We have a need to feel like we’re making a positive contribution in the world. The desire to make an impact is universal as it serves important social needs, closely linking to our primitive motivation to be part of a group (see value: belonging to a group).
When we feel that we’re contributing to the welfare of the group, we feel accepted, which enables us to feel secure, competent, and likeable, as well as more confident in future interactions.
We have an instinctual concern for the wellbeing of others which sometimes makes us act altruistically, i.e. in a way that benefits others without personal gain. It also makes us feel deep satisfaction from doing ‘good’. Research shows that behaving altruistically activates the dopamine-producing centres of the brain, which results in an intrinsic sense of reward. Feeling that we have helped others enables us to view ourselves as being ‘moral’ and ‘good’, which increases our self-esteem (see value: understanding myself) and contributes to our pursuit of self-actualisation.
A number of factors affect our personal motivation to make an impact. The self-perception we have of our abilities is crucial, because if we perceive ourselves as capable, we are more likely to act, a principle called self-efficacy.
We are also affected by how empathetic we feel, where being able to understand and share other people’s emotions makes more likely to be altruistic.
Attitudes play an important role in our helping behaviour, as we are unlikely to provide help to something when our beliefs do not align, e.g. we are unlikely donate to a charity if we disagree with their principles. Our attitudes can change over time, as we develop our moral values and responsibilities.
Want to learn more?
Read all the details, including how this value presents itself through who we are, what we have, do and need, in our Human Values Research Paper