Author(s): Abigail Marsh
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.