In an interview that’s tangentially related to the unfolding crisis in Japan, Phil Zimbardo notes the following:
There’s not much research yet that identifies what qualities make someone into a hero. There are reactive heroes, like Wesley Autrey who jumps onto the subway track to save a guy. And then there are people who stand up to injustice like Erin Brockovich, obviously those are different but nobody has looked.
One of our focuses is that we’re starting to do research on various aspects of heroism. We’re trying to get funding for hero scholarship grants. The amazing thing is that I can give you a recipe for how to get good people to do evil deeds less in than a hour but I can’t tell you here’s 12 things that make a hero.
My work isn’t so empirically inclined, so I’m not doing the sort of research that Zimbardo has in mind. But I am on my way — with the help of both ancient political theory and some interesting contemporary examples — to compiling what I think will be a decent list of things that make a hero … or, at least, a list of things that make it much more likely that someone will act heroically.
Here is something of a sneak preview.
HT: Matt Langdon.