Exploring fear’s role in shaping human nature


The Fear Factor, is a book by Abigail Marsh and not the syndicated television show. The Fear Factor is a book that delves into understanding human nature.

A psychologist neurologist, Abigail draws heavy from the public’s curiosity with psychopaths. Psychopaths are few but they inspire morbid curiosity.

They have no empathy, or fear, traceable to the part of the brain called the amygdala. This is what Abigail chooses to stem her book from. Although most of us have felt fear, we probably won’t go around announcing what made us afraid. Abigail Marsh makes the reader think about using fear for good deeds, translating the fight or flee reaction into acts that help change a situation or the world for the better.

Drawing heavy from research, Marsh uses a 1978 study by psychologist Daniel Batson, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology to come up with questions to be used on the subjects whose sole task was to listen to a radio interview of an orphan left to care for her younger siblings, working multiple jobs while trying to get a college degree. The finding was “empathy relates strongly to the ability to recognize when others are experiencing fear.”

Marsh uses examples firmly rooted in research to paint the picture of her conclusions through the brushstroke of knowledge. Altruists are the opposite of psychopaths. They are regular people clad with fear, but go above and beyond in acts of bravery. Marsh notes the example of former mayor of Newark Cory Booker who saved his neighbor from a raging inferno in 2012. The ability to help others trumps the fear, that’s why altruists’ instincts lead to acts of service to humanity.

Marsh writes in a very strong writer, evoking both thought and emotion while trying to simplify answers to the large questions she poses. For example, what inspires altruistic kidney donors?

“Does being an actual, living hero require being resistant to deep, distressing emotions like fear and panic?” Marsh can write long, and feel windy, although she is distilling the complexities fanned with years of research, with personal anecdotes including when a total stranger risked his life to save her from her car after an accident.

Marsh analyses data from research carried out by her and people in her field over the years to understand how fear impacts us, what makes a psychopath tick, what moves the human condition and how oxytocin causes us to respond to fear. Through her book, The Fear Factor, Abigail Marsh increases information in the body of work on the human nature as far as fear is concerned. This is not a book for just psychologists, neurologists and other like-minded professions, The Fear Factor will help you understand the barest of our human condition more.

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