Good For Nothing
From Altruists to Psychopaths and Everyone in Between
By Abigail Marsh
A new popular science book exploring the cutting edge science explaining human altruism and psychopathy, how closely they can be mapped, and how the potential to be more compassionate and kind exists in all of us.
Titled The Fear Factor in the USA
If humans are fundamentally good, why do we engage in acts of great cruelty? If we are evil, why do we sometimes help others at a cost to ourselves?
Whether humans are good or evil is a question that has plagued philosophers and scientists for as long as there have been philosophers and scientists.
Many argue that we are fundamentally selfish, and only the rules and laws of our societies and our own relentless efforts of will can save us from ourselves. But is this really true?
Abigail Marsh is a social neuroscientist who has closely studied the brains of both the worst and the best among us-from children with psychopathic traits whose families live in fear of them, to adult altruists who have given their own kidneys to strangers. Her groundbreaking findings suggest a possibility that is more optimistic than the dominant view. Humans are not good or evil, but are equally (and fundamentally) capable of good and evil.
In Good for Nothing Marsh explores the human capacity for caring, drawing on cutting edge research findings from clinical, translational and brain imaging investigations on the nature of empathy, altruism, and aggression and brings us closer to understanding the basis of humans' social nature.
Abigail Marsh is an associate professor of psychology at Georgetown University. She received her PhD in social psychology from Harvard University and completed post-doctoral training in cognitive neuroscience at the National Institute of Mental Health. For over 10 years, she has conducted behavioural and brain research aimed at understanding how we understand each other's feelings, why we care about one another's welfare, and the causes of the worst and best impulses within us, from violent aggression to life-saving altruism. Her work has been covered in The Times, Slate, The Huffington Post, NPR, The Economist and New York Magazine.
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- Publication date:
19 Oct 2017
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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, Harvard University
[Marsh's] book is deft enough to be chilling at times, infectiously optimistic at others - The Daily Telegraph
Good For Nothing 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
Beautifully and engagingly written, yet not compromising on science. Abigail Marsh has written a page-turner that takes you meticulously through the scientific evidence for why altruism exists, while fooling you into thinking that you are reading a detective novel. This is essential reading for anyone interested in why people vary in their capacity for empathy and love - Essi Viding PhD, Professor of Developmental Psychopathology at UCL
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)
The combination of thorough investigation and personal research experiences creates a volume far more engaging than those typically written by academics...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
The book is overall a model of careful popular science writing, rebutting common oversimplifications... Best of all, her writing style is vivid and personable... And despite the book's optimistic message, there are moments-as when she describes a psychopathic teenage girl she tested as someone "with whom I would have been unwilling to spend a night alone in a house"-that send a chill down the spine. - The Wall Street Journal
Recommend this fascinating text to readers of pop psychology and true crime fans who wish to better understand the minds of potential criminals - Booklist