Altruism is a type of behavior in which an animal sacrifices its own interest for that
of another animal or group of animals. Altruism is the opposite of selfishness; individuals
performing altruistic acts gain nothing for themselves.
Examples of altruism abound, both among humans and among other mammals.
Unselfish acts among humans range from the sharing of food with strangers
to the donation of body organs to family members, and even to strangers. Such
acts are altruistic in that they benefit another, yet provide little reward to the one
performing the act.
In fact, many species of animals appear willing to sacrifice food, or even their
life, to assist other members of their group. The meerkat, which is a mammal that
dwells in burrows in grassland areas of Africa, is often cited as an example. In
groups of meerkats, an individual acts as a sentinel, standing guard and looking out
for predators while the others hunt for food or eat food they have obtained. If the
sentinel meerkat sees a predator such as a hawk approaching the group, it gives an
alarm cry alerting the other meerkats to run and seek shelter. By standing guard,
the sentinel meerkat gains nothing—it goes without food while the others eat, and
it places itself in grave danger. After it issues an alarm, it has to flee alone, which
might make it more at risk to a predator, since animals in groups are often able to
work together to fend off a predator. So the altruistic sentinel behavior helps ensure
the survival of other members of the meerkat’s group.
You know, often in science, new findings force us to re-examine earlier beliefs and assumptions.
And a recent study of meerkats is having exactly this effect. The study examined
the meerkat’s behavior quite closely, much more closely than had ever been
done before. And some interesting things were found . . . like about eating habits . . . it
showed that typically meerkats eat before they stand guard—so the ones standing
guard had a full stomach! And the study also found that since the sentinel is the first
to see a predator coming, it’s the most likely to escape . . . because it often stands
guard near a burrow, so it can run immediately into the burrow after giving the alarm.
The other meerkats, the ones scattered about looking for food, are actually in greater
And in fact, other studies have suggested that when an animal creates an alarm,
the alarm call might cause the other group members either to gather together or else
to move about very quickly, behaviors that might actually draw the predator’s attention
away from the caller, increasing that animal’s own chances of survival.
And what about people—what about some human acts that might be considered
altruistic? Let’s take an extreme case, uh, suppose a person donates a kidney to a relative,
or even to a complete stranger. A selfless act, right? But . . . doesn’t the donor
receive appreciation and approval from the stranger and from society? Doesn’t the
donor gain an increased sense of self-worth? Couldn’t such non-material rewards be
considered very valuable to some people?
According to the lecture, altruism is not completely a selfless behavior, but is one in which human beings or other mammals can benefit themselves from others. On the other hand, the speaker contradicts with this statement.
As shown in studies, the animals, for example, sentinel meerkats eat before standing as a guard on the other group members. This opposes the reading passage which describes that sentinel meerkats remain empty stomach for the sake of others’ safety.
Secondly, the sentinel meerkats don’t go in trouble . The reason is that they are the first one, who see the predators and by alarming others of the threat, they seek shelter in the burrows nearby. In the meantime, other meerkats while looking for the food, may divert the predator’s attention from the sentinel meerkats, so that they may also have time to escape from there. .
Lastly human beings, while donating their body organs to their relatives or strangers, get no reward from them. But in fact they get appreciation and admiration from the society which is valuable for the donors.
Hi Kitos this is my first task please check this and point out my mistakes please.
TOEFL listening lectures: A university lecture by a Drama professor