Empathy, Altruism, and Justice: Another Perspective on Partiality

  • C. Daniel Batson
Part of the Critical Issues in Social Justice book series (CISJ)


As children, our first encounter with the concept of justice was almost certainly secondhand. A sibling or friend was scolded for “not being fair,” and we were given a turn with the toy (but too brief) or the candy was redivided so that we got more (but not enough). At times, we were the one chided and forced to give up part of our hoard. What did we learn from this primordial experience with fairness? Likely, we learned that appeals to justice can be a powerful lever for prying people and goodies apart. By the time we reached the playground, we knew that “Not fair!” was a potent accusation, one that almost always led to redress, justification (rationalization?), fight, or flight (Solomon, 1989).


Procedural Justice Random Method Social Dilemma Experimental Social Psychology Altruistic Motivation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Aderman, D., Brehm, S. S. & Katz, L. B. (1974). Empathic observation of an innocent victim: The just world revisited. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 342–347.Google Scholar
  2. Batson, C. D. (1987). Prosocial motivation: Is it ever truly altruistic? In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 20, pp. 65–122 ). New York, NY: Academic Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Batson, C. D. (1991). The altruism question: Toward a social-psychological answer. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  4. Batson, C. D., Batson, J. G., Todd, R. M., Brummett, B. H., Shaw, L. L. & Aldeguer, C. M. R. (1994). Empathy and the collective good: Caring for one of the others in a social dilemma. Unpublished manuscript, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
  5. Batson, C. D., Klein, T. R., Highberger, L. & Shaw, L. L. (1993). Empathy-induced altruism as a source of injustice: Evidence for competing prosocial motives. Unpublished manuscript, University of Kansas.Google Scholar
  6. Blum, L. A. (1980). Friendship, altruism, and morality. London: Routledge. Cialdini, R. B., Schaller, M., Houlihan, D., Arps, K., Fultz, J. & Beaman, A. L. (1987). Empathy-based helping: Is it selflessly or selfishly motivated? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 749–758.Google Scholar
  7. Crosby, E J. (1982). Relative deprivation and working women. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dawes, R. M. (1980). Social dilemmas. Annual Review of Psychology, 31, 169–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Deutsch, M. (1975). Equity, equality, and need: What determines which value will be used as the basis of distributive justice? Journal of Social Issues, 31 (3), 137–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dovidio, J. F. (1984). Helping behavior and altruism: An empirical and conceptual overview. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental social psychology (Vol. 17, pp. 361–427 ). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  11. Dovidio, J. F., Schroeder. D. A., Allen, J. L. & Matthews. L. L. (1986, March). Altruistic versus egoistic motivations for helping (L. A. Penner, Chair). Current theoretical issues in helping. Symposium conducted at the Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Psychological Association, Orlando, Florida.Google Scholar
  12. Eisenberg, N. (1991). Values, sympathy, and individual differences: Toward a pluralism of factors influencing altruism and empathy. Psychological Inquiry, 2, 128–131.Google Scholar
  13. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Hoffman, M. L. (1976). Empathy, role-taking, guilt, and development of altruistic motives. In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior: Theory research, and social issues (pp. 124–143 ). New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  15. Hoffman, M. L. (1989). Empathic emotions and justice in society. Social Justice Research, 3, 283–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hornstein, H. A. (1982). Promotive tension: Theory and research. In V. J. Derlega & J. Grzelak (Eds.), Cooperation and helping behavior: Theories and research (pp. 229–248 ). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  17. Kant, I. (1889). Kant’s critique of practical reason and other works on the theory of ethics (4th ed.) (T. K. Abbott, Trans.). New York: Longmans, Green & Co. (Original work published 1785 ).Google Scholar
  18. Kohlberg, L. (1976). Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach. In T. Lickona (Ed.), Moral development and behavior: Theory, research, and social issues (pp. 31–53 ). New York: Holt, Rinehart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  19. Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities. Children in America’s schools. New York: Crown.Google Scholar
  20. Krebs, D. L. (1975). Empathy and altruism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 1134–1146.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lerner, M. J. (1975). The justice motive in social behavior: Introduction. Journal of Social Issues. 31 (3), 1–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lerner, M. J. (1980). The belief in a just world: A fundamental delusion. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  23. Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
  24. Montada, L. & Schneider, A. (1989). Justice and emotional reactions to the disadvantaged. Social Justice Research, 3, 313–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mook, D. G. (1991). Why can’t altruism be selfish? Psychological Inquiry, 2, 139–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Nagel, T. (1991). Equality and partiality. New York: Oxford University Press. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminine approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Oliner, S. P. & Oliner, P. M. (1988). The altruistic personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Europe. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  28. Rawls, J. (1971). A theory of iustice. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  29. Schaller, M. & Cialdini, R. B. (1988). The economics of empathic helping: Support for a mood management motive. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 24, 163–181.Google Scholar
  30. Smith, K. D., Keating, J. P. & Stotland, E. (1989). Altruism revisited: The effect of denying feedback on a victim’s status to empathic witnesses. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57, 641–650.Google Scholar
  31. Solomon, R. C. (1989). The emotions of justice. Social Justice Research, 3, 345–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Solomon, R. C. (1990). A passion for justice: Emotions and the origins of the social contract. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  33. Stotland, E. (1969). Exploratory studies of empathy. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 4, pp. 271313 ). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  34. Tronto, J. (1987). Beyond gender differences to a theory of care. Signs, 12, 644–663.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Walster, E., Berscheid, E. & Walster, W. G. (1973). New directions in equity research. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 25, 151–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Williams, B. (1981). Persons, character, and morality. In B. Williams (Ed.), Moral luck: Philosophical papers 1973–1980 (pp. 1–19 ). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. Daniel Batson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

Personalised recommendations