LunarLeo wrote:Hey! I have a question. So I'm interested in studying altruism for my undergraduate degree. I'm at an Ivy League institution, and have the option to do an independent major as long as I make it sound legitimate. Is there an academic field closely related to our mission? Like what academic discipline would charity evaluation go under?
Brown allows students to pick an independent major, but I would suggest that you pick a conventional degree program for the following reasons: If you want to pursue this course of action and develop it, you will probably need some research skills and a graduate degree. It will be easiest to do this if you have degree that will help you to gain admission to a graduate program in a conventional degree program. There are lots of ideas above, but I would add psychology to the list.
You can study decision theory as a psychologist, but I think you would also benefit by studying human behavior from the point of view of a psychologist. The decision-theory view is often used to describe decisions as if humans were computers, but if you study the many influences on human thoughts and behavior, you will find something different. I don't know of any quick way to describe this, but you might get the idea by Googling:
Schwartz norm-activation theory of altruistic behavior
"reasoned action" Ajzen
"planned behavior" Fishbein
Also look for those in scholar.google.com if you are in your University library or otherwise connected to the student-only network. Another book that might seem to be off topic at first might give you a different perspective on why people do what they do and how they explain their actions. Find this old classic in your university library: Theory of Cognitive Dissonance by Leon Festinger.
There is also a philosophical context for research on altruism. The new field of experimental philosophy combines philosophy and psychology, but without good research skills you could make a fool of yourself. As of right now, the most realistic way to approach this is from the psychology background due to the emphasis on empirical research methods.