Altruists appear to have bigger brains that are better tuned to reading others’ emotions.
Psychologist Abigail Marsh, who ran a study on ultra-altruistic kidney donors, was quoted in the LA Times saying:
“Because we are mammals that give birth to these very helpless young, we’re predisposed to respond to anything that reminds us of a vulnerable, helpless infant.”
This reminded me of a particularly apt turn of the plot in J. M. Ledgard’s excellent novel Submergence. In it, an Arabic-speaking British spy captured by a homicidal Jihadist band in Somalia is forced by the group’s leader to translate Disney’s Bambi to the younger fighters as they watch the DVD.
Ledgard is a political and war correspondent for the Economist in Africa. The Bambi incident is absurd yet weirdly logical. You’re left wondering if it really happened.