The empathy-altruism association and its relevance to health care professions

Derek J. Burks, Lorraine K. Youll, Jayson P. Durtschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


It is posited in the empathy-altruism hypothesis that altruistic motivation evoked by empathy is directed toward the ultimate goal of improving another person's welfare. In this study the empathy-altruism hypothesis was examined. Measures of altruism, empathy, and social desirability were completed by 112 individuals in a university setting. A positive and significant association was found between altruism and empathy (r s =.24, p =.01, 95% CI [.06-.41]). No significant associations were found between social desirability and altruism or between social desirability and empathy. Because the loss of capacity to feel empathy may lead to burnout, disillusionment, and reduced altruistic helping efforts, the clinical applicability and implications of these findings are particularly important to health care and other helping professions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)395-400
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Behavior and Personality
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2012


  • Altruism
  • Empathy
  • Helping
  • Prosocial behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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