Adaptive Foundations of Heroism: Social Heuristics Push Advantageous Everyday Ethical Behavior to Heroic Extremes

Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership (2016) Eds. Allison ST, Goethals G, Kramer R. London, UK: Routledge Publishing. ISBN 978113891565.

20 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2016 Last revised: 18 Mar 2016

See all articles by Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology

David G. Rand

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Date Written: March 17, 2016

Abstract

We argue that heroism is typically adaptive everyday ethical behavior taken to the extreme by over-generalization. We discuss three types of ethical principles with the properties of being cooperative, adaptive in the context of everyday life, but not in one’s self-interest when taken to the extreme: justice — behaviors concerned with fairly distributing resources; solidarity — behaviors concerned with group-beneficial self-sacrifice; and pacifism — behaviors concerned with the avoidance of harming others. Because these behaviors are typically individually adaptive, they become automatized as social heuristics. These heuristics may then be (mis)applied in settings where cooperating is long-run costly to the individual, resulting in heroism.

Keywords: heroism, evolution, morality, ethics, game theory, social heuristics

JEL Classification: C70, C71, C72, D70, D71

Suggested Citation

Kraft-Todd, Gordon T. and Rand, David G., Adaptive Foundations of Heroism: Social Heuristics Push Advantageous Everyday Ethical Behavior to Heroic Extremes (March 17, 2016). Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership (2016) Eds. Allison ST, Goethals G, Kramer R. London, UK: Routledge Publishing. ISBN 978113891565.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2727205

Gordon T. Kraft-Todd

Yale University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

David G. Rand (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.daverand.org

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