TED Talk – Why are Some People More Altruistic Than Others?

Why do some people do selfless things, helping other people even at risk to their own well-being? Psychology researcher Abigail Marsh studies the motivations of people who do extremely altruistic acts, like donating a kidney to a complete stranger. Are their brains just different?

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.

Marsh’s 2017 book The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between explores the extremes of human generosity and cruelty. In 2018, The Fear Factor was awarded the Book Prize for The Promotion of Social and Personality Science from the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.

Larry Herbison, president and longtime member of Groveland Fellowship will present this TED Talk today.