Abigail Marsh: Why some people are more altruistic than others
Abigail Marsh - Psychologist
Abigail Marsh asks essential questions: If humans are evil, why do we sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to help others even at a cost to ourselves? Full bio
like the actor Idris Elba,
traffic in the middle of the night
that could have killed me.
left me really shaken up, obviously,
kind of burning, gnawing need
caused him to make the choice
to save the life of a stranger?
or anybody else's capacity for altruism?
in Tacoma, Washington,
darted out in front of my car.
what you're not supposed to do,
you're not supposed to do that.
in the fast lane of the freeway
that I was about to die too,
of that one brave man
of seeing my stranded car
across four lanes of freeway traffic
and made sure I was going to be all right,
I forgot to say thank you.
to that stranger.
the course of my life to some degree.
the human capacity to care for others.
and how does it develop,
that it can take?
to understanding basic aspects
and this includes everybody
and economists to ordinary people
is fundamentally selfish,
by our own welfare.
like the stranger who rescued me,
like helping other people
of extraordinary acts of altruism,
who engage in such acts
on this topic had been done.
definition of altruism,
to help another individual.
intended to benefit only the other.
explain an action like that?
seem to have more of it than others?
of highly altruistic people
basic aspects of human nature,
in whom that desire is missing,
that's cold and uncaring
and sometimes very violent behavior.
at the National Institute of Mental Health
brain imaging research
of other researchers now,
who are psychopathic
insensitive to other people's emotions,
that other people are in distress.
fearful facial expressions like this one.
urgent need and emotional distress,
compassion and a desire to help
who tend to lack compassion
for recognizing fearful expressions
who lack amygdalas completely,
in recognizing fearful expressions.
in amygdala activity
are underreactive to these expressions.
trouble detecting these cues.
are smaller than average
are reliable and robust,
why people don't care about others.
and the desire to help other people,
the opposite of psychopathy?
other people's fear,
to this expression
of truly extraordinary altruists.
one of their own kidneys
to undergo major surgery
healthy kidneys can be removed
is a very common question.
other people's fear.
when somebody else is in distress.
is more reactive to these expressions.
of the brain that we found
in people who are psychopathic.
are larger than average as well,
like a caring continuum in the world
by people who are highly psychopathic,
who are very compassionate
extraordinary altruists so different
more compassionate than average.
who are in their own innermost circle
that you love and identify with
extends way beyond that circle,
circle of acquaintances
their social circle altogether,
to ask a lot of altruistic kidney donors
such a wide circle of compassion
a complete stranger their kidney.
question for them to answer.
you're willing to do this thing
a really telling answer,
of these altruists don't look like this,
don't think of themselves
important than anybody else.
why donating her kidney made sense to her,
that I'm just the same as you."
for this amazing lack of self-centeredness
that in the words of St. Augustine
no center of your circle,
or outer rings,
of your care and compassion
distinguishes extraordinary altruists
of the world that's attainable by many
because at the societal level,
are already happening everywhere.
and others have shown
are becoming less and less accepting
circles of others,
of all kinds of cruelty and violence,
to capital punishment.
in all kinds of altruism.
would have thought it was ludicrous
their blood and bone marrow
a hundred years from now
that donating a kidney to a stranger
and bone marrow is today?
of all these amazing changes?
and standards of living.
wealthier and better off,
their focus of attention outward,
towards strangers increases,
and even altruistic kidney donations.
becoming a better and more humane place,
that it's becoming worse
that we now just know so much more
of strangers in distant places,
of those distant strangers.
of changes we're seeing show
as cruelty and violence,
to be inherently more sensitive
to remove oneself
outward to include even strangers
About the speaker:Abigail Marsh - Psychologist
Abigail Marsh asks essential questions: If humans are evil, why do we sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to help others even at a cost to ourselves?
Why you should listen
How do we understand what others think and feel? An associate professor in the department of psychology and the interdisciplinary neuroscience program at Georgetown University, Abigail Marsh focuses on social and affective neuroscience. She addresses questions using multiple approaches that include functional and structural brain imaging in adolescents and adults from both typical and non-typical populations, as well as behavioral, cognitive, genetic and pharmacological techniques. Among her ongoing research projects are brain imaging and behavioral studies of altruistic kidney donors and brain imaging studies of children/adolescents with severe conduct problems and limited empathy.
Abigail Marsh | Speaker | TED.com