The Fear Factor

The Fear Factor

How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-between

Book - 2017
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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, 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.
Publisher: New York : Basic Books, 2017
Edition: First Edition
ISBN: 9781541697195
Branch Call Number: 152.46 M36f
Characteristics: vii, 302 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm


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Jan 30, 2018

This is a well-written introduction to the dominance of fear in the emotional spectrum. I found rather obvious (we evolved in a world full of danger so of course being hyper-sensitive to fear in others, and oneself is primary).
And she's an enjoyable writer- i find female scientists tend to be better writers, less prone to that disembodied hyper-rational AI voice male scientists often use.
But her argument that empathy, social 'good' is amyglada based suffers from her apparent lack of knowledge of autism. Autists tend to have smaller/distressed amygladas too, yet are not prone to psychopathic behavior.
In the conclusion of her book she explores what social 'good' is, and how we could be better, displaying a typical sentimental naivete. She quotes Ghandi, M. L. King, Anne Frank, and Mandela on how one should trust more. Excuse me? Most of them were killed, and Mandela was caged for decades. You trust- i'll hide under my bed, thanks anyway.
And her cheerleading for positiveness reveals the standard hidden-arrogance and oversimplifying. She/we *assume* we know how to help, to be 'good'. But we don't. (example: feed the starving and they'll breed, resulting in more starving and a ravaged environment). The road to hell is still paved by the good intentions of people like her. Am i saying, be negative, do nothing? No, just that it's far more complex and harder her drivel implies. And that sometimes there isn't a fix, simple or complex.

Still, her consolidating of the role of fear is worth a browse, as are all books on psychology that introduce one to the literature in a particular field.

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