Studies show human children are naturally altruistic:
"st you think he's asserting there is no such thing as the "terrible twos," Tomasello made clear the cooperative behavior he studies is "relative to nonhuman primates." In other words, kids are quite altruistic when compared to apes. They gesture to communicate that something is out of place. They empathize with those they sense have been wronged.
They have an almost reflexive desire to help, inform and share. And they do so without expectation or desire for reward, Tomasello said."
http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/nove … 10508.html
So how do people become selfish? According to studies, altruism doesn't seem to be a learned behavior,and this is only found in humans.
A bee will give it's life defending it's hive, but that is an instinctual behaviour, and it's not likely they know ahead of time they will die if they sting you.
Children show altruistic behavior as early as 18 months:
"The evidence for altruism as a critical part of human nature isn’t limited to anthropology. Studies of 18-month-old toddlers show that they will almost always try to help an adult who is visibly struggling with a task, without being asked to do so: if the adult is reaching for something, the toddler will try to hand it to them, or if they see an adult drop something accidentally, they will pick it up."
http://healthland.time.com/2012/10/08/i … ltruistic/
It's the nature/nurture debate. Like many other human characteristics, selfishness is likely to be a combination of natural and learned behaviour.
Through the process of natural selection, the formation of cooperative social groups has become a biological imperative for human beings, because it increases an individual's chances of survival. But competing with 'others' who are part of different social groups has also become a biological imperative for the same reason. The result is a tendency towards cooperative (even altruistic) behaviour among individuals who are part of the same in-group, and competitive (even hostile) behaviour towards those of others who are part of other social groups (outgroups). Both these behaviours are 'selfish' in a sense because they both increase the chances our survival, and therefore the chances that our genes will be reproduce.
As a side note, the tendency to form cooperative social groups and compete with 'others' for resources, is the cause of every war in human history.
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