Applications to nursing schools spiked during the pandemic from those who wanted to help. They chose to be nurses at a time when the risk to their own health was never greater. Why are some people willing to run toward the fire when others are running away from it?
Most of us fall somewhere on a spectrum of altruistic behavior. We might adopt a stray pet, donate a liter of blood, or check on an older neighbor. Others pursue a career based on helping others, and, at the extreme end of the spectrum, some choose to donate their kidney to a stranger.
We talk to two nurses, a kidney donor, and a psychologist about the nature of altruism.