In this book, heroism experts George R. Goethals and Scott T. Allison explore how the romantic conception of heroes is constructed, both in real life and in our heads.
Here is an excerpt from the Introductory chapter:
“We adopt an approach that we call the romance of heroes. Merriam-Webster defines romance as an emotional attraction, or special quality or feeling that comes from a person, place, or thing. The verb form of romance is to exaggerate or invent detail. This book explores these processes as they operate in our human perception of heroism. We assume that people are motivated to actively construct reality from incomplete information. There is a long history of theory and research in social perception and social cognition to support this idea.”
“We also assume, based on our own research, that people are motivated to have heroes (Allison & Goethals, 2011). Our contention in this book is that our love of heroes is so strong that we could call it a romantic longing. Merriam-Webster reminds us that this longing is a strong emotional attraction that may cause mental exaggeration or invention. Our desire and drive to designate people as heroes may be subject to distortion and to motivated perception under conditions of uncertainty. We’ll also explore how this tendency to exaggerate or invent in response to strong motives can contribute to our construction of villains as well as heroes.”
Looking at the dichotomy of heroism and villainy, the authors offer insights into Donald Trump’s ascension to the US presidency, particularly detailing the correspondence between the needs of the US public and the promises the former reality TV star made in reply.
Goethals and Allison also consider how three highly charismatic men dramatically and fundamentally changed American society in the mid-20th century — Martin Luther King, Jr., Elvis Presley, and Muhammad Ali, called here The Three Kings.
This exciting and innovative book explores how charisma and human needs create romantic images of individuals as heroes and villains. For researchers and students of psychology and leadership, this is a fundamental text on the creation of both genuine heroes and false idols.
This book is now available for purchase at Amazon.com.
Goethals, G. R., & Allison, S. T. (2019). The romance of heroism and heroic leadership. West Yorkshire: Emerald.