of another’s good will, even if its false good will. These actions, and not the reasons, contribute positively to the generosity standards of our society, and provide others with the initiative to do the same.

9 02 2011
Kevin Yeo

1. In my opinion, people are never altruistic. Everything a person does is based on the rewards and incentives associated with the action. Whenever a person does anything, they mainly focus on the returns and gains of whatever they just did. When a student is studying for tests and quizzes, s/he is not mainly focusing on the enjoyment and/or gains of learning and understanding the knowledge of the topics. Instead, they are focusing on the reward of receiving a good grade. This can even apply to the experiments done on college students in the video. The amount of money students gave/took to their counterpart was totally dependent on the incentive they were given. The fact that people never took the maximum sum amount of money from their counterparts is not proof that people are altruistic. However, it is just showing that people are willing sacrifice a small amount of water in exchange for the appearance of generosity.

2. The reasons a person doing something positive for another is irrelevant in the bigger picture. In reality, there are few people (in any exist) that do positive things for others without reward or incentive. In the real world, people only do positive things for others, only if there are equal or greater incentives for themselves. There are even rewards and incentives for donating to charities. Whether it is the uplifting of the public appearance of a company or the self-satisfaction of doing something good, there is always a reward and/or incentive that are the cause of the action. Therefore, if everyone were to look at the reasons for positive actions, all they would find is reward and incentive laced causes. Therefore, the reasons for a positive action should be neglected but rather the incentives that were gained are the truly important aspect.

9 02 2011
David Tran

(1) With every action there is a reaction. This, I believe, holds true for the nature of human behavior towards incentives. With every “altruistic” action, there is always a reaction to that action–the guarantee of self-satisfaction whether it is making a donation to charity or helping out the homeless. These types of incentives are what motivate people, consciously and sub-consciously, in today’s society to continuously perform good deeds. It is embedded into our human nature to choose actions that will make us feel better about ourselves or help grant us what we desire. However, this notion of altruism ultimately depends on how self-satisfaction is perceived as an incentive, that is to say, if self-satisfaction can be considered an incentive or not, as it is inherent in every action.

(2) The importance of the reason behind one’s actions depends based on the situation you are in. In most cases, the person is just following the social norms placed within the society and has no intention of harming you in any way. But then there are times when you will have to take precaution against any ulterior motives that a person may have as you want to avoid giving them the opportunity to drag you into situations where you would not want to be in.

9 02 2011

1) People tend to response to specific incentives rather than altruistic. For example, when you are volunteering at some place such as senior centre, volunteer helps seniors for free, but they gain volunteer hours in return. This means they get satisfaction and pleasure of completing the tasks of getting the volunteer hours, because this helps them to graduate from high school.

2) I think it doesn’t really matter to find out why this person acts positive for another person, because even though this person wants something from another person, it is not for sure if they really do. Also, people tend to act differently, meaning sometimes generous but sometimes not so much because this person act upon their moods, so it doesn’t really matter to figure out the reason.

9 02 2011

1. Like many, I also don’t believe that people are altruistic. I feel that everyone does everything with some sort of incentive in mind. I agree that every seemingly selfless act appears to include gaining something out of it whether it be personal satisfaction or security that those who you helped will be there for you (as mentioned in the video). When I think of Gandhi, what he did, and the sacrifices he made I can’t help but to think that he did these things for the self satisfaction he would gain from helping his country, and becoming a hero.

2. In my opinion, the reason why someone does something positive for someone else does matter especially if it involves using someone for what they have. For example, a peer may do kind things for you simply to get answers on a math assignment, which isn’t fair to you at all. I agree with Chris that it’s wrong to do these things simply for the sake of judgement of character.

9 02 2011
Dylan Huber

1. I believe that pure altruism is impossible for humans to achieve for the simple reason that humans are naturally selfish. Humans naturally seek to get things for their own purposes. Therefore people would need to go against their instincts to do something without benefit. In altruism’s purest form, there is no benefit and one does do an act for recognition or a belief. Those who would do something generous for someone else would have to either not accept recognition, or not receive it to follow pure altruism. It is for that reason that I believe that people respond to specific incentives. For example, the bystander effect in which the more people there are, the less likely anyone responds. Those who follow altruism would act without thinking about simply because they need to.
2. I believe from a business standpoint it is important as one wants to know everything about the market and its consumers. From a personal standpoint it depends on the person. If you are not trusting you want the answers but if you do trust that person you don’t care. My belief is that if you know someone well, there does not need to be a reason to look for a hidden reason or incentive. If I didn’t know someone well, and they did me favour, I would want to know the reason behind it simple because I don’t believe people do good things for no reason unless they know the person.

9 02 2011
Ilia Merkoulovitch

1. I think that a lot of peoples’ actions that seem altruistic aren’t actually. For example, during the exercise today, I had the option to keep $20 and take another $20 from another person. The only reason I decided not to take the extra $20 was plainly because I thought the it would lead to some sort of punishment for my team. I feel like a lot of people who say they would give away half to a random person only feel that way to impress others or for some sort of incentive. It’s difficult to do the experiment we learned about today without the person themselves knowing what’s going on, but I believe less people would be as generous if they were tested unknowingly. People undoubtedly respond better to incentives, and though some may naturally be somewhat altruistic, much of it is in hopes of something in return.
2. No, not in my opinion. If I help someone with their homework because I feel bad about something, or because I hope they will help me out when I need it, I don’t think it’s any less valuable than if I had no clue. Regardless, if I’m able to, I’m more than ready to help the person. It’s better to do something good in hopes of something good in return than not doing whatever it is at all.

9 02 2011

1. I don’t think most of us are genuinely altruistic because it is tied to the way we are brought up in this society and having the “selfish gene” Unless there is some kind of incentive that benefits the individual, a person is unlikely to be altruistic in my opinion. The phrase rich getting richer and poor getting poorer and the big divide between the rich and poor is common in our society. If our society was truly altruistic then we wouldn’t have these economic divisions, different classes etc. We think that the millionaires are donating to charity based on the idea of altruism, it may be true but it also may be that by donating to charity their tax bill gets substantially reduced (the incentive). If the government didn’t have this incentive, I don’t think these donations would happen as freely.
2. I think the reason matters. Personally I believe in karma which is from the teaching of Buddhism. “ if I cause happiness, I will as a natural consequence experience happiness”

10 02 2011
Maria Li

1) In my opinion, most people respond to incentives more than doing things out of altruism. People don’t always do things with the welfare of others in mind because we’re not completely selfless. It is natural for humans to want the best for ourselves, and therefore we tend to do things for others only when it better ourselves as well. It is only natural for us to expect something in return when we do something for another person because that is what the society has evolved into today. A lot of jobs are done based on incentives. Like Linda said, police men carry out their duties of saving people, but we don’t know if they’re doing it out of altruism or for the paycheck.

2) I believe it is important to know the reason behind a positive action because its always good to know if the person is doing it out of the goodness of their hearts or if they have another incentive in mind. Many people use the act of kindness as a means of benefiting themselves, and when it comes to choosing friends, this interferes the relationship. Therefore, it is important to know if the reasons behind a person’s actions are for a good cause.

10 02 2011

To determine if a person is altruistic or not depends solely on him/herself, to me an altruistic person is not impossible but naturally hard to find because humans tend respond to incentives greater than they do altruism, for instance the example they gave in the video of the burning barn. The idea of helping your neighbor rebuild their barn seems altruistic but looking at it more closely if you didn’t help them rebuild there is a high chance that they will not repay the favor. People have their own opinion on different matters, something that you and I think to be logical is not logical to another person where he/she might think of that as an exact opposite. For example If homeless person asked me for change, to me it seems logical to give him a dollar or two, but for my grandfather he would give at least 10 dollars to the homeless person because to him that’s more than logical. There is no one answer to this question simply because everyone in the world is different. But on a general level most people respond to incentives more heaviley then they respond to any action of altruism.

I believe that it does not really matter the persons intentions of the positive act, if there is another motive to the positive act it doesn’t matter as long as that act doesn’t have any negative impact for the person receiving the generosity. for example if a person was to help someone build a barn for no cost but just to gain experience for himself that persons ulterior motive does not have a negative effect on the person he or she is helping.

10 02 2011
Mike Seo

1. I think that people are not completely altruistic. There are various reasons behind every action human beings make. For example, one might donate money to charity to feel a sense of self-satisfaction, or to gain reputation and respect from the others. Although the motives may be different, all acts are same in that one commits an act in order to gain something. Therefore, truly altruistic people do not exist in the world.

2. The reasons do not matter. Only the outcome does.

10 02 2011

1. People definitely are not inclined to be altruistic. They are always responding to some kind of incentive whether it be tangible or self gratification. That being said, it is definitely possible to suppress our selfish and greedy desires, but there is definitely not a majority that are.

2. I think that the reasons do matter, but someone doing altruistic things to feed their own self gratification, should not be lumped win the same category as people who act on their greed. It shows a certain strength of character.

10 02 2011
Peter S

1) Human’s nature is based on self-interest. It does not mean that we are all selfish but we are always in the search of self-gratification. Even when we talk about altruism, the person who sacrifices his own interest in order to make someone happy subliminally does it for him-self. That’s what we call generosity. But first of all he becomes satisfied because the other one feels good due to his actions. In all other cases people deliberately do something because there are particular incentives that would benefit them in some way.
2) In my opinion it is very important to reveal the reason why someone does something good for others. It shows the essentiality of his actions and thoughts. Also it defines his human qualities. However as I mentioned in the first part human always does something in order to satisfy either his pocket or soul

10 02 2011
Joey Keum

1. Human beings are not altruistic people. There will always be an incentive whether it is small or big. People would always act on this incentive. However, regardless of those who only act upon incentives, there are a few people in the world who would act purely based on altruistic reasons. Nevertheless, majority of the people would not.
2. In my opinion i believe that the reason why someone is doing nice is very irrelevant. If they are doing a good deed let say giving money to the homeless, then it doesn’t really matter what the reason it. Whether it was that you wanted to get rid of that bill or you just wanted to give that person, the reason doesnt matter. What matters is the act you do to help the society. Another example would be, if you help plant trees, your real intentions may not have been to save the world and was just for the volunteering hours. However, planting a tree is planting a tree, regardless of the intentions.

10 02 2011
Heshani Makalande

1) In a society it is hard to find truly altruistic people. Everyone expects something in return when they do something for the welfare of others. Just as Mike mentioned above. Therefore, the majority of our society responds to specific incentives.

2) The reason behind another’s person’s generosity does matter, but we all know that people have ulterior motives. People help others when needed, having the intention that they will get some thing in return. Therefore, people should make wise decisions when choosing friends.

10 02 2011
Carolyne Wang

1. I think that people often only wish to appear altruistic and do so depending on the kinds of incentives they are given. In the video, in the first dictator experiment it appeared altruistic to give away some money, but in the second dictator experiment it appeared altruistic simply not to take any money, and people responded to the way to appear altruistic accordingly by giving money and not giving any respectively. People are driven by self-interest, and the desire to appear altruistic for social acceptance is one desire of self-interest.
2. I don’t think the reason for doing something positive for another person matters, as long as the person who received the positive action is happy. For example, if person A gives person B a gift because they want to appear generous, and person B is happy with the gift, then person A has done a good deed whether or not his motivations were good or bad.

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