Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour
Social Judgment; Helping/Prosocial Behavior; Actor-Observer; Self-Other Differences;
Heroic acts are prosocial actions that involve extreme sacrifice and risk. Such acts receive near-ubiquitous praise. However, the present article suggests that one group refrains from praising heroic acts—heroes themselves.Using self-reflections provided in news reports, Experiment 1 finds that people who actually saved others’ lives do not view themselves as positively as they should according to outside observers. Experiment 2 measures participants’ recollections of their own extreme prosocial acts and finds that self-evaluations are less positive than observers’ evaluations. Experiment 3 finds that participants who imagine themselves performing a heroic act evaluate it less positively than participants who observe the same act.Experiments 2–3 identify differences in perceptions of personal burden as a mechanism — whereas observers believe that acting heroically involves extreme personal burden, actors view their personal burden as relatively unimportant. Being a hero is a distinctly less positive experience than observing one.