Motivation for Helping Behavior

People live in society and constantly interact with one another. One form of interaction is help; it is when a person contributes their time and abilities to ensure someone else’s success. The motivation to assist others may differ, as it can be done out of pure selflessness or have ulterior motives to benefit from the deed. While both reasons are valid, the former appears more genuine, effortless, and widespread, while the latter probably requires additional planning and cunning.

People would not be where they are now without mutual help, so the phenomenon is more or less a part of human nature, and both egoism and altruism could drive it. While the said symbiosis was probably egoistic for individuals, it still managed to help a community as a whole. However, that occurred in the times when survival was the main objective. Nowadays, helpful behavior can take many forms, from allowing a classmate to copy one’s homework to donating to a charity. Out of those, the former could have ulterior motives (homework in exchange for money/maintaining connections), and the latter seems devoid of those and appears purely selfless. That is partially why the motivation, in general, is more likely to be altruistic – some assisting acts do not yield any benefits. One may argue that donating money can be used for PR or as compensation for some deviant act. Still, those are occasional motivators requiring the right timing and effort, while altruism is permanent and eventually acquired (Schulz, 2016). Thus, selflessness appears to be a more stable motivation for helpful behavior, although ego-driven assistance is no less significant.

While helping someone, it is easy to determine their own motives by realizing whether a person asks themselves additional questions regarding the affair’s purpose. It is human to analyze one’s actions and understand what they may bring, which makes self-serving motives valid. Regardless, selflessness also appears natural because humans are simultaneously sentimental creatures who cannot ignore a person in need. Therefore, altruism-based helpful behavior is probably more universal because not everything can be rationalized.


Schulz, Armin W. “Altruism, Egoism, or Neither: A Cognitive-Efficiency-Based Evolutionary Biological Perspective on Helping Behavior.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, vol. 56, 2016, pp. 15–23.

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PsychologyWriting. "Motivation for Helping Behavior." January 25, 2023.