Factors that influence heroic action

Which has a more powerful effect on behavior, personality or situation? Questions like these drive social psychologists to find out what’s happening when ordinary people take, for better or worse, extraordinary action.

When details of the Abu Ghraib Prison Scandal became publicized in 2004, many were struck by parallels to the Stanford Prison Study. Among them was Dr. Zimbardo, the Stanford psychologist who authored the study 30 years earlier.

These events brought renewed attention to the line between good and evil, showing once again that it’s easier to cross than one might expect. While much of Zimbardo’s early work focused on understanding the psychology of evil, he recently shifted his focus to the nature of heroism.

The following article discusses this work and the various factors that influence heroic action. This discussion will be a regular and video discussion. You will use your textbook, as well as the following videos: