Brain food: The Psychology of Heroism

By Aditya Chakrabortty from The Guardian

"Of all the virtues, heroism is now the most remote. Heroes are either mythic or historical characters (Achilles or Gandhi) or they are superhuman (Spider-Man, or even 9/11 firefighters). What they are not is one of us. Our age has role models and it has celebrities, but it has no room for heroes.

Fighting to revive heroism is Philip Zimbardo, the septuagenarian who is probably the most famous living psychologist in the world. Zimbardo built his career on the study of evil; in 1971, he led the Stanford Prison Experiment, where long-haired students were put in a mock jail and divvied up as prisoners or guards at random. Within a few days, the "guards" were humiliating their "prisoners", refusing some permission to urinate and subjecting others to simulated sodomy.

That experiment and others convinced Zimbardo that ordinary people could be driven to evil acts if put in horrific situations. His latest work flips that principle and asks: how can normal folk be made to behave heroically?"

Read the article.

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons.

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