The Fear Factor – Abigail Marsh
The Fear Factor – How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between.
At fourteen, Amber could boast of killing her guinea pig, threatening to burn down her home, and seducing men in exchange for gifts. She used the tools she had available to get what she wanted, like all children. But unlike other children, she didn’t care about the damage she inflicted.
A few miles away, Lenny Skutnik cared so much about others that he jumped into an ice-cold river to save a drowning woman. What is responsible for the extremes of generosity and cruelty humans are capable of? By putting psychopathic children and extreme altruists in an fMRI, acclaimed psychologist Abigail Marsh found that the answer lies in how our brain responds to others’ fear. While the brain’s amygdala makes most of us hardwired for good, its variations can explain heroic and psychopathic behavior.
A path-breaking read, The Fear Factor is essential for anyone seeking to understand the heights and depths of human nature.
“You won’t be able to put it down.”
–Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
“This compelling scientific detective story spirals outward into realms that affect everyone. Best of all, [Marsh’s] writing style is vivid and personable.”
―Wall Street Journal
“The Fear Factor is a fascinating tour of altruism research, all the better for being sprinkled with anecdotes about Marsh’s life, career and unforgettable research subjects. As well as the extremes of human nature, Marsh says plenty that is of relevance to those of us in the middle of the bell curve, including how we can strive to be more altruistic in our everyday lives.”―New Scientist
“Those who seek to comprehend the origin of fear, altruism, and elements of human nature will find this book a key factor in their increased understanding.”―SCIENCE Magazine
“Recommend this fascinating text to readers of pop psychology and true crime fans who wish to better understand the minds of potential criminals.”
“Let Abigail Marsh guide you on a riveting ride through your own brain. With lively writing and an impressive command of science, she shows how sensitivity to fear can be both a weapon of evil and a force for good.”―Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Originals, Give and Take and Option B (with Sheryl Sandberg)
“A brilliant, beautiful, and important book about the things that make some of us angels, some of us devils, and all of us human. You won’t be able to put it down.”―Daniel Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness
“The Fear Factor reads like a thriller. Abigail Marsh takes us through the groundbreaking research that has thrown light on two of the most fundamental traits of human beings: extreme selfishness and extreme altruism. Page after page, she shows convincingly that the capacity to perceive and identify fear and, consequently, to feel empathy as one would for a child in danger, is the key factor that makes us behave as a psychopath or as someone who joyfully gives a kidney to a stranger. One of the most mind-opening books I have read in years.”―Matthieu Ricard, Author of Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World
Abigail Marsh is an associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Georgetown. She directs its prize-winning Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience. She lives in Washington, DC.
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