Brain Games Facts: Anger

Video highlights from Brain Games


•    George R. Price was a pioneer in altruism research, developing what came to be known as the Price equation—a mathematical expression of altruism.

•    British biologist J.B.S. Haldane pioneered the concept that is known today as “kin selection.” This stipulates that one is more likely to engage in self-sacrificial acts for those interpreted as having similar genetic expressions.

•    Psychologists David DeSteno and Paul Condon executed the original version of the “hot sauce” test. Instead of using a friendly test proctor to elicit compassion from their test subjects, they planted a fellow test subject who had just received traumatic news.

•    Studies show that the ability to empathize varies across different portions of the population—women in their 50s were found to be the most empathetic.

•    There appears to be a relationship between a child’s empathy and their ability to understand sarcasm. This is because the attitude and emotions of the person projecting sarcasm need to be understood by the observers.

•    Psychopaths demonstrate a host of negative traits and behaviors, one of the most significant of which is a lack of empathy. It is believed that 1% of the adult population can be accurately classified as “psychopathic.” That number jumps to 15-20% within the prison population.

•    The rate of psychopathy within the financial industry may be at least ten times higher than that of the general population.

•    We featured M.C. Escher’s illustration, “Circle Limit IV” at the beginning of this episode. It features interlocking angels and demons and abides by the principles of “hyperbolic geometry.”

•    Altruistic behavior is not unique to humans – examples from the animal kingdom include: some bats “donate” their blood and give it to other members of their group and some bird species help raise young that are not their own.

•    The part of your nervous system known as the “vagus nerve” starts at the top of the spinal cord and reaches throughout your body. When test subjects are shown images of suffering or distress, this nerve flares with activity. This has led scientists to believe there is a strong connection between this nerve and a person’s capacity for compassion.

•    While we might be willing to engage in selfless acts for both friends and relatives, our motives for doing so are distinct. One study has found that we help our friends due to empathy and our family due to an expectation of reciprocity.

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