Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) Capstone Projects

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version

8-25-2018

Abstract

Positive psychology is the scientific study and practice of what enables individuals and groups to thrive. Positive psychologists emphasize the significant impact social relationships have on our well-being. This paper explores altruism, which is behavior motivated by the unselfish goal of helping others. Positive altruism occurs when altruistic behavior increases the welfare of both the benefactor and beneficiary. Research suggests that the source of altruism is empathy, which is an other-focused emotional response that is elicited by and congruent with the perceived welfare of another person. While empathy can lead us to help unselfishly, it can also create bias in decision making and lead to emotional exhaustion. Loving-kindness meditation is one practice that helps lead to positive altruism: it promotes empathy, while protecting against burnout. Research supports the link between altruistic behavior and increased health and well-being. Altruistic behavior can also facilitate post-traumatic growth (PTG). Further research on how we can facilitate positive altruism would have positive implications on the field of positive psychology.

Keywords

altruism, empathy, post-traumatic growth, positive altruism, altruism born of suffering, survivor mission, positive relationships, helping, egoism

Topic

Well-Being/Flourishing, Character Strengths and Virtues, Health/Wellness, Relationships

Format

Literature Review

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Date Posted: 11 September 2018