In an article by Santacreu et al. (2006) there is a mention of altruism assessment within the framework of the Character Education Inquiry (CEI):

If we return to the first half of the last century, we can find important precedents of objective assessment of Personality that were embodied in solid and coherent research programs carried out by important authors in this field. Amongst these, works by Hartshorne and May (1928, Hartshorne, May & Maller, 1929, Hartshorne, May & Shuttleworth 1930) must be mentioned. These authors developed a set of tests included in their Character Education Inquiry (CEI) oriented, amongst other things, to measure honesty or altruism.

At the present moment I do not have access to the report of the CEI to verify how Hugh Hartshorne and his colleagues were assessing "honesty or altruism". However, Robert W. Friedrichs (1960) cites the report of the CEI (along with a couple of other investigations) and claims that these studies did not have as their objective the assessment of altruism. These, so he implies, are the only studies undertaken in the field of psychology which may attract attention of those interested in the study of altruism. I tried to find attempts at objective assessment of altruism in the work published since 1960, but without success. So I'm here looking for assistance.

I admit that I may use the term 'objective test' incorrectly. In order to exclude any misunderstanding I would like to add that I conceive of objective test designed to assess altruism as simulated conditions in which an individual (or a group of them) is put at a moral choice being unable to uncover the simulated nature of the proceedings or to identify the qualities under scrutiny. I will be very grateful to all who help me to find reports of applications of such methods to the assessment of altruism.

Santacreu, J., Rubio, V. J., & Hernández, J. M. (2006). The objective assessment of personality: Cattells's T-data revisited and more. Psychology Science, 48(1), 53.
Friedrichs, R. W. (1960). Alter versus ego: An exploratory assessment of altruism. American Sociological Review, 496-508.

  • $\begingroup$ I believe I understand you now and I have updated your question accordingly. Does this update reflect your question? $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Nov 1, 2017 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, everything is correct and very well formulated. I can remind only that three-volume report of CEI, cited in papers by Santacreu et al. and Friedrichs, R. W., apparently does not contain descriptions of all tests designed for this study. These were published as a separate edition. $\endgroup$
    – Noir
    Nov 1, 2017 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ Why do you think "honesty or altruism" means they had an "objective" test for altruism? I'm assuming you know that most personality tests have something like fake bad scale. $\endgroup$ Nov 1, 2017 at 20:28
  • $\begingroup$ I may not know in fact. I never read Wikipedia. I am aware of the existence of the opinion of this approach to the study of personality as of possessing certain limitations. I can't say now to what extent this position is justified, for I have not yet got access to the works of the proponents and the critics of the method which are not readily available in the region of my residence. I'm not sure as to what will be the results of a thorough search for objective tests with the aim to assess altruism. $\endgroup$
    – Noir
    Nov 1, 2017 at 23:22
  • $\begingroup$ To determine if the test is really objective is not difficult. The description of the design of the test allows to judge whether there are ways out of the utilised simulated situation which only altruists would choose or every possible way out carries advantages evident to egoistic people. $\endgroup$
    – Noir
    Nov 1, 2017 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


The following scale; The altruistic personality and the self-report altruism scale, a commonly used measure of altruistic tendency in psychological research. It has 745 citations at this time November 2017. The scale is also freely available online.

Rushton, J.P., Chrisjohn, R.D., Fekken, G.C., 1981. The altruistic personality and the self-report altruism scale. Personality and Individual Differences 7, 293–302.

This has been discussed as psychometrically adequate for measuring altruism, and has good the SRAS has good inter-rater reliability. However the SRAS has two main weaknesses: its expansive, in terms of its definition of altruism, it also it frames of reference are unspecified, and unclear.

There are other measures that investigate aspects of altruism such as the Internalised subscale of the Self-importance of Moral Identity Scale (ISMIS). In the following article they discuss moral behaviour to outgroups, which the scale measures. This is also a highly cited source for measuring altruism or moral behaviour.

There are a few other scales or methods of measuring altruism, I do not have time to go into detail...

Empathic Concern questionaire (EC)

Compassionate love for others

Sprecher, S. & Fehr, B. (2005). Compassionate love for close others and humanity. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 22, 629-651.

State Based Empathy. Empathy is more of a measure of motivation to act kindly which is a precursor to altruism but not actually altruism itself.

I highly recommend you read the following blog on measuring altruism, which discusses it in far greater detail than the answer here.

T. Farsides. (2014, October 18). Conception and measurement of altruism. Retrieved from http://tomfarsides.blogspot.com/2014/10/conceptualisation-and-measurement-of.html

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely useful resources for the OP I am sure, but I wonder to which degree these address his expectations of an 'objective' test (simulated conditions under which the subject is unable to uncover the simulated nature). $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Nov 3, 2017 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ I updated the "self-report altruism scale" link since that link was not working for me. The ISMIS link is not working either. $\endgroup$
    – Steven Jeuris
    Nov 3, 2017 at 15:56
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenJeuris Ahh. I am ashamed to say I skimmed it, and missed that part. The Farsides link at the bottom actually discusses this to some extent, realistically its about how you operationalise your variables i.e. frequency of observed behaviour such as in the dictator game or response to vignettes. Of course with vignettes dummies would be required to obscure the experimental purpose. If you don't mind I will have to come back to this in a few hours. $\endgroup$
    – Comte
    Nov 3, 2017 at 16:13

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