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Study reveals possible neurobiological explanation for good and evil

brainwebFor decades scientists have been studying the unique characteristics of the psychopathic brain. Abigail Marsh, a Georgetown University psychologist, wanted to study the complete opposite of the psychopaths, what she refers to as the “anti-psychopaths.”

For her research, Marsh chose altruistic kidney donors. These people are ultra do-gooders who are extraordinarily compassionate, prosocial, and empathetic — so much so that they will give up a perfectly good kidney just because a stranger needs it.

Her findings, recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that the brains of kidney donors looked structurally different from psychopaths, revealing evidence that there may be a neurobiological explanation for the behavior of altruistic kidney donors.

Who Would Donate a Kidney to a Stranger? An ‘Anti-Psychopath’, NYMag.com

Neural and cognitive characteristics of extraordinary altruists, on PNAS.org


Posted in: Scientific research

2 Comments on "Study reveals possible neurobiological explanation for good and evil"

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  1. NotWhatHeSaidofMe says:

    I don’t know if this is just a badly written article (by Melissa Dahl) or an article with a hidden agenda.

    One of the first rules I learned about statistics is “correlation is not causation”. Just because a certain area of the brain is larger or more developed does not mean it Causes altruism (or the reverse, being smaller causes psychopathy.) IF anything, Dr Abigail Marsh found a correlation, but she certainly did not find a causation.

    Author Dahl uses the words, “That’s one way to look at it” which is a vague way of acknowledging that there are MANY factors and hypotheses about altruism.

    What is not clearly noted is that Dahl quoted a known psychopath, James Fallon. We all know that psychopaths have a hidden agenda. That he would suggest a conclusion that altruists are not opposite to a psychopath but similar to one is a predictable perspective of a psychopath. If you know about Dr Fallon, then you know his bias makes his OPINION irrelevant.

    I am left with wondering what’s the point of this article. I could drive trucks through the holes in this study as it is presented by Dahl. What I do know it how it makes me feel, that it’s an article trivializing the choices of people who give, that it’s merely a function of their brain. And gee, if giving is a brain function, then we shouldn’t hold those who don’t have that kind of brain accountable. Which is the ultimate argument for those who seek to excuse psychopathic behavior.

    Somebody is still working on the pity play and/or the diminishing play that psychopathy is not that bad. Try again Melissa Dahl.



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    • Delores says:

      Excellent reply. I read a supposedly professional book, “Coldblooded Kindness” that confused kindness with psychopathy, it was crazy. So many professionals do not have a clue. They confuse behavior with psychopathy or altruism instead of realizing that the only real observable trait of a psychopath is having no Empathy.

      All psychopathic behavior comes from that one missing human characteristic EMPATHY and the ways they try to compensate for it or hide it are always harmful to people, especially people who believe thy can love. Brain studies are fine but this one compares apples and avocados as do many studies today.

      Major flaw number two, donating a kidney does not make a person altruistic. It could be done out of guilt or self loathing instead. Even a psychopath could easily do it to appear altruistic. It seems no one is minding the store regarding a viable hypothesis anymore.



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