Mind What You Do?

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no its Superman!  No matter what age, even junior high kids know this phrase and most people revere Superman as a hero.

What about modern day heroes?  Some people may shout out “Madonna” or “Jackie Chan” but these are celebrities not heroes. Today the meaning of hero has become abased.  It no longer means a person admired for their noble qualities or great courage; it connotes a successful person who many people know and “look” up to.  There is no specific trait that one has to have except popularity.

How can the average “Joe” become a hero?  What if understanding micro facial expressions can aid in becoming heroic? Can science really help create heroes?

A nonprofit organization the Heroic Imagination Project seems to think so.  According to the Wall Street Journal, this nonprofit is putting science and decades of research to the test.

Stanford psychologist and founder of the organization, Dr. Philip Zimbardo believes that heroes are just ordinary people and that people can be taught to acquire hero qualities through training.  He purports, “We’ve been saddled…with this mystical view of heroism.  We assume heroes are demigods…A hero is just an ordinary person who does something extraordinary.  I believe we can use science to teach people how to do that.”

Dr. Zimbardo is the scientist that was behind the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (see video below) that showed how liberal undergrads could be turned into vicious prison guards.

Currently, Zimbaro has a hero training program which lasts for four weeks, at which point the participants take a “hero pledge”.

The training is being targeted to adolescents, but Dr. Zimbardo also plans to develop seminars for business executives and young children.  The first lessons focus on human flaws that allow for bad behavior. For example, how people blindly follow authority even if it goes against their moral reasoning.  Then students are trained to be more empathetic and aware of other people’s emotions.  This is where microexpressions are used.  There are a couple more stages to the training that focus on ideal hero characteristics and implementation of good deeds.

Several pilot programs have begun in middle schools across the Bay Area, and Dr. Zimbardo would like to have a hero project in every city.  He affirms, “One of the problems with our culture is that we’ve replaced heroes with celebrities.  We worship people who haven’t done anything.  It’s time to get back to focusing on what matters, because we need real heroes more than ever.”

One response to “Mind What You Do?”

  1. Russ Conte says:

    Very interesting idea! Obviously we can use more real heros in our society. It will be interesting to see how the training in microexpressions helps along the way.

    I don’t recall in the original experiment that the college students were selected for being “liberal”, as the blog post claims, “…showed how liberal undergrads could be turned into vicious prison guards.” Maybe they were in a liberal arts program at the time?

    It would be good to follow up with this to see the results, and if other schools are able to successfully replicate the program.

    Russ Conte

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