Sunday, December 22, 2013

Can anyone be a Superhero?

Almost every week, movie and TV screens are filled with new or repackaged superheroes. Audiences flock to see them. What’s the appeal? When we hear about real life heroes like Sully Sullenberger, or Wesley Autrey, who who jumped onto NY subway tracks to save man from an oncoming train, we are captivated.

Perhaps our fascination is because we can’t ever imagine ourselves exercising such a degree of selflessness. We might fantasize about being a hero, but don't think we have the right stuff.

Today science, genetics, and social psychology tells us we all, under the right circumstances and with the right experience, have what it takes.

Elizabeth Svoboda, in What Makes a Hero?: The Surprising Science of Selflessness, examines how biology, upbringing and external influences all converge to produce altruistic and heroic behavior.

My conversation with Elizabeth Svoboda:

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