The Altruistic Behavior Institute (aka the Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute) was founded in 1982 by Drs. Samuel and Pearl Oliner, who recognized the need for more research into the areas of altruism and prosocial behavior. The Institute was founded with the dual purpose of studying specific examples of heroic and conventional altruism and seeking out ways to enhance altruism and prosocial behavior in society. Dr. Samuel P. Oliner (1930-2021) was a native of Poland, a Holocaust survivor, and a Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Humboldt. Dr. Pearl Oliner (1931-2021) was a Professor of Education at Cal Poly Humboldt in Arcata, California.

Dr. Ronnie Swartz, LCSW joined the Institute as Director in 2010. Ronnie is a Professor of Social Work at Cal Poly Humboldt, former Department Chair, and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. He has been engaged in practicing and teaching social work to facilitate change with individuals, families, organizations, and communities since 1994. He is particularly interested in the skills for living people have developed along with the processes through which these methods, knowledges, and values can be marginalized by technologies of power.

Ronnie has consulted with young people, families, adults, and organizations in education, medical, behavioral health, problematic substance use, juvenile justice, child welfare, and advocacy systems. His research, teaching, writing, and practice includes narrative approaches to therapy and community work, harm reduction in relation to problematic drug use and drug policy, social/economic policy, values, ethics, and the cultivation of love, kindness, and care skills.

VIDEO: Living Biographies - Sam and Pearl Oliner

VIDEO: Sam and Pearl Oliner - Scholars of the Year 1990

VIDEO: To Help Someone

VIDEO: Oral HIstory Interview with Sam Oliner (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

The Altruistic Behavior Institute is a member of the Consortium of Higher Education Centers for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Studies.


Board of Directors:

Maral Attallah
Cal Poly Humboldt

Dr. Lawrence Baron
San Diego State University

Reverend Mr. John F Gai
Cal Poly Humboldt

Reverend Douglas Huneke
Tiburon, CA

Shaunna McCovey (Yurok)
McKinleyville, CA

Mr. Ken Nakamura
San Diego State University

Dr. Janusz Reykowski
Polish Academy of Science

Dr. John H. Roth
Claremont McKenna College

Mr. Pierre Sauvage
Friends of Le Chambon

Dr. Ervin Staub
University of Massachusetts

Dr. Mary Virnoche
Cal Poly Humboldt