Approaches to Heroism in Perth

 In Hero Training, Social Psychology

One of the many exciting aspects of heroism science is its interdisciplinary nature. By incorporating elements from the humanities, psychology and scientific method, heroism research seeks to understand heroes and heroic behaviour. 

Our Hero Trainer and co-founder, Sylvia, was recently delivering Youth Mental Health First Aid in Perth. Sylvia was privileged to be invited as a guest as part of the Hero Collective. The evening was organised by heroism researcher Olivia Efthimiou, who brought together leaders and heroism researchers in the community.

Hero Collective Conference

The first chapter in Efthimiou’s PhD paper, titled Heroism Science: Frameworks for an Emerging Field, explores the influences and disciplinary approaches to heroism science. By exploring Efthimiou’s findings, we hope to highlight the importance of heroism as the foundation of what we do at Hero Town Geelong.

Originating from the Humanities

The concept of heroism is a famous literary device that is overwhelming present in nearly every work of fiction. From the mighty heroes of Greek myth to modern examples such as Harry Potter, we root for heroes and wish for them to succeed. Based off the concept of the “monomyth”, Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces mapped the structure of the Hero’s Journey. As we have discovered, the Hero’s Journey is integral to understanding heroism in our daily lives.

Story and particularly mythology, as Efthimiou notes, is ultimately epistemic in nature. Epistemic refers to knowledge and its acquisition. Telling stories engages readers to grow their understanding about the world, other people, and ourselves. For Efthimiou, this goal of knowledge-making links story with psychological inquiry.

A Psychological Perspective

Even before the study of heroism science was developed, social psychologists have explored what drives people to do good. Both Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Carl Rogers prioritised self-actualisation as the basic motivator for humankind. They propose that:

People are driven to fulfil their greatest potentialities and that these self-actualizations include the heroic ideal of devotion to service to the world.

Following Dr. Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment, Zimbardo turned his research to the opposite phenomenon. Interested in everyday heroism, Zimbardo and Zeno Franco published The Banality of Heroism. With the foundation of the Heroic Imagination Project, heroism science became legitimised as an area of scientific research.

We are now witnessing attempts to deconstruct and illuminate the complexities of the phenomenon via the use of psychological testing and measurement methods and its rigorous scientific observation.

Heroism as a Science

Using psychological testing and measurement methods, Efthimiou argues that research into heroic actions can be considered a science. The data and research into heroism is a driving force behind developing our understanding of heroism. Concepts such as the bystander effect have been crucial to understanding the motivations for and the restrictions on heroic behaviour.

The study of heroism is crucial not just for understanding human psychology, but for creating a heroic world. As Efthimiou concludes, “heroism science becomes a baseline for building a heroic world and an inquiry into creative and expansive possibilities for individuals, communities, and the ecosphere.” At Hero Town, we implement the findings of Efthimiou and other heroism researchers in our Hero Training to help build individuals to becoming heroes. We seek to build a heroic world by empowering people to become a force of positive change for their community, and for themselves.

The Future of Heroism: Research and Application

Given this environment, we are delighted to join the Hero Collective in Perth, aimed at bringing together researchers and trainers, vulnerable populations and support organisations, business and community leaders, to empower everyday heroes. Perth’s everyday heroes will create positive changes in themselves, their communities, and the world. We’d humbled by the opportunity to provide support along their journeys. If you’d like to be involved, reach out!

Steph Downing
Stephanie Downing is the administrative assistant for Hero Town Geelong. Born and raised in Geelong, Australia, Stephanie is a graduate of Deakin University with her Honours degree in Professional and Creative Writing. She adores words of all sorts and is especially infatuated with the medium of poetry and fiction, with publications of her work being featured in magazines such as WORDLY Magazine, Plumwood Mountain Journal and Cordite Poetry Review.
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