Saturday, October 21, 2017

Two Kinds of Heroes

Doing something boring for the Army (waiting for Reserve Soldiers to check into a building), I happened to find out something really interesting via reading an old magazine lying around, something worthy of a blog post.
A scientific study conducted interviews with WWII veterans--the group including veterans who had been highly decorated for valor. The purpose was specifically to determine what the relationship was between leadership traits and heroism, with the presumption that the WWII survey results would be broadly applicable to heroes in all wars (which makes sense, but may not actually be true).
The study did find, as I imagined the people who created it expected, that veterans who described themselves as “strong leaders” were more likely to have received a reward for valor than those who did not describe themselves that way. That particular factoid didn’t really interest me.
What did catch my eye is the fact the study found there were two different personality types that won awards for valor.
One type they described as the “eager enlistee.” The eager enlistee had tremendous enthusiasm for joining the war and taking part in combat. The number one personality trait that identified “eager enlistee” heroes is that they were natural risk-takers. They described themselves as having a past record of taking risks that other people do not normally take prior to ever being in combat. 
Another type they described as the “reluctant enlistee.” Reluctant enlistees had no particular enthusiasm for war but joined the military because they were drafted (other situations like joining out of financial hardship may also have applied). The number one personality trait that identified “reluctant enlistees” who had performed acts of great heroism was selflessness. Reluctant heroes described themselves as having a trait that would give them a track record of putting the needs of others first and caring more about other people prior to entering into combat (and who would seem to have performed acts of heroism to save the lives of those they served with).

While both eager enlistees and reluctant enlistees were better leaders than average according to this study, isn’t it interesting that people demonstrated to have performed heroics fell into two distinct types? The eager to fight risk-takers and the deeply loyal self-sacrificers?

May this observation help you reading this to create interesting story heroes. :)

By the way, the study can be found at



  1. This is interesting. I did a thing on fairy tales, about the difference between male characters. Most people assume that fairy tales all feature princes--young men, kind of cardboard cut-outs, only there for the altar call of the happily ever after. But a good fairy tale will either have a young king or a soldier of fortune as the hero. These men are always very well rounded, but they also fit these two roles. The young kings are the loyal self-sacrificers, and the soldiers of fortune are the eager risk-takers (who are usually trying to settle into civilian life and need a bigger challenge).

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