Get access

How Can We Study Heroism? Integrating Persons, Situations and Communities



Heroism—an individual's commitment to a noble purpose, usually aimed at furthering the welfare of others, and involving the willingness to accept the consequences of achieving that purpose—has received little attention from political psychologists, even though a person is arguably as liable to act heroically as she is to act in a morally reprehensible manner. Specifically, important questions remain in how heroes can be identified beforehand and how such behavior can be successfully studied and promoted. We posit that recent work in genocide studies, positive psychology, personality psychology, ecological psychology, and moral psychology provides new and promising directions for better understanding heroic behavior. These developments can provide the tools for understanding the complex interplay of factors—including traits, situations, and communal beliefs—motivating heroic behavior.