The Psychology of Heroes: Antecedents and Consequences of Combat-Decorated War Heroism

International Journal of Psychology Research, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2011

2 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2014

Date Written: July 13, 2011

Abstract

Which soldier in a platoon is most likely to be a future hero? A unique, proprietary survey of 526 World War II combat veterans shows two distinct profiles of combat-decorated veterans. While both rate highly on three common personality characteristics – leadership, loyalty, and risk-taking – the strength of these dimensions vary between those who were eager to enlist (eager heroes) versus those who were drafted or otherwise reluctant to enlist (reluctant heroes). While one might look more like John Wayne in The Green Berets, the second looks more like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. These findings offer two key contributions. Conceptually, these profiles in heroism can help us better understand leadership in crisis situations. Operationally, these profiles may aid recruiters of future soldiers – along with fire fighters, police officers, and rescue workers – by knowing what characteristics in potential employees might best reflect the potential for heroic leadership. They also offer insights as to how training can develop heroic potential.

Keywords: Heroism, Hero, Values, Military, World War II

Suggested Citation

Wansink, Brian and van Ittersum, Koert and Payne, Collin R., The Psychology of Heroes: Antecedents and Consequences of Combat-Decorated War Heroism (July 13, 2011). International Journal of Psychology Research, Volume 7, Issue 4, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2473788

Brian Wansink (Contact Author)

Retired ( email )

607-319-0123 (Phone)

Koert Van Ittersum

University of Groningen ( email )

Postbus 72
9700 AB Groningen
Netherlands

Collin R. Payne

Cornell University ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853
United States

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