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Hero Worship: The Elevation of the Human Spirit
Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour (2016)
  • Scott T. Allison
  • George R. Goethals

In this article, we review the psychology of hero development and hero worship. We propose that heroes and hero narratives fulfill important cognitive and emotional needs, including the need for wisdom, meaning, hope, inspiration, and growth. We propose a framework called the heroic leadership dynamic (HLD) to explain how need-based heroism shifts over time, from our initial attraction to heroes to later retention or repudiation of heroes. Central to the HLD is idea that hero narratives fulfill both epistemic and energizing functions. Hero stories provide epistemic benefits by providing scripts for prosocial action, by revealing fundamental truths about human existence, by unpacking life paradoxes, and by cultivating emotional intelligence. To energize us, heroes promote moral elevation, heal psychic wounds, inspire psychological growth, and exude charisma. We discuss the implications of our framework for theory and research on heroism, leadership processes, and positive psychology.
  • heroes,
  • hero worship,
  • heroism,
  • heroic leadership,
  • heroic leadership dynamic,
  • elevation
Publication Date
Citation Information
Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals. "Hero Worship: The Elevation of the Human Spirit" Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour Vol. 46 Iss. 2 (2016) p. 187 - 210
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