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Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them [Hardcover]

by Scott T. Allison, George R. Goethals
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 29, 2010 0199739749 978-0199739745 1
Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, Rick in Casablanca--why do we perceive certain people as heroes? What qualities do we see in them? What must they do to win our admiration? In Heroes, Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals offer a stimulating tour of the psychology of heroism, shedding light on what heroism and villainy mean to most people and why heroes--both real people and fictional characters--are so vital to our lives. The book discusses a broad range of heroes, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, Senator Ted Kennedy, and explorer Ernest Shackleton, plus villains such as Shakespeare's Iago. The authors highlight the Great Eight traits of heroes (smart, strong, selfless, caring, charismatic, resilient, reliable, and inspiring) and outline the mental models that we have of how people become heroes, from the underdog who defies great odds (David vs. Goliath) to the heroes who redeem themselves or who overcome adversity. Brimming with psychological insight, Heroes provides an illuminating look at heroes--and into our own minds as well.

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Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them + What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness
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Editorial Reviews


"An important contribution to the literature on schemas, social cognition, and
self-identity." -PsycCRITIQUES

About the Author

Scott T. Allison is Professor of Psychology at the University of Richmond.

George R. Goethals holds the E. Claiborne Robins Distinguished Professorship in Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 1 edition (October 29, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199739749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199739745
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #918,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Scott Allison is Professor of Psychology at the University of Richmond. His research focuses on human belief systems about heroes, villains, legends, leaders, underdogs, and martyrs. He has published nearly 100 articles and four books on heroes: (1) Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them, published in 2011 by Oxford University Press; (2) Heroic Leadership: A Taxonomy of 100 Exceptional Individuals, published in 2013 by Routledge; (3) Reel Heroes, Volume 1, published in 2014 by Agile Writers; and (4) Conceptions of Leadership, to be published in 2015 by Palgrave Macmillan. His work has been featured in media outlets such as National Public Radio, USA Today, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Slate Magazine, MSNBC, CBS, the Christian Science Monitor, and Psychology Today. He is the recipient of the University of Richmond's Distinguished Educator Award and the Virginia Council of Higher Education's Outstanding Faculty Award.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking August 24, 2011
Heroes: What They Do & Why We Need Them is, to use an overly clichéd phrase, a thought provoking essay on the nature of heroism. More than once I found myself putting the book down and mulling over the points Allison and Goethals were making. Encompassing everything from myths to contemporary fictional heroes the book delves into what makes a hero and more importantly how society at large views them and states the traits often associated with them. The books is easily accessible due to the examples of contemporary heroes but the subject is never dumbed-down. I recommend that you not only read this book but discuss it as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Where Does Heroism Come From? October 16, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book had me hooked at the introduction, in which the authors choose to highlight Rick, my namesake from Casablanca, as their quintessential hero. This is my favorite movie for many reasons, but primarily because Rick's climactic act of selflessness is one of the most inspiring examples of cinematic heroism.

Beyond that, Heroes is a book that inspires in its own right. Throughout its chapters we are shown many heroes and types of heroes (some we may not agree with, but the authors do not shy away from controversy, nor are they parochial in their examples) and given thoughtful insights into the circumstances and psychology, enduring and ephemeral, that define them. Ultimately, we see that heroism is both grand and personal, and that the potential to be superhuman is in all of us.

In this current age, where so much of our culture is mired in darkness and the focus is on celebrities and characters that are corrupt and contemptible, this book is a breath of fresh air. Read it, give it as a gift, spread it around. The authors also have a blog where they regularly feature profiles of courage from around the world, as well as from history and literature; it can be found at the University of Richmond website under the same name as the book.
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