Psychology of Heroism

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Kevin Burkardt
Optional Research Paper 1
PSY0010 SEC1150
Dr. Lausberg

“The Psychology of Heroism:
Why Some People Leap in Front of Bullets”

Recently I read this article written by John Cloud in the online Behavior section of Time on August 9th, 2012. Seems like every day acts of violence are becoming more and more random as well as frequent. While this is not a comforting fact it does allow the opportunity to separate the heroes from the rest of us. In an age where someone has carelessly opened fire into a crowded movie theater, it is comforting to know that built in some of us is an unwavering altruistic character. One thing the article pointed out that I had never considered is how hard it would be to study someone considered a “hero.” The main reason being that someone willing to stand in front of the bullet is not around later to be tested.

The other day in class we were discussing the nervous system and I would think by gaining a better understanding of the peripheral nervous system we would have better insight into the mind set of a hero. I think being able to make that self-sacrificing decision in a split second has to be a very unique reaction in the brain since so few people have proven to have this trait. It would seem that by studying the sympathetic region of the autonomic part of the nervous system we could get a better idea of how a hero’s brain operates versus a normal person. In class we talked about how this was the region of the brain where our fight or flight response operates. Since this reaction would be split second I think this area of the brain would have the largest amount of activity, whether it be that neurons are firing more frequently or more effectively.

The more we could determine about how the neurotransmitters are functioning during the fight or flight response the more we will understand about the hero’s brain performance. This would be very valuable information because by understanding how the transmitters are...
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