The Fear Factor How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, & Everyone In-Between

By Abigail Marsh

In this “compelling scientific detective story,” a leading neuroscientist looks for the nature of human kindness in the brains of heroes and psychopaths (Wall Street Journal).


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Across the world, heroes and saints rub shoulders with murderers and manipulators. On one end of the spectrum are psychopaths with no remorse, unmoved by the suffering they cause those around them. On the other are heroes who risk lives to save complete strangers and refuse to acknowledge that they have done anything out of the ordinary. At first sight, these categories of people seem like they couldn’t have less in common, but psychologist Abigail Marsh has discovered the astonishing thread that joins them.

In The Fear Factor, Marsh takes us on a breathtaking adventure to the extremes of human generosity and cruelty. By scanning the brains of psychopaths and extraordinary altruists using fMRI, Abigail Marsh uncovers the mechanisms underlying our capacity for empathy and callousness: our understanding of other’s fear. The inability to recognize fear is what leaves the psychopath unmoved by the terror on his victims’ face before he stabs them, and extreme sensitivity to others’ fear is what leads the hero to jump in an ice-choked river to save someone they have never met. As Marsh lays bare in this extraordinary story, our relationship to fear has enormous implications for how we think about empathy, parenting, and love.

As eye-opening as it is hair-raising, The Fear Factor is an essential book for anyone seeking to understand the heights and depths of human nature.

Category: Genre: Non-Fiction, Science sku: 9781541697195

Additional information

Weight 19.05 oz
Dimensions 6.38 × 1.25 × 9.5 in