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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The Fear Factor

Matthieu Ricard
Originally published January 5, 2018

Here is an excerpt:

Research by Abigail Marsh and other neuroscientists reveals that psychopaths’ brains are marked by a dysfunction in the structure called the amygdala that is responsible for essential social and emotional function. In psychopaths, the amygdala is not only under-responsive to images of people experiencing fear, but is also up to 20% smaller than average.

Marsh also wondered about people who are at the other end of the spectrum, extreme altruists: people filled with compassion, people who volunteer, for example, to donate one of their kidneys to a stranger. The answer is remarkable: extreme altruists surpass everyone in detecting expressions of fear in others and, while they do experience fear themselves, that does not stop them from acting in ways that are considered very courageous.

Since her initial discovery, several studies have confirmed that the ability to label other peoples’ fear predicts altruism better than gender, mood or how compassionate people claim to be. In addition, Abigail Marsh found that, among extreme altruists, the amygdala is physically larger than the average by about 8%. The significance of this fact held up even after finding something rather unexpected: the altruists’s brains are in general larger than those of the average person.

The information is here.