Would you undergo major surgery to benefit someone you don’t know, and will likely never meet? Who would do that — and what motivates a person to be so selfless? According to the theory of evolution, such selflessness should’ve died out long ago; it’s a voluntary, costly behavior that benefits another but not the good-doer. Yet altruism still exists.
And just as impossible to comprehend is the extreme opposite: those who go out of their way to harm others with no sense of compassion. What divides these two extremes?
Abigail Marsh studies altruism at Georgetown University, specifically people who donated their kidneys to complete strangers. Marsh’s research led her to one main conclusion: that the only thing separating the saint and the psychopath is the understanding of one particular human emotion. She joins the Morning Shift to talk about what she learned while studying the brains of heroes and psychopaths.