2012. Vol.3, No.12A, 1085-1090
Published Online December 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1085
Heroism and Risk of Harm
Douglas M. Stenstrom1, Mathew Curtis2
1Department of Psychology, California State University Los Angeles, Los Angeles, USA
2Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA
Received October 1st, 2012; revised October 29th, 2012; accepted November 29th, 2012
Although the positive traits and qualities that compose heroism such as courage, bravery and empathy
have received research support, little experimental research has directly investigated the perception of
heroic acts. The primary purpose of the current research was to address this gap in the literature by inves-
tigating a basic question about a central defining feature of heroism, namely the risk of potential harm. A
related objective was investigating how implicit theories of personality and moral character influence
perceptions of heroism, particularly as it relates to risk of harm. Results revealed how incrementally esca-
lating the level of risk to the actor can transform an otherwise prosocial behavior into heroism through
separating altruism from heroism. Implicit theories impacted perceptions of heroism consistent with the
theorizing behind entity/incremental orientations, and produced an interactive effect with the situational
manipulation through information about the particular level of risk differentially affecting entity and in-
cremental belief systems.
Keywords: Heroism; Risk; Implicit Theories; Positive Traits; Moral Character
Given the origins of the word hero (from Greek meaning
hero, warrior, protector, defender) (Hero Etymology, 2012) it is
not surprising that a heroic act is typically associated with some
degree of danger or a martial act in performing the prosocial
behavior to help others in need. However, in modern use a hero
has evolved beyond physical and dangerous acts to include a
wider variety of positive action (e.g. social sacrifice, a whistle
blower, or a religious figure) (Franco, Blau, & Zimbardo, 2011).
This is reflected in the traits and virtues associated with heroes
that can range from courage and empathy (Staats, Hupp, &
Hagley, 2008) and bravery (Gaster, 1987) to honesty and hope-
fulness (Staats, Wallace, Anderson, Greesley, Hupp, & Weiss,
2009). Beyond the connection of heroism to these same posi-
tive character traits that are focal to research in Positive Psy-
chology, the concept of a hero is so central to modern society
that there has been suggestion that we possess a basic hero
archetypal theme or schema (Maloney, 1999), and this is sup-
ported by research showing children as young as 5 or 6 years
old have developed basic hero classifications and exemplars
(White & O’Brien, 1999).
This centrality of the hero to human culture is reflected in the
long history of the hero archetype within human society. Indeed,
the hero has been part of human culture for millennia, appear-
ing in ancient cave paintings (Getty Images, 2012) to Greek
legends like Hercules or Achilles, and to modern day heroes
exemplified by the Carnegie Hero Medal winners announced
each year (Becker & Eagly, 2004). Despite the enduring human
propensity and fascination with heroic character traits and ex-
emplars, there is little heroism-focused research. In fact, recent
reviews about research related to heroism have asserted that
little published research directly investigates heroism (Franco,
Blau, & Zimbardo, 2011) and instead focuses on the broader
Positive Psychology-related concepts that compose heroic ten-
dencies, such as character strengths/virtues like courage and
bravery, prosocial-related research like bystander intervention
and empathy, and morality-related research like moral exem-
plars and affordances (Jayawickreme & DiStefano, 2012). The
purpose of the present research is to address this gap in the
literature by investigating a basic question about a central de-
fining feature of heroism, namely the risk of potential harm.
The literature on heroism is so new, in fact, that there is yet
no clear definition in the literature, with some researchers
quoting dictionaries for their definition (Becker & Eagly, 2004)
and others providing detailed but conflicting versions, such as a
multifaceted definition by Franco, Blau, and Zimbardo (2011)
that heroism involves five criteria: social activity in service to
others, engaged in voluntarily, with recognition of possible
risks/costs, with the actor accepting the sacrifice, and no exter-
nal gain anticipated by the actor. Jayawickreme & Stefano
(2012), on the other hand, provide a separate multifaceted defi-
nition with three criteria: atypical situation for the behavior,
unusual behavior in part because of personal risk, and further-
ing welfare of others. The lack of research establishing the
essential nature of these criteria further encumbers the progres-
sion of research on heroism, particularly because the various
definitions involve conflicting criteria.
One commonality among the various definitions, however,
appears to be the concept of risk to the hero, even if that risk
involves serious physical consequences or loss of life. For ex-
ample, the elements of heroism proposed by Franco, Blau, and
Zimbardo (2011) in the preceding paragraph rest upon the con-
cept of risk (e.g., voluntariness of the risk, recognition of the
risk, accepting the risk, etc.). One line of reasoning is that hero-
ism is part of the larger construct of prosocial behavior and that
the element of risk is what separates altruism into heroism (see
Becker & Eagly, 2004). One way to investigate this assertion is
to empirically manipulate the level of risk. The primary purpose
of the current research is to experimentally investigate the per-
ception of heroism by manipulating the potential risk of harm
in order to understand how prosocial behavior can be trans-
formed into heroism through increasing risk to the actor.
In addition to investigating this pivotal situational constraint
on heroic action (risk of harm), the related purpose of the pre-
sent research is to investigate a relevant personality trait that
may impact perceptions of heroism, particularly as it relates to
chances of potential harm. Implicit theories of human nature are
basic meaning systems used by people to understand, interpret,
and predict their social world (Hong, Levy, & Chiu, 2001; Levy,
Plaks, & Dweck, 1999). One key underlying lay belief that
shapes cognitions and behavior is the determination people
make about the fixedness or malleability of human attributes
(Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995; Dweck & Leggett, 1988; Levy,
Plaks, Hong, Chiu, & Dweck, 2001). For example, Dweck and
colleagues have consistently shown that an entity orientation
(believing an attribute such as moral character is fixed) influ-
ences perceptions, cognitions and behavior differently than an
incremental orientation (believing the attribute is malleable).
They further argue that knowing whether something is fixed or
malleable is an essential component of human cognition that
children must develop before they can understand the physical
and social world. This distinction then serves as one of the most
fundamental and underlying characteristics that people implic-
itly hold regarding the objects, processes and attributes in their
Within this body of research, studies has consistently shown
that the same events can be perceived and interpreted differ-
ently based on holding either an entity versus incremental per-
spective because each is associated with a different informa-
tional processing approach (for a review see Dweck, Chiu, &
Hong, 1995; Levy, Plaks, & Dweck, 1999). By believing hu-
man nature is fixed, entity theorists make stable character in-
ferences from a single instance of a person’s behavior, even
when that behavioral information is ambiguous (Levy et al.,
2001; Levy & Dweck, 1998). Conversely, by believing that
human nature is malleable, incremental theorists use factors
other than dispositional traits to understand human behavior,
such as external situational forces or psychological processes
within individuals (e.g., goals, needs, current mood state, etc.).
Within the context of the present research, the implication is
that incremental theorists will be influenced by situational fea-
tures of a heroic act, such as increasing levels of risk in the
particular heroic situation, whereas entity theorists will perceive
heroic behavior consistent with dispositional traits unrelated to
situational forces. Prior research has investigated these different
processing styles in various domains such as legal and moral
character (e.g., Chiu, Dweck, Tong, & Fu, 1997; Gervey, Chiu,
Hong, & Dweck, 1999), intelligence (e.g., Hong, Chiu, Dweck,
Lin, & Wan, 1999; Dweck & Leggett, 1988) and social behav-
ior (e.g., Chiu, Hong, & Dweck, 1997; Erdley & Dweck, 1993).
The current research will investigate the relationship between
implicit theories and risk of harm in heroism.
Consistent with the literature on “Person × Situation” inter-
actions which emphasizes that human nature is best conceptu-
alized as the result of an interaction between aspects of the
person and aspects of the situation (see Funder, 2001; Mischel,
2004; Shoda, 2004), investigating both person-variables and
situation-variables in the same study will allow a better under-
standing of the relationship between the two forces upon the
perceptions of heroism. Participants will be randomly assigned
to evaluate a heroic act with incrementally increasing levels of
risk of harm. Based upon a modified version of the measures
used by Franco, Blau, and Zimbardo (2011), participants will
then evaluate the distinction between altruism and heroism in
the prosocial acts. By experimentally manipulating the level of
potential risk, the goal is to identify if a threshold-based ap-
proach characterizes perceptions of heroism. By also investi-
gating implicit theories as a person-variable, the goal is to iden-
tify the interactive effect of both situational and personality
factors in evaluating heroic acts.
Participants and Design
The participants were 569 respondents collected online
(43.5% females and 56.5% males with a mean age of 29.69
years and a standard deviation of 11.0 years) and recruited via
Amazon Mechanical Turk which is an online marketplace that
provides monetary reward for completing internet-based tasks.
Research into the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform has em-
pirical tested its demographically diverse population and reli-
ability in data outcomes in comparison to traditional methods
(Buhrmester, Kwang, & Gosling 2011). All participants were
randomly assigned to one of the between-subjects experimental
conditions that manipulated the level of risk of harm.
Materials and Procedures
After providing the instructions for the study, all participants
were first randomly assigned to experimental condition before
answering the four sets of measures. The manipulation of risk
of harm was a depiction of a stereotypical heroic act followed
by information about the risk of harm involved in the event.
Following a modified form of the methodology from Franco,
Blau, and Zimbardo (2011) that used brief hypothetical scenar-
ios to assess perceptions of heroism, we developed a generic
description of a heroic act, namely, “A bystander helps retrieve
a toddler crawling in the road”. Our goal in creating a generic
and stereotypical act was to avoid potential confounds from
involving situational features not relevant to the risk of harm.
For example, additional superfluous information about the
number of cars on the road or characteristics of the bystander
would inadvertently add new situational features that might
change the respondents’ perception of the risk of harm. After
reading the description, participants were then informed about
the risk of harm, namely “In this particular situation, there was
a [0%] chance of harm to the bystander”. The risk of harm
ranged between 0% and 100% in 10% increments.
Participants then responded to four types of measures. The
main categorical measure of the participants’ perception of the
scenario was the first type of measure. The question was a
forced-choice measure concerning altruism and heroism that
asked, “Do you think the actions in the scenario are altruistic,
heroic, or neither?”. Similar to the work by Franco, Blau, and
Zimbardo (2011) we also include the option of “neither” so that
the respondents choice more clearly reflects their true intent to
gauge the act as a heroic act or an altruistic act. The next type
of measure was a continuous measurement of the perceived
level of heroism and altruism. Participants were randomly pre-
sented two questions on a 100-point sliding scale from “not at
all” to “very much” about “To what degree do you think the
actions were heroic?”, and “To what degree do you think the
actions were altruistic?”. The sliding scales were represented
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
with vertical lines every 10 increments from 0 to 100 to provide
a visual gauge as to where they were sliding the scale. The
online survey software also showed the exact number of their
choice ranging from 0 to 100 on the right side of the sliding
scale so that respondents were aware of their exact choice.
The measures of implicit theories were the next set of meas-
ures, and involved both implicit theories of personality and
implicit theories of moral character as developed by Dweck and
colleagues (for a review see Dweck, Chiu, & Hong, 1995).
Participants’ implicit theory of personality was measured using
the three-item measure used in past research on implicit theo-
ries (e.g., Levy, Stroessner, & Dweck, 1988; Tong & Chiu,
2002) The items are, “Everyone is a certain kind of person, and
there is not much that can be done to really change that”, “The
kind of person someone is, is something very basic about them,
and it can’t be changed very much”, and “People can do things
differently, but the important parts of who they are can’t really
be changed”. The three items for the implicit theory of moral
character were also taken from past research (e.g., Chiu, Hong,
& Dweck, 1997; Chiu, Dweck, Tong, & Fu, 1997; Gervey,
Chiu, Hong, & Dweck, 1999): “A person’s moral character is
something very basic about them, and it can’t be change that
much”, “There is not that much that can be done to change a
person’s moral traits (e.g., conscientiousness, uprightness, and
honesty)”, and “Whether a person is responsible or sincere or
not is deeply ingrained in their personality. It cannot be
changed very much”. Psychometric testing has confirmed that
the reliability of each measure and that agreement on the items
is not a result of social desirability, self-monitoring, cognitive
abilities or demographics like sex and age. Participants indicate
their agreement with each item on a 6-point scale ranging from
“strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Responses to each set
of questions form a measure of implicit theory (personality, or
moral character) with a higher score indicating a stronger belief
in entity theory. All the implicit theory items were randomized,
and both measures formed high reliability in the present re-
search (α = .89 for implicit theory of personality, and α = .91
for implicit theory of morality).
Following the measure of implicit theories, the participants
responded to the manipulation check question of “In the sce-
nario you read, what was the risk of harm?”, with option
choices matching the eleven experimental conditions. Partici-
pants then answered demographic questions about gender and
age before being thanked for their participation in the study.
Of the 569 total participants, 47 were removed for incorrectly
answering the manipulation check question. An additional 32
were removed for not correctly answering an attention check
question. Imbedded in the set of implicit theory items was an
additional “attention check” question routinely used by the
authors that asks respondents “Please click ‘strongly disagree’
on the scale range”. The purpose of the question is to identify if
participants are paying attention to the text of the measures in
the online study. After removing participants for manipulation
check and attention check questions, the resulting data set in-
cluded 490 participants.
Heroism and Risk of Harm
The primary purpose of the study was to investigate the role
of increasing risk of harm in perceptions of prosocial acts. A
chi-square test of the between-subjects experimental manipula-
tions and the main categorical measure of perceptions revealed
a significant omnibus effect (χ2(20, N = 490) = 59.67, p < .001).
As can be seen from Figure 1, the bystander’s prosocial act
from the scenario was increasingly perceived as heroism as the
potential risk incrementally intensified. After a certain degree
of risk the act is no longer seen as altruistic. The fact that the
risk of harm is on the low end of the manipulated range before
the conversion to heroism occurs appears to indicate that even a
low possibility of jeopardy can confer the status of “hero”.
An important aspect of the data is that the initial conditions
have a very narrow percentage difference between reported
altruism and heroism, and are non-significantly different from
each other. Although visually there appears to be a specific
threshold moment where the prosocial act is transformed be-
tween predominantly altruistic to predominantly heroic; instead
it should be conceptualized as a non-significant transition be-
tween the initial manipulations. In other words, instead of the
visual depiction of a transitioning threshold moment between
altruism and heroism, there appears to be instead a baseline of
uncertainty or ambiguity (e.g., act could be either altruistic or
heroic) in the initial levels of risk that then transforms into a
definite heroic act as risk increases. Even in the absence of risk
(0%), respondents are split on whether the act is altruistic or
heroic. An interesting aspect of the 0% condition, for example,
is that a sizeable number of respondents indicated that it was
“neither” (18.8%), as if in the presence of zero chance of harm
the act is benign enough to not even constitute altruism for 1 in
5 respondents. In fact, the most interesting aspect of the data is
the uncertainty about the act itself in the absence of risk levels,
and how it then transformed into a definite heroic act through
manipulating rising risk.
As seen in Figure 1, there is a fairly steady incline of heroic
perceptions. As risk increases, so do perceptions of heroism. As
an additional means of statistical support for this relationship,
analyzing the secondary measures of heroism and altruism (the
continuous measurements on a 100-point scale) revealed that
the risk of harm is associated with only perceptions of heroism,
not altruism. A One-Way ANOVA using the eleven experi-
mental conditions as the between-subjects grouping variable
found a significant effect for the heroic variable (F(10, 476) =
7.68, p < .001) but not for the altruistic variable (F(10, 469)
= .74, p = .69). Figure 2 shows that the perception of heroism
increases as the situational features of the scenario increases
(risk of harm), thus providing additional support for the
chi-square analysis in the previous analysis. Treating heroic
perceptions as continuous (rather than as forced-choice) reveals
an even more refined understanding of the nature of the rela-
tionship. When there is no risk of harm (0%), the perception of
the prosocial acts as heroic are still somewhat high (52.04 on
the 100-point scale) even at this baseline level of zero danger to
the bystander. Second, there appears to be stages of increasing
perceptions of heroism with plateaus or clusters at 10%/20%,
30%/40%/50%, and 80%/90%/100%. That said, the gradual
incline of responses renders non-significant differences be-
tween each pairwise change in risk levels so the data would be
better conceptualized as linear. A test of linearity, in fact, found
the relationship between risk and heroism to be linear (the lin-
ear term is significant but the deviation from linearity is
non-significant, ps < .001, and .90, respectively). A correlation
treating the manipulation as continuous with the continuous
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1087
Figure 1.
Figure 1 reports the chi-square test between the eleven experimental
conditions and the forced-choice measure that served as the main de-
pendent measure in the study.
Figure 2.
A line graph is represented instead of a bar graph because the line graph
allows an easier visual depiction of the increasing perceptions of hero-
ism as risk level also increases from 0% to 100% via the experimental
manipulation. The scale range for the question was 0 to 100 so it is
important to note that only the top part of the scale (50 to 100) is con-
tained in Figure 2; thus the slope of the line is actually much flatter if
the entire 100-point scale range was reproduced.
measure of heroism found a sizeable relationship between the
two (r = .36, p < .001), thus providing additional support for the
proposition that risk does produce heroism.
It is also worth noting that the correlation between the ma-
nipulation and the altruism measure revealed the same non-
significant findings as the ANOVA analysis (r = .03, p = .57).
In other words, risk only impacts perceptions of heroism, not
altruism. This finding is interesting because a competing ra-
tional could have argued that an act becomes even more altruis-
tic as the danger to the actor increases. However, the present
results shed light on the fact that the intuitive understanding of
altruism is not dependent upon risk of harm.
Heroism and Implicit Theories
Do implicit theories influence our understanding of heroic
action? The answer is yes. A logistic regression analysis testing
implicit theories of personality and the manipulation (so both
the situational variable and personality variable in the same
model) found a significant effect, χ2 = 36.75, df = 3, p < .001,
with a Cox and Snell R2 of .08 and a Nagelkerke R2 of .11.
Testing implicit theory of moral character and the manipulation
produced a significant effect with an even stronger effect size,
χ2 = 41.56, df = 3, p < .001, with a Cox and Snell R2 of .09 and
a Nagelkerke R2 of .12.
Table 1 shows the results of testing main effects and interac-
tions for each measure of implicit theory. The logistic regres-
sion analysis revealed significant main effects for both the ma-
nipulation and implicit theory measures. The main effect of
condition is equivalent to the preceding ANOVA analysis that
confirmed higher perceptions of heroism as risk increased. The
main effect of implicit theory indicates that perceptions of
heroism increases as the implicit theory becomes more entity
orientation. In other words, as predicted, entity theorists per-
ceive the actions are more heroic irrespective of the situational
manipulation of risk levels, consistent with the theorizing be-
hind implicit theories about entity orientation perceiving stable
character, whereas incremental theorists take into account situ-
ational factors such as risk level changing in the situation.
Also as predicted, an interaction occurred between implicit
theory and the situational manipulation. It is not unsurprising
that the interaction occurred for the implicit theory of moral
character rather than the implicit theory of personality as hero-
ism is considered a moral action involving courage, bravery,
and honesty in past research. To help understand the nature of
the interaction, Figure 3 shows the interaction when measuring
heroism as continuous given that logistic regression can’t be
visually depicted as the dependent variable is categorical, al-
though the continuous variable was only a marginal interaction
(p = .11). As seen in Figure 3, incremental theorists are more
influenced by the situational manipulation, as predicted. More-
over, in the absence of information about risk levels (0%), the
greatest difference occurs between entity orientation and in
cremental orientation as the entity belief system is associated
with making stable character inferences from a single instance
Table 1.
Logistic regression results for the categorical measure of heroism.
Logistic results
Implicit theory of personality
B/Exp(B) Wald p-value
Main effect of manipulation .03/1.03 9.55 .002
Main effect of implicit theory .31/1.36 4.15 .04
Interaction .01/1.0 1.83 .18
Logistic Results
Implicit theory of moral
character B/Exp(B) Wald p-value
Main effect of manipulation .04/1.04 14.58 < .001
Main effect of implicit theory .54/1.58 8.42 <.01
Interaction .01/1.0 4.40 .04
Note: Logistic regression involved the categorical (forced-choice) measure be-
tween altruism and heroism. Logistic regression is performed with a dichotomous
measure so the option “neither” was removed for the analysis.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Figure 3.
The interaction between condition and implicit theory is represented
using the continuous measure of heroism. The condition variable ranges
from 0% to 100% risk levels.
of a person’s behavior, even when that behavioral information
is ambiguous.
This study assessed the relationship between the situational
constraint of risk of harm and the personality trait of implicit
theories in their impact on perceptions of heroism. By investi-
gating the situational feature across eleven levels we identified
the unique nature of the relationship between risk of harm and
heroism. Without substantial levels of risk, the respondents
were uncertain and split about whether the act is altruistic, he-
roic, or neither. It is only through the manipulated information
about the risk levels that the perceptions change toward a de-
cidedly increasing level of heroism. Thus, it is the situational
information itself—risk of harm—that alters the perceptions
and transforms the act into distinctly heroic. A related finding is
that the risk levels needed to reach a certain threshold level
before the uncertainty was overcome. Apparently it requires a
certain degree of risk before heroism separates from altruism.
At the same time, personality traits exerted an independent
effect on perceptions of heroism, and an interactive effect with
the situational manipulation. The effect was partly independent
in that entity theorists showed significantly higher perceptions
of heroism consistent with the implicit theory literature into
how entity/incremental belief systems can differentially change
our perceptions of others. The personality variables also inter-
acted with the situational manipulation through information
about the particular level of risk affecting entity and incre-
mental beliefs differently.
As a way to better understand the nature of risk in heroic ac-
tion, the current research identified how the relative degree of
heroism can change based upon potential harm to the actor. In
doing so, the research addressed a gap in the literature and
helped clarify a basic question about the escalating nature of
risk in heroism. Given that a central feature of the various defi-
nitions of heroism involves risk of harm, some have argued that
heroism is defined by excessive risk whereas others have ar-
gued that heroism is more than just risk-related prosocial be-
havior. Along those same lines, some have argued that heroism
involves a broader set of behaviors that “represents a difference
in kind rather than a difference in degree” (Franco, Blau, &
Zimbardo, 2011: p. 104). The present results show that there
are instances where the risk of potential harm can transform
what would otherwise be classified as an ambiguous prosocial
act into a heroic act. In fact, the present research provides a new
component for the debate on “altruism plus risk” argument
given that the respondents did not switch from altruism to
heroism but instead were uncertain in the absence of substantial
risk levels. The escalating risk manipulation provided the basis
for separating altruism from heroism in the forced-choice
measure. In other words, the debate may not be about whether
heroism is “altruism plus risk” when instead it may be that risk
transforms broader prosocial behavior into heroism by separat-
ing it from altruism.
We also agree that heroism may involve a broader set of cir-
cumstances that are different in kind as well as degree Although
in the present research the results showed that heroism had a
clear linear and sizeable relationship with risk of harm, the
human condition invariably affords many situational features
that may separate certain kinds of heroism beyond the exclusive
world of risk-related prosocial behavior. The “insufficient justi-
fication argument” by Franco, Blau & Zimbardo (2011) cer-
tainly warrants future research, for example, in that acceptable
harm or justifiable risk may change the perception of heroism.
However, the very nature of this debate that some situational
aspects produce different kinds of heroism falls in line with the
theorizing of the current paper regarding how situational influ-
ences within the Person x Situation framework can change the
perception of heroism. For example, insufficient justification
for the heroic act can be conceptualized as another feature of
the situation, one that further impacts how perceivers evaluate
the degree of heroism, just as risk of harm is a situational fea-
ture that influenced perceptions of heroism in the current re-
search. Just as different types of heroic acts would invariably
change the exact location of the threshold level before the un-
certainty was overcome, future research could investigate other
situational factors like insufficient justification or any of the
other criteria of the various definitions of heroism. By focusing
on the core commonality among the definitions, the current
research sought to address the underlying aspect of heroism.
Future research could also address other aspects of the heroic
definitions, including how risk of harm influences or competes
with these other definitional aspects. For example, a hero serves
as an upward comparison figure and as such helps define how
an individual should act. As with other upward comparison
there are potential positive responses to such as a comparison
(e.g., inspiration) but also possible negative responses (e.g.,
frustration with the self being not as good/courageous as the
hero). Given the complex decision-making process of per-
son-perception it is important to investigate emotional as well
as cognitive aspects of evaluating heroes, particularly as it re-
lates to weighing competing components. For example, con-
nected to the issue of insufficient justification is the level of
acceptable risk for a heroic act, such as how firefighters, police,
and military personnel are duty-bound by their chosen profes-
sion to engage in prosocial actions to help others in need even
in the presence of immediate peril. Along the same lines, would
otherwise heroic actions be diminished by the presence of sub-
stantial reward for engaging in the behavior? Future research
could independently manipulate the risk level compared to the
reward level to determine if an optimal tipping-point deter-
mines the level of heroism under the circumstances. Many of
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 1089
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
the other definitional features of heroism could be grouped or
classified, in fact, as those situational features that reduce the
perception of heroism once the risk level has established
whether or not heroism has occurred. In other words, risk level
plays a pivotal role establishing whether a prosocial action rises
to the level of heroism, as seen in the present research, and then
other definitional features may begin to offset or reduce those
perceptions with risk-related concepts such as level of reward,
voluntariness of the risk, recognition of the risk, accepting the
risk, and many of the other definitional features. As such, in-
vestigating the competing perceptions has value for under-
standing the nature of heroism and the way in which our arche-
typal schema of heroes is established.
Becker, S. W., & Eagly, A. H. (2004). The heroism of women and men.
American Psychologist, 59, 163-178.
Buhrmester, M., Kwang, T., & Gosling, S. D. (2011). Amazon’s me-
chanical turk: A new source of inexpensive, yet high-quality data?
Perspectives on Psychological S c ience, 6, 3-5.
Chiu, C., Dweck, C. S., Tong, J. Y., & Fu, J. H. (1997). Implicit theo-
ries and conceptions of morality. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 73, 923-940. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.5.923
Chiu, C., Hong, Y., & Dweck, C. S. (1997). Lay dispositionism and
implicit theories of personality. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 73, 19-30. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.73.1.19
Dweck, C. S., Chiu, C., & Hong, Y. (1995). Implicit theories and their
role in judgments and reactions: A world from two perspective. Psy-
chological Inquiry, 6, 267-285. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli0604_1
Dweck, C. S., & Leggett E. L. (1988). A social-cognitive approach to
motivation and personality. Psychological Review, 95, 256-273.
Erdley, C. A., & Dweck, C. S. (1993). Children’s implicit personality
theories as predictors of their social judgments. Child Development,
64, 863-878. doi:10.2307/1131223
Franco, Z. E., Blau, K., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2011). Heroism: A con-
ceptual analysis and differentiation between heroic action and altru-
ism. Review of General Psychology, 1 5 , 99-113.
Funder, D. C. (2001). Personality. Annual Review of Psychology, 52,
197-221. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.197
Gaster, T. (1987). Heroes. In M. Eliade, & C. J. Adams (Ed.), The
encyclopedia of religion (pp. 302-305). New York: Macmillan.
Gervey, B. M., Chiu, C., Hong, Y., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Differential
use of person information in decisions about guilt versus innocence:
The role of implicit theories. Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 25, 17-27. doi:10.1177/0146167299025001002
Getty Images (2012). Art inside a cave depicts the hero twins of Mayan
legend. URL (last checked 9 September 2012).
Hero Etymology (2012). Etymology of hero. URL (last checked 9
September 2012)
Hong, Y., Chiu, C, Dweck, C. S., Lin, D. M., & Wan W. (1999). Im-
plicit theories, attributions, and coping: A meaning system approach.
Journal of Personality a nd Social Psychology, 77, 588-599.
Hong, Y., Levy, S. R., & Chiu, C. (2001). The contribution of the lay
theories approach to the study of groups. Personality and Social
Psychology Review, 5, 98-106. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0502_1
Jayawickreme, E., & Di Stefano, P. (2012). How can we study heroism?
Integrating persons, situations, and communities. Political Psychol-
ogy, 33, 165-178. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2011.00861.x
Levy, S. R., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Trait- versus process-focused
social judgment. Social Cognition, 16, 151-172.
Levy, S. R., Plaks, J. E., & Dweck, C. S. (1999). Modes of social
thought: Person theories and social understanding. In S. Chaiken &
Y. Trope (Eds.), Dual process theories in social psychology. New
York: Guilford.
Levy, S. R., Plaks, J. E., Hong, Y., Chiu, C., & Dweck, C. S. (2001).
Static versus dynamic theories and the perception of groups: Differ-
ent routes to different destinations. Personality and Social Psychol-
ogy Review, 5, 156-168. doi:10.1207/S15327957PSPR0502_6
Levy, S. R., Stroessner, S. J., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Stereotype for-
mation and endorsement: The role of implicit theories. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1421-1436.
Maloney, A. (1999). Preference ratings of images representing arche-
typal themes: An empirical study of the concept of archetypes.
Journal of Analytical Psy cho log y, 44, 101-116.
Mischel, W. (1990). Personality dispositions revisited and revised: A
view after three decades. In L. A. Pervin (Ed.), Handbook of person-
ality: Theory and research (pp. 111-134). New York: Guilford.
Shoda, Y (2004). Individual differences in social psychology: Under-
standing situations to understand people, understanding people to
understand situations. In C. Sanson, C. C. Morf, & A. T. Panter
(Eds.), The sage handbook of methods in social psychology (pp.
117-141). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Staats, S., Hupp, J. M., & Hagley, A. M. (2008). Honesty and heroes: A
positive psychology view of heroism and academic honesty. The
Journal of Psychology, 142, 357-372.
Staats, S., Wallace, H., Anderson, T., Gresley, J., Hupp, J. M., & Weiss,
E. (2009). The hero concept: Self, family, and friends who are brave,
honest, and hopeful. Psychological Reports, 104, 820-832.
Tong, Y., & Chiu, C. (2002). Lay theories and evaluation-based or-
ganization of impressions: An application of the memory search
paradigm. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1518-
1527. doi:10.1177/014616702237579
White, S., & O’Brien, J. (1999). What is a hero? An exploratory study
of students’ conceptions of heroes. Journal of Moral Education, 28,
81-95. doi:10.1080/030572499103322