Today’s Book of the Day is The Altruistic Urge written by Stephanie Preston and published in 2022 by Columbia University Press.

Stephanie Preston is is professor of psychology and director of the Ecological Neuroscience Lab at the University of Michigan. She is co-editor of The Interdisciplinary Science of Consumption (2014). She studied how emotions impact empathy and decision-making. by using functional neuroimaging, psychophysiology, and behavioral research.

The Altruistic Urge by Stephanie Preston

I have chosen this book as I was looking for the latest research on empathy and altruism, so as to incorporate them in my Buddhist Sangha speeches and in my practice as a coach and consultant.

Stephanie Preston’s book The Altruistic Urge tries to give a scientific explanation of the reasons behind the impulse and the motivation that move us to support other people when we see them suffering or in need.

The core topic of the book is that the feeling to help others is, and has been, a key element in the evolution of our species and the creation of communities. This, going against the idea that humans are essentially egoistic and aggressive toward others humans.

Preston uses her experience and the results of her research with both animals – mainly rodents and primates – and humans to demonstrate how altruism is hardwired in our brains. This happens as, as a species, we have a survival instinct to keep our offspring alive.

In today’s society, this instinct seems to have become less urgent, but the author suggests that if we start believing that our help can have a significant impact on other people’s lives, then altruism can become a key element of progress and growth.

Preston gives many examples of how we can develop this feeling, this drive to help others, to support those who are in need, and to care about those who are vulnerable. And all of this is supported by scientific evidence, gained by using psychology, neuroscience, neurobiology, and evolutionary study in behavior and biology.

What I found positive in this book is that scientific rigor gets mixed with wholehearted examples of support, help, and care for others. The empathy of the author pours out from every page of this work.

A very interesting theory about evolution, the one that comes out of Preston‘s book, that makes me even more confident that we, as humans, are intrinsically social beings, designed to care about, help, and love others. We may forget this, under the pressure of negative circumstances, but our true nature is about surviving and caring.

I think that The Altruistic Urge is a must-read for everyone. Both if you are interested in the social impact that altruism and caring can have on our societies and communities, or if you are curious about how our brain has evolved such a helping behavior and attitude.


One thought on “Book of the Day – The Altruistic Urge

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s