Natural Cause and Effects
The idea that putting family before the self is not only found to be naturally occurring in humans, but in a variety of life on Earth. From a
biological and genetic stance, it is in our best interest to further our genetic line, seeking to improve the family even if it requires sacrifice on
the part of the individual. The practice is wired into the psyche of humans, positively affecting physical and mental health. Human proclivity
towards altruism not only instills a genetic incentive in the family, but provides increased quality of life for the family and the self alike.
In 1964 W.D. Hamilton, famous for “his theoretical work expounding a rigorous genetic basis for the existence of kin selection and
(1), gave the logical and mathematical insight that was instrumental in the development of a gene-centric view of evolution.(2)
Hamilton suggests that behavior decreasing the genetic fitness of the individual but which enhances that of relatives would increase because relatives
frequently often carry the same gene. The loss can be compensated for by the gains of the family, which would squarely place it as a potential
evolutionary trait. This is evidenced by the studied behavior of ants, termites, various types of birds, chimpanzees, humans, bats, to name a few.
Genetic predisposition is supported by numerous studies, including a recent one by Dr Felix Warneken in the Department of Developmental and
Comparative Psychology at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. He performed trials both on 18 month old human children and young
“It is a common observation that human beings, as a species, are extraordinarily
helpful, even to non-relatives”
“Socialization can build upon this predisposition, but it is not its primary source. Human cultures cultivate rather than implant altruism in
the human psyche.”
Through trials, the conclusion reached was that not only is an altruistic trait common in the two related animals, but consistently demonstrated that
receiving rewards for altruism actually decreased similar behavior in the future. That this was true of both humans and chimpanzees demonstrates
“The reported studies demonstrate that human infants and chimpanzees are able and willing to instrumentally help others. With regard to the
ontogenetic roots of altruism, these results indicate that children have a natural tendency to develop altruistic behaviours. Socialization practices
can build upon this predisposition for altruism, but socialization is not its original source”
The ingrained altruistic tendencies naturally promote the model of family and its superiority. There is ample evidence that satisfying instinctual
altruism result not only in increased mental well-being and quality of life, but increased physical functionality and longevity. The American
Psycological Association, in the July 2004 edition of Psychological Bulletin, published that “Psychologists have long known that stress affects
our ability to fight infection, but a major new “meta-analysis” – a study of studies – has elucidated intriguing patterns of how stress
affects human immunity, strengthening it in the short term but wearing it down over time.”
Relieving stress is a major benefit of altruism and
has been shown to increase oxytocin, secreted by the heart and brain aid in the relief of stress.(4)
“Altruism promotes deeper positive social integration, distraction from self-preoccupation, enhanced meaning and purpose, a more active
lifestyle, and the presence of positive emotions such as kindness that displace harmful negative emotional states. Thus, it is entirely possible to
assert that altruism enhances mental and physical health.”
What was once believed to be simply a mental health benefit, has now been shown to have positive physical manifestations as well. The Journal of
Health and Social Behavior published a 1998 study by M.C. Luoh and A.R. Herzog, which found that those who volunteered 100 hours or more in, compared
to those who did not, were 30% less likely to suffer physical functioning limitations. Conversely, hampering one’s selflessness can work against
the individual. The idea of humans as inherently selfish creatures, the idea that “Greed is good.”
(6), not only belies the natural basis
and benefits, but misrepresents results from conscious or authoritarian restriction on human altruism.
“The prevailing approaches in biology and economics view cooperation exclusively as self-interested behaviour—unrelated individuals cooperate
only if they face economic rewards or sanctions rendering cooperation a self-interested choice. Whether economic incentives are perceived as just or
legitimate does not matter in these theories. Fairness-based altruism is, however, a powerful source of human cooperation. Here we show
experimentally that the prevailing self-interest approach has serious shortcomings because it overlooks negative effects of sanctions on human
Science allows us to understand what is already present and how those things came to be. As we grow in our intellect, we also grow in our
understanding of human interdependency. It is clear that humans, along with other insects and animals, put family first as a means of being helpful,
furthering our genetic survival, and performing as a group. It is how we have adapted to life as humans on this planet and the family-oriented model
has succeeded and continues. For reasons of personal and family health, family well-being, genetic continuance, and quality of life, the focus should
be on the interests of the family before the self.
It just might make you feel better too.
(1) Misc. Authors, Article on W. D. Hamilton, Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org...
(2) Hamilton, W. D., The genetical evolution of social behaviour. I & II. Journal of Theoretical (1964).
Biology, 7, 1–52.
(3) Warneken, Felix; Tomasello, Michael (2008), The roots of human altruism, British Journal of Psychology (2009), 100, 455–471
(4) Segerstrom, Suzanne Ph.D; Miller, Gregory Ph.D., Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry,
Psychological Bulletin, Vol. 130, No. 4.
(5) Pang, Shu, Is Altruism Good for the Altruistic Giver?, Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science,
(6)Douglas, Michael, Wall Street (1987), Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, American Entertainment Partners L.P., Amercent Films
(7) Fehr, Ernst; Rockenbach, Bettina Detrimental effects of sactions on human altruism, Nature 422, 137-140 (2003)