The psychology of heroes: antecedents and consequences of combat-decorated war heroism

Brian Wansink, Koert van Ittersum, Collin R. Payne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


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.

The psychology of heroes: Antecedents and consequences of combat-decorated war heroism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychology of war
EditorsE.M. Alvarez, A.J. Escobar
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc, Hauppauge, NY, USA.
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

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