A social interaction analysis of empathy and fairness

Novartis Found Symp. 2007;278:97-105; discussion 106-10, 216-21.


This paper advances a social interaction analysis of altruism, as a likely result of empathy, and egalitarianism, as a key component of fairness. A social interaction analysis is unique in that it (a) focuses on the persons and the situation, (b) includes proximal and distal influences (such as personality and relational influences, as well as cognitive and emotional processes), (c) yields action-reaction patterns that are largely observable and therefore especially relevant to learning, and (d) helps conceptualize interpersonal orientations that affect behaviour and social interactions. The chapter discusses the ubiquity of altruism and egalitarianism in the context of social dilemmas and related situations, and concludes that these two orientations are important to theorizing and research in various disciplines that seek to understand the motivational underpinnings of social interactions in dyads and groups.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Altruism*
  • Emotions
  • Empathy*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Justice*