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
Date Written: March 17, 2016
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: Suggested Citation