Research paper on heroism published


Matt Langdon says: "A couple of years ago you helped me get respondents to a survey on heroism that Phil Zimbardo [who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971] was putting together. Boing Boing basically enabled the research to get under way with thousands of people taking part. Well, the paper has finally been written after a long period of analyzing and rewriting. I've posted a pdf on my site. I know two years is about sixty-three years in internet time, so maybe your readers won't remember, but I figured I'd let you know in case you wanted to share the results."

Abstract:

Heroism represents the ideal of citizens transforming civic virtue into the highest form of civic action, accepting either physical peril or social sacrifice. While implicit theories of heroism abound, surprisingly little theoretical or empirical work has been done to better understand the phenomenon. Toward this goal, we summarize our efforts to systematically develop a taxonomy of heroic subtypes as a starting point for theory building. Next we explore three apparent paradoxes that surround heroism--the dueling impulses to elevate and negate heroic actors; the contrast between the public ascription of heroic status versus the interior decision to act heroically; and apparent similarities between altruism, bystander intervention and heroism that mask important differences between these phenomena. We assert that these seeming contradictions point to an unrecognized relationship between insufficient justification and the ascription of heroic status, providing more explanatory power than risk-type alone. The results of an empirical study are briefly presented to provide preliminary support to these arguments. Finally, several areas for future research and theoretical activity are briefly considered. These include the possibility that extension neglect may play a central role in public's view of nonprototypical heroes; a critique of the positive psychology view that heroism is always a virtuous, prosocial activity; problems associated with retrospective study of heroes; the suggestion that injury or death (particularly in social sacrifice heroes) serves to resolve dissonance in favor of the heroic actor; and a consideration of how to foster heroic imagination.

Heroism: A Conceptual Analysis and Differentiation Between Heroic Action and Altruism (PDF)

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  1. what is extension neglect?

    I hope this thing comes with some sort of glossary so I don’t have to have an advanced degree or rely on the internet to make it through the synopsis.

    Also, I do remember the pre-post from 2 years ago. Thank you for bringing it full circle!!

  2. Nice paper. I think I remember doing the survey. The results actually seem to jibe with what my intuition would say. Some of them look like they might be heavily influenced by the Boinger sample set.

    Thank you for following up! I’m curious what you’re going to study next, or what new hypotheses you might have now about this topic…

  3. This paper should be useful for ideas in my fictional writing, I’m looking forward to a deeper reading of it.

  4. What does heroism necessarily have to do with “civic virtue”? Is there no capacity for heroism that doesn’t directly have to do with being a “citizen”? From the wording of that statement, it sounds very propagandist and state-based, as though personal heroism (which can take more forms than “sacrifice” as the “highest form of civic action”) is the purview of societal issues solely, with no room for personal heroism, by this definition. There seems to be bit of loaded language to this, the opening statement especially.

  5. @ Anon #10

    What does heroism necessarily have to do with “civic virtue”? Is there no capacity for heroism that doesn’t directly have to do with being a “citizen”? From the wording of that statement, it sounds very propagandist and state-based, as though personal heroism (which can take more forms than “sacrifice” as the “highest form of civic action”) is the purview of societal issues solely, with no room for personal heroism, by this definition. There seems to be bit of loaded language to this, the opening statement especially.

    That’s some heroic reaching.

    But it sets a good example. Let’s interpret words as narrowly as possible in the worst possible light so we can dismiss any thing the speaker actually has to say.

    Sophistry much?

    Just because asshats use a word for their own propaganda does not justify decrying everyone else everywhen else who ever uses it. When words become fashion, meaning goes out of style.

  6. “I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” ~ John Donne [from Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Death’s Duel]

  7. poor video, should have lost the theatrics and let the images speak for themselves.

    Still, the message delivered towards the end reinforces that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Much of what he says sounds like something straight out of Ayn Rand’s writings, except that he wants to focus on altruism while she put the focus on egotism.

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