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The Making of Heroes: An Attributional Perspective

Author(s): Gregory C. Gibson, Richard Hogan, John Stahura and Eugene Jackson
Source: Sociological Focus, Vol. 40, No. 1 (February 2007), pp. 72-97
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20832317
Accessed: 11-12-2015 21:31 UTC
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The Making of Heroes:


An AttributionalPerspective

C Gibson
Gregory
RichardHogan
JohnStahura
EugeneJackson
PurdueUniversity

we investigatethe
Throughtheuse ofposed vignettesina telephonesurvey,
ofheroes.We examine theextenttowhich respondentsattribute
construction
heroes: ToddBeamer,
herostatus to three
potential9/11and "waron terrorism"
W.
Private
and
President
Bush.
Jessica
Lynch,
Army
George
Findingssuggest
natureand therarity
theimportance
of theextraordinary
ofactbn(s)performed
by
ofherostatus; theroleofclass, status,and partyinthe
heroes intheattribution
ofwhatshouldbe done ineach
attribution
process; and themoralconsideration
the
ofattribution
In
indicates
the
forthe
theory
utility
posed vignette. addition, study
of
heroism
of
in
examination
and
the
normative
constructs
viability
sociological
examining heroic behavior.

the terrorist attack of 9/11 and the subsequent wars inAfghanistan and
has received much mass media coverage and clearly warrants greater
heroism
Iraq,
attention by scholars. Every day, many people put their lives on the line to save others
Between

or to

are dear to them, but they are not


uphold principles that
always perceived as
heroes. This research explores the social construction of heroism, particularly the case
of reputed heroism in the course of professional versus nonprofessional
roles.We
to
events
actions
linked
of
three
the
the
of
9/11 and the
present
persons
triggering
on Terrorism

campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq: Todd Beamer, Army Private


to what extent
and
President
Jessica Lynch,
George W. Bush, and ask how and
they
achieved the status of "hero" in the eyes of the general public. Data from a national

War

our expectation that


telephone survey conducted during the spring of 2004 support
as
in harms way, doing
Todd
who
themselves
Beamer)
(such
place
nonprofessionals
what is right under conditions where most people would fail to act, are, in the eyes of
the general public, heroes. Even so, it seems that class, status, and, of course, partisan

ship shape judgmentonwho shouldbe honored as heroes.

'Direct all correspondence to Greg Gibson, Purdue University,Department of Sociology


and Anthropology, 700 West State Street, Room 337, West Lafayette, IN 47907; e-mail:
gibsong@cla.purdue.edu.

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THE
OFHEROES
MAKING

73

DEFINING
HEROISM
as heroism ranges from short-term
as those
qualifies
life-threatening acts, such
to
honored by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
(Gibson 2003),
long-term,
acts
in
or
for
of
courage
up
repeated
standing
principles, despite political
personal
consequences, such as those that John F. Kennedy (1961) has immortalized. Students
of altruism and prosocial behavior view heroism as the ultimate act of altruism?

What

puttingones lifeon the lineto save the lifeof another(Gibson 2003; Oliner 2003).

an endowment established
Fund Commission,
Carnegie Hero
by Andrew
rescue
a
in
efforts
1904 coal mine explosion, echoes this
Carnegie because of heroic
ones life on the line?in
status: Ma civilian who
criterion?putting
awarding hero
or her own life,
an
to
his
risks
voluntarily
knowingly,
extraordinary degree while
or
to save the life of another person is
saving
attempting
eligible for recognition by

The

theCarnegieHero Fund Commission" (Gibson 2003:3). The CarnegieHero Fund

excludes acts of heroism performed by uniformed heroes or paid


that
is, the military, police officers, and fire fighters, although itmade an
persons,
exception for heroes of 9/11.
Durkheim (1951) pioneered sociological research on altruism and prosocial behavior
with his work on suicide. Durkheims model of suicide centered on two dimensions of
Commission

a social actor is a member of a group; and


society. (1) integration?the degree towhich
"normative or moral demands" experienced by a member of a
(2) regulation?the
an ideal type, "altruistic suicide" is a social action per
group (Bearman 1991:503). As
formed for the sake of a group and denotes high integration. Altruistic suicide, particu
or "heroic" forms, is associated with
military service (Durkheim
larly in its "voluntary"
are
where
heroes
uniformed
1951:228, 240),
(2003) includes
professionals. Oliner
distin
these professional heroes, but only in exceptional events. Oliner (2003:21-22)

on payment and duration of heroic activities:


guishes three categories of heroes, based

(1) paid professionals(military,


police,firefighters)inone timeeventsof shortdura

tion, (2) unpaid nonprofessional people (civilians) in one time events of short duration,
e.g., Todd Beamer, and (3) unpaid nonprofessionals in events of long duration (e.g., res

cuers of Jews inNazi Germany). Using these criteria, the


long duration, routine profes
sional activities of soldiers or police would not qualify as heroic.
Yet we assert that people might be seen as heroes without risking life and limb. For
is still
many Americans, Abraham Lincoln (140 years after the end of the Civil War),
considered a hero because (1) his lifewas threatened from themoment he took office
to the time he was assassinated, and (2) he continued to press on with the Civil War
in the face of military fiascos and staunch opposition
(Holzer 2004). Thus, we can
add toOliner s (2003) criteria the idea of "presumed courage"; that is,heroism can be
and has been applied to acts that, over time, culminate in great accomplishments,

no
to oneself. One ques
despite the objections of others, with
recognizable benefit
tion we address in this research iswhether Americans take the same broad view of
heroism, recognizing courage even without physical danger.
Heroism
should, however, be limited to cases where deeds exceed the typical
termed "transcending
of
response
persons in similar situations, what Klapp (1954:57)

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74

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

the mediocre."

"Hero"

upon the person who performs these


in our culture is an honored status when other

is the title bestowed

acts. The title "hero"


extraordinary
members of the culture bestow "homage, commemoration,
celebration, and venera
can
as
the
values
heroes
reflect
and moral exemplary
Insofar
tion" (Klapp 1954:57).

idealsof a givensociety,theyareoftenviewedas "moralbeacons" (Porpora1996:210)

or "the standard bearers of the 'best'" (Schwartz 1969:82). Additionally, heroes can
serve as role models for others by virtue of their status, honor, and reflection of cul
tural values. This is exemplified in the recent death of professional football player Pat

Tillman, who gave up a lucrative contract and the potential for athletic fame and
to serve in the U.S. Army as a Ranger inAfghanistan. War heroes likeTillman
glory
can be important sources of psychological gratification for societal members (Elkin
1955:98), even if the heroic act was not an act ofwill. Tillman did not choose to die.
Jessica Lynch did not choose to be captured by the enemy. Nevertheless, we consider

thepossibilitythatLynch (likeTillman) could be considereda hero,even thoughshe

a
large extent, victim.
For purposes of this paper, we shall define heroism broadly, as performing "excep
'life and
tional acts of courage or bravery that might involve great risk?including

was,

to a

limb'" (Todd Beamer and PrivateJessicaLynch).We will includeacts performedby


bothprofessional(Private
JessicaLynchandPresident
GeorgeW. Bush) and nonprofes
sional persons (Todd Beamer). These can be acts of either shortduration (Todd

Beamer) or long duration (Jessica Lynch and George W. Bush), which are acts ofwill or
volition (Beamer and Bush) or actions uncontrolled by victims of circumstance
to situations where
(Lynch). Although the above hero criteria generally limit heroism

there
GeorgeW.
might be riskto lifeand limb,we have elected to includePresident

Bush for consideration based on the assertion that lor some people, Bush has shown
courage and bravery against individuals, organizations, and nations opposed to his
stance on Iraq. Based on the literature,we suspect thatmore respondents will agree that
Todd Beamer is really a hero, compared to Jessica Lynch and George W. Bush, because
he was a nonprofessional who acted willingly at risk to life and limb in a short-term
effort to save the lives of others. We also suspect that President George W. Bush will
receive lower hero ratings since his actions did not pose great risk to his own life and

confirming these expectations, the challenge is to determine how and


why respondents might agree that any of these persons might be heroes.
limbs. Beyond

THEORETICAL
PERSPECTIVES
RoleTheory
we examinewhen and why people bestow the statusof hero upon
In thisstudy,

persons performing professional or nonprofessional roles. For sociologists, "roles"


have been analyzed largely from either structural or constructionist approaches, but
of roles have served to bridge this gap in the literature
Meadian
conceptualizations

(Callero 1986, 1994). According toMead, a role isboth a "socialobject,"which is

socially constructed,

and a "perspective," which

is adopted

but then operates as an

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THEMAKING
OF HEROES

75

external constraint

and Piliavin 1987:248). Viewed


as socially
(Callero, Howard,
"social objects," roles are performed in a community
setting, within
these roles are "dependent upon social interaction for their existence" (Callero

constructed
which

1986:346). Nevertheless, the communitysetting is not simply the site of role

performances but also the repository of available

roles and definitions of situations

withinwhich rolesmight be more or lessappropriately


performed(GofTman1974).
The

"perspective" feature of roles entails the constraints associated with role-taking,


the community standards or expectations for behavior in roles, which represent
structural influences at both the individual and the community levels. For Mead,

roles exist as "objectively real features of the social environment" (Callero 1986:346).
This aspect of roles helps actors organize perceptions, influence future actions in the
community setting, and frame the social world (Callero et al. 1987).

Actors "self-identify"
with the rolestheyadopt or performand labelothersby the

roles they are performing. Thus

roles are an important component

of the self. "Role

personmerger" is the termused byRalph Turner (1978) todescribe theprocessof


rolesbeing adopted to define oneself.As Callero et al, (1986:249) indicate,the
notion of role-person merger

iswell developed theoretically in the work of sociolo


gists, particularly Rosenberg ("role centrality") and Stryker ("identity salience").
to Burke and Reitzes (1981), a social actors
According
identity?his or her sense
a
of self?depends
the
roles
and
there
is
link between identity and
upon
performed,
role performance: others evaluate ones actions and determine their appropriateness
for the individuals identity. In this way, others evaluate a social actors action (role

a standard of action deemed


appropriate for the role selected
performance) against
and portrayed by the social actor. This evaluative component provides a normative or
"should" perspective to role behavior by casting light on how a person "ought" to

behave

in a particular role (Thoits

1986:259);

that is, addressing whether or not one

has learnedtheproperrolepatternforthegiven role (Znaniecki 1965). In the social

community, there is an implied link between self-identity, other-identity, and perfor


mance that appears to be situated in common or shared
meanings among social actors
In
and
Reitzes
this
researchers
have posited the notion of
(Burke
1981:85).
regard,
"role consistency" or the degree of congruency between the role selected and ones
role performance (Burke and Reitzes 1981; Stets and Burke 1996). Since we view
heroism as exceptional courage or bravery, the "normative" and the "consistent" are
critical concepts thatwe shall borrow from these authors to apply in our analysis.
To

date, structural symbolic interactionism (Stryker 2002; Stryker and Macke


has been primarily concerned with an individuals sense of self.We believe,
however, that role theory and structural symbolic interactionism can be usefully
extended to take into account features individuals may share with others, particularly
characteristics that one can identifywith in another person. We believe this is impor
1978:58)

tant and relevant to our research because

in the vignettes we pose, characteristics of


the actor, including class, status, and party (Weber 1978) may be important reference
group markers for the respondents (Merton 1957, chapter 8). When
respondents
or match the characteristics of individuals in our
we believe
with
vignettes,
identify
that these characteristics become pertinent and influence how respondents formulate

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FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

76

their judgment of hero status. This

is, in fact, consistent with Webers

discussion

(1978, Vol. II: 932-933) of how statuscommunitieshonor theirmembers.Only

of the same status community would


another member.

members

honor

the exemplary behavior of

Structural symbolic interactionism does not provide a roadmap for how character
istics of selfmight affect judgments of others, so we have chosen to supplement role
is oriented toward the judgments and assess
theory with attribution theory, which

ments

that people make

about others.

Attribution
Theory
Building upon Heiders (1958) pioneering formulations,psychologicallyfocused
ideas regarding the causality of behavior
peoples
an
actors
behavior, attribution theorists posit that
(Brown 1986a). By observing
to
to
the
"trace
causal
factors for the behavior under their
back"
people attempt
In this tracing back process,
examination
and DeLamater
1999).
(Michener
attribution

theorists examine

attribution

theorists startwith

in relation to the behavior

two primary causal "locations" termed "causal locus"


of an actor?(1)
internal and (2) external (Eccles and

Wigfield 2002). According toHoward and Levinson (1985:192), an internallocus


refers to the "ability, efforts, or intentions" of the behaving actor, while an external
locus refers to "task-related factors, [or] luck." Generally speaking, an internal locus
presents the actor as causal agent, while an external locus views situational factors as
the causal agent.
Actions
that generalize

actions

across social actors are termed


"high consensus," while
are
low ingeneralizability across social actors
termed "low consensus" (Brown

1986a;Michener andDeLamater 1999).Weiner (2000) posits twoadditionalcausal

(1) stability, and (2) controllability. "Stability" refers to the duration of the
is,whether or not a cause changes over time. "Controllability" refers to
what extent an actor can change or affect the
the changeability of the cause?to
results of an event, or towhat extent causal factors related to an event are beyond an
actors control, termed "uncontrollability" (Wilson, Cruz, Marshall, and Rao 1993).
For example, some attribution theorists view "ability" as internal and stable, while

properties:
cause?that

as internal and unstable (Eccles and


viewing "effort"
Wigfield 2002:117).
Salience in perception is a critical factor. According to Brown (1986b:

182?183),
an actors behavior becomes salient to the observer,
for
setting
"there should be overestimation of the power of the situation" (external locus). Of
course the opposite would also be true: when the actor becomes salient, overestima

when

the situational

tion of the actor (internal locus) occurs. Brown (1986) suggests that the process of
rests with either the situation or the actor
most salient.
being
attributing causality
actors
or
actions attributes causality to the
behavior
Accordingly, noticing only the

actor; when noticing only "expressive behaviors, not gross actions" causality tends to
be attributed to situational factors (Brown 1986b: 190).
a
we
sociological perspective,
Turning our discussion of attribution theory toward
note

(2000) reminds us that behaviors occur in settings rich in social


social settings obviously include other social actors within the broader

thatWeiner

aspects. These

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THE
OFHEROES
MAKING

77

social structural landscape of society. In her work on responsibility judgments, Hamil


ton (1978) argues for the inclusion of what a social actor does and what a social actor
should have done. For judgment of causality, this implies a union of what an actor actu
a
structure: what an actor
to do
comparative normative
ally does (behavior) and
ought

or shouldhavedone (Hamilton 1978:316;Hamilton and Sanders 1981).As Hamilton


argues, the sociological site or concept for comparisons of normative behaviors and
a sense of
are "roles." For
expectations
sociologists, roles provide
ordering and/or order
liness for a society.As such, roles can be seen as the site for inspection of the "normative

order" (Hamilton 1978:321). This usage of "roles" as providing a normative order is in


treatment of
"ought": "oughts
alignment with Hamilton's discussion of Heider's (1958)
are neither internal nor external sources of action; instead, they are internalmanifesta
tions of an external social or moral order" (Hamilton 1978:321; emphasis in original).

to a social actor?
Simply put, examination of responsibility?attributing responsibility
an actors roles,
expected role behavior (appropriate), and the
requires inspection of
actors actual "deeds" (Sanders et al. 1996). Additionally, the judgments of
responsibility
for an action can be affected by the observers social structural position. Hamilton

(1978) suggests that ones social class, level of education, and occupation can be impor
tant demographic variables to consider in studying the process of judgment formation.
This sociological perspective on the attribution process complements the social psycho
in consideration of status or reference groups
logical work considered above, especially
and role consistency and norms.
to the tenets of attribution
According

can
theory, we
hypothesize how others
attribute causal factors to behaviors and events. This is accomplished by determining
the following: (1) locus (internal or external; actor or situation), (2) consensus (com
or most social actors do, or the
monality among social actors; that is, something many
or not
to
specific actors), (3) stability (whether
uniqueness of the action being confined
towhich a
over time), and (4) controllability (the
or can
a cause
change
degree
changes
causal factor is under the control of the social actor). According toHamilton's sociolog

ical insights into the attribution process, we are presented with a comparison mecha
nism for attributing judgment for behavior. This comparison mechanism consists of the
actual doings of a social actor and the normative standard implied in roles and role per
formance expectations. The role performance expectations ("oughts" and "shoulds") are
to the actual behavior. Thus Hamilton's
insights into the attribution process
compared
a viable
interac
bridge between the sociologically oriented structural symbolic
provide
or
the
role
and
reference
tionism, supplemented by
group theory,
psychologically ori
we
shall require inmaking
ented attribution theory.This is just the sort of bridge that
sense of heroism in theminds of the general public.

HYPOTHESES
In Table
propose

1we present hypothesized conditions for the vignettes. In each vignette we


to examine the presence of these conditions: being (1) "in harms way," (2)

role,and (3) performingtheactionsof thepotentialhero's


being ina nonprofessional
own volition.

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78

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

Table 1. Hypothesized
Conditions
Conditions
inVignette
Hypothesized
Potential
Hero

LToddBeamer

2. JessicaLynch
3. President
GeorgeBush

InHarm's

Way

Nonprofesslonal

Role

? ?
?
/

Acted of

OwnVolition

In examining the condition "in harms


(2003)
way," we are relying upon Oliners
on
and Gibsons
heroism, which states that heroism consists of actions
(2003) work
performed at great risk to the potential hero. As such we hypothesize:

Hp Level of perceivedriskto thepotentialhero is positivelyrelatedto how


or she is
perceived
strongly he

to be a hero.

In examining the vignette condition of


nonprofessional role for potential heroes,
draw upon the Carnegie Hero Fund Commissions
longstanding criterion of
from
in
consideration
those
roles.
Therefore, we hypothesize:
excluding
professional

we

H2: Nonprofessional statusfor a potentialhero is positivelyrelatedto how


or she is
strongly he
perceived

And,

finally, in examining

to be a hero.

the vignette condition

of "acted upon own volition,"

we call upon thework of attributiontheorists


Wilson et al. (1993) and Eccles and
on
locusof control.
We hypothesizethat:
Wigfield (2002)
extent towhich a potential hero is
H3: The
perceived to be acting on his or her
own volition is
to
or she is
how
related
positively
strongly he
perceived to be a
hero.

For purposes of examining the attribution of hero status, this


study will focus pri
on two attribution processes for the
consensus or role
conditions:
marily
(1)
vignette
consistent conditions: what respondents report that
or most
would
do
they
people
would do in the same circumstance; and (2) normative role
expectations, consisting
of what the respondents report that
people should do (normative measure). Based
upon the two attribution conditions?consensus
("I would do" and "Most would
and
normative
test
should
will
these hypotheses:
do")
do")?we
("People
We view heroism as
or
exceptional bravery
courage attributed to the individual
(internal locus) rather than the role (external locus). Thus heroic action differs from
consensual or consistent role behavior.
H4:

Intensity of agreement with consensus measure one ("I would


to how
or she is
negatively related
strongly he
perceived to be a hero.

do")

is

Intensity of agreement with consensus measure two ("Most would


negatively related to how strongly he or she is perceived to be a hero.

do")

is

H5:

At the same time, we view heroic behavior as normative.


should take.

It is the action that one

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THE
OfHEROES
MAKING

79

Intensity of agreement with the normative measure ("People should do") is


to how
or she isperceived to be a hero.
positively related
strongly he
Based upon our proposed extension of role and attribution theories, we
predict
that aspects of respondents' roles?class,
status, and power?will
significantly affect
H6:

their judgment on whether persons in the vignettes are heroes. Since this is an explor
atory effort, rather than posing specific hypotheses (e.g., Republicans are more likely
we will,
to attribute hero status to
use class, status, and
George W. Bush),
initially,
as
our
in
Least
indices
controls
power
Squares (OLS) regression models pre
Ordinary

are
we will
dicting heroism judgments. If there
significant effects,
disaggregate
see which components of these indices yield
significant effects.

and

DATA
andDataCollection
Sampling
All data were collectedduring the springof 2004 throughrandomdigit dialing
telephone interviews. The targeted population for the survey consisted of individuals
18 years of age and older in the 48 contiguous states comprising the continental
United States. The site of data collection was the Department
of Sociology's Social
Research

Institute Computer

University. The

at Purdue
Assisted Telephone
Interviewing Lab (CATI)
21.1% and the cooperation rate was 46.2%
(see

response rate was

AppendixB forall dispositionnumbers).


Table 2 indicatesthat the samplewas primarily
white (85.9%), female (70.5%),
with just over half (59.0%) of the respondents indicating at least some college educa
are
tion. Respondents
primarily conservative (70.5%) with approximately an equal

percentageof Republicans (35.9%) and Democrats (35.3%). The median income


categoryis$35,001 to $50,000,while themode is$50,001-$75,000.

aWeberian model, we constructed three indices: "status," "class," and


Following
"party." Race, gender, age, level of religiosity, and marital status comprise the "status"
index. The "class" index consists of level of education, annual income, employment
status
or not).
status (full-time or not), and occupational
(professional/managerial
The "party" index consists of two political scales used in the survey: (1) Political Ori

to
(conservative to liberal), and (2) Political Party (strongly Republican
can be
stronglyDemocrat). The coding for each of the variables used in the indices

entation

found inAppendixA.

to measure the
are
Independent variables used in the statistical models
designed
attributional bases used by people in their judgments of heroism. Agreement with the
statements: "I would do" or "Most people would do what (the person in the vignette)
did" indicates the degree of consensus or role consistency (or external versus internal
locus) attributed to the action posed in the vignettes. These variables are called "con
sensus one" ("I would") and consensus two ("Most would"). Normative aspects of

with the
attributiontheory,
posed byHamilton (1978), are indicatedby agreement

statement: "People should do what


normative or moral judgment.

[person in vignette] did." This

variable represents

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80

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

=
Table2. SampleCharacteristics
(N 199)
Characteristics
VariableSex
Female
Male
Missing
MaritalStatus
Married
Separated
Divorced
Widowed
NeverMarried
Refused
Missing
Race
White
African
American
AsianAmerican

62.3
0.6

122
51
26

107
1

14.1

24

10.1

17

12.9

22
1

26
85.4
5.2
0.6

146
9
1

8.0

Hispanic
Other

1.7

Missing
Level ofReligiosity
NotatAllReligious
NotVeryReligious
SomewhatReligious
VeryReligious
No religion
Missing
Level ofEducation
<HighSchool
Highschoolgraduate
Vocationaltraining
Some college
Collegegraduate
degree
Postgraduate
Don'tknow
Refused
Missing

70.5
29.5

1.1
5.8
42.2
28.9
22.0

3
26
2
10
73
50
38
26

8.9

15

20.7
11.2
27.8
20.2

35
19
47
34

11.2

19

3
26

(H)

(N) Characteristics
Variable Income

Lessthan
$15,000

$15,000-$25,000
$25,001-$35.000
$35,001-$50,000
$50,001-$75,000
$75,001-$100,000

ormore
$100,000

16.8
10.3
12.3
16.1
27.1
8.4
9.0

Refused

Don'tknow

Missing

Work
Status
Workingfulltime

parttime
Working

32.7
12.2

Homemaker

9.8

Unemployed
14 Inthemilitary
Student
Retired
Refused
Don'tknow

11.2

Missing
PoliticalOrientation
conservative
Extremely
Veryconservative
Somewhatconservative
Somewhatliberal
Veryliberal

liberal
Extremely
Missing
Political
Affiliation
Parly
Republican
strong
Republican

Leaning
Republican

Neither
Rep.or Dem.
LeaningDemocrat
Democrat
StrongDemocrat
Other
Don'tknow
Missing

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1.2
1.8
31.1

2.6
10.3
57.6
24.4
5.1
0.0

5.3
21.2
9.4

21.2
11.8
14.7
8.8
7.6

26
16
19
25
42
13
14
11
7
26
57
21
17
17
2
3
54
1
1
26
21
16
90
38
8
0
26
9
36
16
36
20
25
15
13
3
26

THEMAKING
OF HEROES

81

THEHERO
VIGNETTES
were
on the three heroism
vignettes

Questions

framed with

the following: "In the

wake of the September 11th attackon theWorld Trade Center and thewars in

a lot of talk about heroism and what itmeans to


Afghanistan and Iraq, there has been
be a hero. In the first group of questions, I'm going to describe several recent events
and ask you to comment on the acts of heroism."
The

first vignette posed

to the
respondents concerned

actionsofTodd Beamer onAmericanAirlinesFlight93:

the September

11, 2001,

The firsteventwas thecrashingofAmericanAirlinesflight93 inPennsylvania


to have been done by Todd Beamer and several other passengers to
reported
terrorists from reaching theirWashington, D.C.,
the
target. I would like
keep

foryou to tellme howmuch you agreeor disagreewith each of thefollowing


statements.

second vignette was concerned with the reported events surrounding


war in
Lynchs capture and subsequent rescue in the
Iraq:

The

Jessica

In the recent war

in Iraq, itwas reported thatArmy Private Jessica Lynch was


was rescued
captured and tortured by Iraqi forces. Lynch
by U.S. forces and
returned to the United States. Again, tellme how much you agree or disagree
with the following statements about this event.
third vignette centered on the actions of President George W. Bush and his
decision to go towar with Iraq despite nonparticipation by theUnited Nations:

The

the United Nations decided not to participate


to
President
against Iraq.
George W. Bush decided
"go it
alone" and attack Iraq with a small coalition of "willing nations." Again, tellme
how much you agree or disagree with the following statements.
In each of the three vignettes, respondents were presented with and asked to respond
The

next events occurred when

in the recent war

=
=
to thesefourLikert-typeresponses(Strongly
Agree 5,Agree 4, NeitherAgree

nor

Disagree

3, Disagree

2, and Strongly Disagree

in the vignette was a hero;


2. If the respondent would do what the hero posed
measure one);

=1):

1. If the person

3. Ifmost people would


sure two);
4. If people

do what the hero posed

should do what

the person

in the vignette did

(consensus

in the vignette did (consensus mea

in the vignette did (normative measure).

ANDDISCUSSION
RESULTS
3 indicates strong support for the statement that "Todd Beamer was a hero."
is between "agree" (4.0) and
response attributing hero status (4.33)
one standard deviation below the mean
is closer to
"strongly agree" (5.0). Even

Table
The

mean

"agree" (4.0)

than to "neither agree nor disagree"

(3.0). Clearly,

the respondents

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82

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

Table3. Mean,StandardDeviation
andValidCases (N) forVariablesUsed inModel 1
Variable

Mean

ToddBeamerVignette:
Todd beamerisa hero.
4.33
IwoulddowhatToddBeamerdid.
Most peoplewoulddowhatToddBeamerdid.
PeopleshoulddowhatToddBeamerdid.
Jessica Lynch
Vignette:
ArmyPrivateJessicaLynchisa hero.
IwoulddowhatJessicaLynchdid.
Most peoplewoulddowhatJessicaLynchdid.
PeopleshoulddowhatJessicaLynchdid.

Standard
Deviation

.719 171
2.13
.914 157
3.34
171
1.04
4.02
.804
171

GeorgeW. BushVignette:
President
W. Bush isa hero.
George
IwoulddowhatGeorge
W. Bushdid.
W. Bushdid.
Most peoplewoulddowhatGeorge
W. Bushdid.
PeopleshoulddowhatGeorge

1.033.39
.986 3.46
3.30
3.47

165
156
1.02
158
.973
159

1.292.64
2.80
2.54
2.76

172
1701.37
1.04
167
172
1.22

Scale: 5 = strongly
agree; 4=agree; 3=neither agree nordisagree; 2=disagree; and 1 = stronglydisagree.
agreed

overwhelmingly
is evoked
disagreement

Beamer

is a hero. A

the statement

that "I would

that Todd

comparable pattern of
do" what Beamer did

by
(consensus measure one). Here themean response (2.13) is "disagree" and a standard
deviation above yields "neither agree nor disagree" (3.0). Respondents were less
certain about what "most people would do" (consensus two), reporting a mean
of "neither agree nor disagree" within a standard deviation of either
was more agreement on the normative issue
disagreement. There
as much agreement as Beamers status as a
which
elicited
almost
should
do"),
("people

(3.34)
agreement or
response

hero.

In the Lynch vignette, respondents indicated that theywere unsure as to her hero
status (mean = 3.39, with one standard deviation [1.03]
indicating either agreement
or
on the consensus and normative condi
is
There
similar
uncertainty
disagreement).
tions, with mean ratings clustering just below 3.5 with standard deviations around 1.
to the Beamer ratings, the range of mean
Compared
ratings is very limited, but the
standard deviation is fairly high, indicating more uncertainty on normative and con
sensus measures, as on her status as hero.
pattern continues for the Bush vignette, although themean ratings are even
and
the standard deviations even higher. Here, respondents all but
lower,
disagree
=
(mean
2.64) as to Bushs hero status, but the standard deviation is large (1.29), so
that one standard deviation from the mean covers the range from
strongly disagree
This

to agree (3.93).
consensus
through both
(1.35)

In the Bush

vignette, this tendency to disagree continues


and normative conditions.

mean hero ratingsforTodd Beamer and JessicaLynch suggestsupport


The higher
forHypotheses 1 and 2, but mixed resultson Hypothesis 3. The hypothesized
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THE
MAKING
OFHEROES

83

1, correspond to these three hypotheses.


reported in Table
vignette conditions,
to
1
Bush, hero rating for Beamer (t = ?16.274;
Hypothesis
predicts that, compared

p<

were

=
.001) and Lynch {t -6,574; p<
in harms way. Hypothesis

than thatof Bush {t= -16.274; p<

was
only Beamer

.001)will be significantly
higher,since they

2 predicts that Beamers

nonprofessional?a

hero rating will be higher

=
.001) or Lynch (t -9.557; p<

.001), since

civilian airline passenger. Hypothesis

dicts thatLynchwill have a lowerhero ratingthanBeamer (t= ?9.557; p<

.001) or

not acting on her own volition (she was


In this
kidnapped).
the finding is contrary to prediction, since Bush received signif

was

Bush, since Lynch


case (as noted above)

3 pre

=
icantlylowerhero ratingsthanLynch (t ?6.574; p<

.001).Within the limited

comparison of these three vignettes, it is clear that respondents attribute a higher hero
status to the potential hero who is in harms way and who is a
nonprofessional. The
effects of acting of her/his own volition are mixed.
Bivariate correlations are presented in Table 4. Since the total matrix is rather
we have elected to present
only the variables of particular interest, relegating the
large,
are
entire matrix to Appendix C. The statistically significant correlations
(p<0.05)
indicated in bold with an asterisk (*). Starting with column one, the Beamer vignette,
is negatively correlated (?.350)
condition one ("I would
with
do")
two ("Most
hero status (as predicted inHypothesis 4). Consensus
people
do") is positively correlated (.274) with Beamers hero status (contrary to

consensus

Beamers
would

Hypothesis

5) and the normative condition

("People

should do")

is positively corre

lated (.521) with Beamers hero status(as predicted inHypothesis 6). Additionally,

hero status for Beamer

is positively correlated with level of education, marital status,


race, and the status index, indicating that highly educated, married, white, high status
persons gave Beamer higher hero ratings.
two, the Lynch vignette, indicates that consensus condition one ("I would":
.173) and the normative condition ("People should":
.495) and two ("Most would":
s hero status. Also, female,
are
correlated
with
.533)
Lynch
positively
single, low
Column

income, lower-class respondents scored Private Jessica Lynch higher on hero status.
Column 3 indicates that Bushs hero status is positively correlated with both con

sensus conditions ("I would do": .817 and "Most people would do": .531) and the
normative condition ("People should do": 781). Bushs hero status is also negatively
correlated with political party and party index (which includes conservative-liberal)

and positively correlated with race. Thus white, conservative, Republicans


on heroism.
higher

score Bush

Thus we find, in bivariate correlations, limited support for the hypothesized effects
of consensus conditions but strong support for normative effects. Hypothesis 4 ("I
would do" negative correlation with heroism) is supported only for the Beamer
vignette. For Lynch and Bush, respondents reporting that they would do
5 ("Most would do"?negative
reported higher heroism ratings. Hypothesis

likewise

correla

tionwith heroism) is uniformly


opposite of theprediction.On all threevignettes,
most
people would
respondents reporting that

do likewise offered higher heroism rat

ings.Only thehypothesizednormativeeffect("People shoulddo") was consistently

observed. On

all three vignettes, persons agreeing

that people

should do

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likewise

84

SOCIOLOGICAL
FOCUS
Table4. SelectedBivariate
Correlations
BeamerHero
BeamerHero
Consensus

Consensus2
Normative
Hero
Lynch
Consensus1 .495*
Consensus2 .173*
Normative.533
BushHero
Consensus 1 .817*
Consensus2 .531*
Normative.781*
LevelofEducation
Political
Orientation
Political
Party
MaritalStatus
Fulltime
Work
Professional Manager

Religiosity
Status Index
Class Index
Party Index
*p<

Hero
Lynch

BushHero

-.350*

.274*
.521*

.199*
-.034
.028
Gender
.092
.211*
.065
Age
-.058
-.007

.004
Income
.079
Race
.306*

-.149
-.136
-.060
-.102
*
- -.147
.531
-.158* .046
-.269*
.106
-.076
.024

-.098
.073

-.07
.059

-.022
.025
-.235*
.024

-.116
.155*

.186*
.106

-.105
.125
-.220*

-.107

.052

-.147

-.420*

.05

offered higher heroism ratings. Beyond the hypothesized normative effects, we also
found significant effects of class, status, or party identification, with
higher status
associated with heroism for the Beamer vignette, lower class associated with heroism
for Lynch, and Republican/conservative
partisanship associated with heroism for
Bush.
Table 5 presents the net effects of these variables when used to
predict heroism in
multivariate Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression models (estimated
separately
for each vignette). Model
1 includes
only the attribution conditions: consensus one
("I would do"), consensus two ("Most would do") and the normative ("People should
do") condition. Each of the three vignettes produced a significant F value indicative

of themodels predicativestrength.
The Beamer vignette
model explains32.7% of

the variance, the Lynch vignette model


explains 33.5%, and the Bush vignette model
of
the variance. Variance
Inflation Factors (V.I.F.) for all three
explains 69.7%
were
well
below
the
"benchmark" of 10.0 proposed by
vignettes
multicolinearity
andWasserman
Neter, Kutner, Nachtsheim,
(1996).

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THE
OFHEROES
MAKING

85

Table5. Unstandardized
Attribution
RegressionCoefficients
(andStandardError)from
andSignificant
Index
on
Conditions,Indices,
Hero
Status
Components
Regressed
Variable

1 2
ModelModel
Bush

Attribution
Condition:
1

Consensus

Beamer Lynch
-.186*

Consensus2

-.077

.339*

Beamer Lynch

.502*

-.109

.326*

Bush
.484*

(.076) (.058) (.096) (.079) (.058) (.100) (.074)

(.053) (.074)

(.070) (.051) (.075) (.073) (.051) (.073) (.071)

(.061) (.092)

(.090) (.063) (.094) (.095) (.061) (.093) (.089)

.408*

Indices:

.504*

Bush

(.060) (.096)
.024

Normative

.345*

Beamer Lynch

-.035

.354*

.036

.333*

.043

.325*

Status .080*

-.037

.085

.423*

.015 -.025

.266*

-.057

.387*

.046

.392*

.255*

(.048)
.173
(.229)
.156
(.182)

(.037)

(.084)

(.073)

.009

(.028) (.043) (.036)

Class .011

-.055*

.049*

(.017) (.025) (.021)

Party .033

.021 -.126*

(.032) (.050) (.044)

StatusComponents:
Gender

.116
(.110)

Mar.Status .130

M04)

.153

Age
Race

(.107)

.446*

(.150)

Religiosity .058

(.033)

Class Components:
Income

-.127*

Mgr/Prof.

.126

Full-time

-.167

LevelofEducation .008

- .076

PartyComponents:
Political
Orientation .039
PoliticalParty

.046

(.179)
(.144)

(.063)

-.300*

(.065)
F 25.594* 24.163* 122.434* 8.359* 16.138* 61.237* 10.147* 13.131* 47.860*
.327
.335
.697
.427
.269
.717
.374
.403
.746
If

(.595) (.855)

(.720) (.545) (.816) (.714) (.555) (.830) (.682)

factors(VIF)arewell underbenchmark
set byNeteret al. (1996).
*p< .05Allvarianceinflation

Consensus condition two ("Most people would do") was not


significant for any of
the three vignettes. Apparently, the bivariate relations are spurious and
disappear after
consensus one ("I would do") and the normative condition
for
controlling
("People
5S which
should"). Therefore, no measurable
support is found for Hypothesis

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86

SOCIOLOGICAL
FOCUS

that respondents would

predicted

attribute less hero status in conditions of high con

sensus ("Mostwould do"). Perhaps it is some consolationthatthenet effectisonly


to the
predicted sign.
insignificant rather than opposite
one
do
what [person in the vignette] did,")
Consensus
("I would

and the norma

tivecondition ("People shoulddo what [personinvignette]did") remainsignificant

in all three vignettes, and the pattern of relations mirrors the bivariate correlations. In
the Todd Beamer vignette, "I would do what Todd Beamer did," produced a negative
coefficient of ?.186,
providing additional support forHypothesis 4. The normative

measure

in the Todd

Beamer

vignette, "People

should do what Todd

Beamer did,"

of .408,providingsupportforHypothesis6.
produceda positivecoefficient
In theJessicaLynchvignette(Model 1,Table 5), both consensusone and thenor
mative conditionyieldsignificant
(.345 for"Iwould do what Jes
positivecoefficients
sicaLynchdid" and .354 for"People shoulddo what JessicaLynchdid"). Contraryto
Hypothesis

4, consensus one yields a positive effect in the Lynch vignette. Respon

would do what Lynchdid also agreedthatshewas a hero.


dentswho agreedthatthey
The

same pattern of results obtains in the


George W. Bush vignette, where both
one and the normative condition
yield significant positive coefficients. "I

consensus

do what George W. Bush did," produced a coefficient of .504, while "People


should do what George W. Bush did," produced a coefficient of .333. Once again,
unlike the Beamer vignette, support is shown forHypothesis 6 but not Hypothesis 4.

would

Model2
InModel 2 (Table5), status,party,and class indicesare added to theequation.Model
F values forall threevignettes,
2 produced significant
although in theTodd Beamer

1
vignette, inclusion of the indices actually reduced the explained variance of Model
to
consensus
one
variable ("I would do what Todd Beamer
from 32.7%
26.9%. The
is reduced to insignificance with inclusion of the status, party, and class,
did")

(b
althoughonly the statuseffectissignificant

.080).

In the Jessica Lynch vignette, inclusion of the three indices increases the explained
inModel
1 to 42.7%. Consensus condition one ("I
variance almost 10% from 33.5%

would do what JessicaLynchdid") and thenormativecondition ("People shoulddo


what

Jessica Lynch did")

remain significant, with

the unstandardized

coefficient for

thenormativecondition("People shoulddo what JessicaLynchdid") increasing


from
.354 to .423.Class is theonly significantindex inModel 2 for theJessicaLynch

=
-.055).
vignette (b
In the George W.
explained

variance

Bush vignette, inclusion of the indices slightly increases the


to 71.7%.
Both consensus and normative effects
from 69.7%

remainsignificant
and both theclass (b=

.049) and party(b

?.126)

indicesare

significant.

Model3
InModel 3 the componentsof the significantindicesare included,in lieuof the
index, to determine which

exert an effect on attributed hero status.


specific elements

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THEMAKING
OfHEROES

87

Additionally, insignificantindicesfor each vignettehave been removedfrom the


analysis. All three vignettes inModel 3 produced significant F values.
In the Todd Beamer vignette, removal of the nonsignificant indices (class and
party) along with the presentation of the elements of the status index increased

explainedvariancefrom26.9% inModel 2 up to37.4%, which isalso higherthan in


Model 1 (32.7%). The increaseinexplainedvariancefrom
Model 1 toModel 3 is sta
tistically significant (F

2.61, p<

.05). As

inModel

2, the consensus one measure

The onlymeasured
("I would do what Todd Beamer did") remains insignificant.

=
.446), indicating
component in the status index found to be significant is race (b
thatwhite respondents are more likely to attribute hero status to Todd Beamer than
nonwhite respondents.

In theJessicaLynchvignette,theexplainedvariancedrops from42.7% inModel 2


to40.3%, which is stillhigherthan33.5% inModel 1,but the increaseinexplained
variance fromModel 1 toModel 3 is significant(F = 4.95, p< .05).Only the
a
in the class index
an unstandard
produced
significant effect,with
The negative sign of the coefficient indicates that an
ized coefficient of ?.127.

income variable

increase in income decreases attributed hero status for Jessica Lynch.


In the George W. Bush vignette, explained variance increases from 71.7%

in

Model 2 to74.6% inModel 3,which isalso higherthanModel 1 (69.7%). As inthe


Beamer vignette, the increase in explained variance fromModel

(F
tistically
significant

one

5.56,p<

1 toModel

3 is sta

.05).Decomposition of theclass and partyindices

party affiliation.
together produced
significant variable of these indices?political
the unstandardized coefficient for political party affiliation indicates that
At ?.300,
as respondents move up the political party affiliation scale from
Strong Republican
(equals

1) to Strong Democrat

(equals 7), George W.

Bush's hero status declines.

HeroStatus
Attributing
Mean

heroism ratings offer consistent support for the hypothesized

effect of being

in

harmsway (Hypothesis1) and theeffectof nonprofessionalroles(Hypothesis2), but

the effect of volition (Hypothesis 3) is not clear. Perhaps it is the combined effects of
in harms way, and acting of ones own volition that
being nonprofessional,
as a real hero.
Beamer
Lynch was not acting of her own volition but she
distinguishes
was in harms way and, like Bush, was a
professional. In any case, she received, on
average, higher hero ratings than Bush, although significantly lower than Beamer.
From these results, one might infer that only Beamer was really a hero and drop
the other vignettes from the analysis. Ifwe limit our attention to the Beamer vignette,
we find considerable support for our
hypotheses. Respondents who rated Beamer

would notdo what he did (Hypothesis4: con


higheston heroismreportedthatthey

sensus one condition) but that he did what people ought to do


nor
(Hypothesis 6:
to
most
mative condition). Of course, contrary
Hypothesis 5, they also reported that

two condition), but that effect


proved
people would do what Beamer did (consensus
to be
in themultivariate model.
insignificant
to expectations and unlike the Beamer
in both the Jessica
Contrary
vignette,
W.
and
Bush
that
who
these actors were
vignettes, respondents
George
agreed
Lynch

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88

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

heroes also reported that they (consensus one: "I would")

and most people

(consensus

two)would do likewise.
They also reportedthatpeople shoulddo what Bush/Lynch

did, suggesting that there was no moral dilemma here. Lynch and Bush were doing
their jobs (according to these respondents)?doing
what anyone would and should
same
do in the
in these cases, there is no
circumstances. Thus,
exceptional valor or

courage involved. These respondents perceived the actions taken by both Lynch and
Bush as related to duty (professional), and focused on task orientation (external
locus), rather than the personal choice (internal locus) as in the Beamer vignette
(nonprofessional).

These findingsmight lend support to the claim thatheroismdoes not include

the routine action of uniformed

and professional actors. This


is, of course, the
some
time
the
Foundation
in
its consideration
ago by
position adopted
Carnegie
of hero award status, because
its standard of
with most of our
heroism?along
are rare and normative, not
actions
that
respondents?requires
simply normative.

Additionally,these findingsserve to situatethe jurisdictionof individualityin the


internal (and initiative) realm of attribution, versus role salience (external and task
focused) in attributing hero status?respondents
granted higher hero status in the

Beamer vignettewith its higher degree of individualitythan in the two other

vignettes, which apparently respondents viewed as higher in role salience; that is, they
were
"just doing their jobs," and theywere on task.
Ultimately, however, inmultivariate analysis, what most people would do (consen
sus two) does not
predict hero status when controlling for consensus one ("I would")
and the normative condition ("People should"). What
respondents report that they

would do, what theythinkmost people would do, and what theybelieve people
should do are related. Beyond that, however, the effect of perceptions of what others
do appears to be less important than: (1) what
theywould do and (2) ethical
standards they have for others?the
of
oughts what people should do. This appears to

would

indicate a shift in thinking from what is normal (or conventional)


in the vignettes
("Most people would do . . .") to a role standard of what needs to be done in the
vignette. In addition, this appears to indicate a shift from community to personal
judgment, from "Most people would" to "I would," while maintaining the normative

judgment("People should").
With

the inclusion of consensus

condition

examined

inModel

one

and the normative ("should")


("I would")
1, the examination of attributed hero status takes on

the added roledimensionposed byHamilton (1978). For theBeamer vignette,the


negative

coefficient for consensus

condition

one

("I would

do")

indicated

that

would not do what Beamer did. Although hardlya startlingfinding,


respondents

since his actions may have ultimately led to his death, and common sense dictates
thatmost people would choose life over death, responses to the normative condition

("People shoulddo") indicatethatBeamerdidwhat he shouldhavedone.When both

consensus

are combined, for the Beamer


vignette, respon
a hero indicated that
Beamer
that
is
agreed
they would not do what
Beamer did, but that Beamer did what he should
("ought to") have done. Here
are
status
to
hero
of
conditions
respondents
attributing
individuality and uniqueness,
and normative conditions

dents who

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THE
MAKING
OfHEROES

89

acts are rare and normative. This


our
buttressing
prediction that heroic
signals sup
port for Porpora's (1996: 210) position that heroes exemplify cultural and moral
ideals of a society ("moral beacons"), as well as Schwartz's (1969: 82) notion of heroes

rare but
being "the standard bearers of the 'best.'" because their actions are at once
also reflective of exemplary moral/value orientation (what people should do). By vir
tue of
being "the standard bearers of the 'best'" and being rare, attributed hero status
appears

to be reserved for those


unique

individuals who

do what most

of us don't

want todo or don't feelwe could do, butwhatwe shoulddo ifone strictly
adheresto
societal normative role expectations.

Models2 and3: Role Identification


In the Beamer vignette, only the status index produced a
the
significant effect.When
status index was then tested in its constituent parts inModel 3,
race
the
variable
only

effect(b = .446).With thevariable racecoded asWhite = 1


produceda significant
aremore likelytoattribute
andNonwhite = 0 (seeAppendixA),White respondents
hero status to Beamer

than Nonwhite
respondents. However, this finding should be
the
sample demographics, which indicate that only one out of every
weighed against
8.5 respondents was Nonwhite.

In the Jessica Lynch vignette, only the class index produced a significant effect. In
testing to determine which components of the class index were responsible for signif
icant effects, only income was found to be significant, with
decreasing respondent
income serving to strengthen respondents' attribution of hero status to Jessica Lynch.
This finding is really no surprise when one considers that most members of our mili
tary forces are primarily situated in lower income brackets. For many, the military
forces with their benefits packages (i.e., tuition support) are a primary avenue for
upward mobility in theUnited States.
In theGeorge W.

Bush vignette, both the class and party indices were found to be

Furthertestingof theseindicesprovedpoliticalpartytheonly significant


significant.

effect, for both indices. This is somewhat surprising inasmuch as the variable measur
no
ing conservative to liberal political orientations produced
significant effect. The
in
of
its negative direction,
the
variable
lies
{b
?.300)
political party
significance
are
more
to
due
indicates
that
much
which,
likely to attribute
Republicans
scaling,

hero status to George W. Bush than Democrats. This finding points to the current
war in Iraq, and ratifies
bipolar nature of politics in the United States as well as the
the divisive effect of thewar in the 2004 presidential election.
In alignment with our proposed extension for role theory, a close examination of the
correlation table inAppendix C indicates some interesting patterns of significant rela
consensus and normative conditions for each
tionships, particularly when examining the

race appears
as a positive ("White") effect across all three
only
vignettes,
vignette. First,
and is significantly related to consensus conditions one ("I would do"), and two ("Most

in both the Beamer and Bush vignettes. In the Lynch vignette, race is
people would do")
consensus condition two ("Most
people would do").
significant only for
Next, income is a significant positive effect only in the Beamer vignette for the
normative condition ("People should do") but is significant and negative for consen

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90

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

sus condition
conditions

one

("I would do") in the Lynch vignette and for both the consensus
and the normative condition in the Bush vignette. High-income
respon

dents thinkthatpeople shoulddo what Beamer did, but theywould not do what
Lynchdid (join theArmy).Also, theywould not do what Bush did and reportthat
most peoplewould not and definitelyshouldnot invadeIraqwithoutUN support.
we findno significant
with
relationships
Finally,whenwe look at politicalparty,
the consensus and normative conditions for the Beamer vignette, and only negative
and significant relationships for consensus condition one ("I would do") and the nor

mative condition ("People shoulddo") in theLynchvignette.In theBush vignette,


party is negative and significantly related to both consensus conditions and the nor
mative condition. For the Beamer story, it seems that both parties agree. For Lynch,

Democrats (by2004) oppose thewar, so theyclaim thattheywould not and people


shouldnot be fightingin Iraq.For theBush vignette,
Republicansargue thatBush is
most
a hero and claim thatthey
would and that
would and shoulddo what Bush did.
effects
These findingssuggestthatrole identification
may be atwork inhow our
our
status. While
to Beamer as a hero
findings point
respondents attribute hero
across role components, attribution of hero status for Lynch and Bush appears
largely
to be a different story. Both Bush and Lynch appear to be heroes for
Republicans,

consensus conditions and the nor


apparently identifyingwith the
for Bush, irrespective of political orientation (e.g., conservative or
liberal). For Lynch, hero status appears to be a story of importance for single, lower
income females, while for Bush, hero status attribution appears to reflect the role or
status identification ofWhite, Republican,
lower-income respondents. With educa

with Republicans
mative condition

tion negatively related to consensus condition two ("Most people would do") in the
Bush vignette, the war appears to be less popular among highly educated as well as
high-income respondents.
the attribution of hero status for Lynch and particularly for Bush might be
Hence,
the results of party identification effects. Here the judgment says little or nothing

about Lynch or Bush as individuals or even within their roles as Army private or com
mander in chief. The critical issue is support for the invasion of Iraq, and the basis for
that judgment is essentially partisan. We would surmise, given the results of the 2004
was clearly bifurcated?either Democrat or
presidential election, which
Republican,
and absent a middle

ground?that
nature of the
political atmosphere

the significant effects of political party mirror the


in theUnited States and thereby indicate the via

with theactors
bilityof our proposedextensionof role theory,inwhich identification
class, status, or party shapes the attribution of heroism.

CONCLUSION
hero status is clearly higher in situations in which a potential hero is
life and limb (Beamer and Lynch). Second,
being in harms way?risking
attributed hero status is also higher for the potential hero in the nonprofessional role

Attributed
viewed as

(Beamer) versus those in a professional role (Lynch and Bush). Third, mixed support
is found for situations of self-initiated action ("own volition"). Here the range of

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THEMAKING
OFHEROES

conditions

91

to a
limits us.
three vignettes
Lynch's case
Comparing
or a soldier who was killed rather
kidnap victim (e.g., Patty Hearst)

in the

nonprofessional

area
thancapturedmight help us todisentangletheseeffectsandmight be a fruitful

find that one or another of the vignette


conditions may serve as a "master condition," in that it exerts control over the other
conditions, or its absence may render some or all of the other conditions moot. This
may have been at work in the present study given the influence of nonprofessional
for future research. Future researchers may

over

professional in attributed hero status; that is, the role of nonprofessional may be
a master condition for these vignettes.

of role expectations (Hamilton


Examination
1978) produced several points of
interest for present and future scholars of heroism. First, examination of the consen
sus condition one ("I would do") was negative only in the Beamer vignette. This indi

cates that respondents who

was
thought Beamer

a hero would

not do what Todd

Beamerdid butwould do what JessicaLynchandGeorgeW. Bush did. Second, the

direction of the normative ("People should do") was positive in all three vignettes. For
Todd Beamer, the combination of a negative consensus condition one and a positive
indicates just how extraordinary (individualistic) and rare a
normative condition

hero's behavior can be. In both the Jessica Lynch and George W. Bush vignettes, the
direction of both consensus and normative conditions were positive. This indicates
that respondents who thought that Lynch and Bush were heroes would do what

Lynchand Bush did and thoughtthattheyboth didwhat theyshoulddo. The posi

in the Lynch and Bush vignettes points to


nature of their actions, especially when
compared to Beamer s,

tive direction of normative condition


the nonextraordinary

one

in theirsituationsand stressingrolesalience.
bydismissingindividuality

condition two ("Most people would


at least for theWar on Ter
status
in
hero
attribution,
do")
predicting
rorism in the United States. Our work also indicates that a particular mix of our
that is viewed as normative
tested consensus and normative condition?behavior
Our

research indicates that the consensus

is problematic

would do ("Iwouldn'tdo")?is crit


("People shoulddo") but notwhat an individual

ical to the hero attribution process.


The testing of social structuralmarkers comprising Weber's class, status, and power
indicate the viability of extending role theory's "self-other" focus. This viability was sug
to the
demographics of race, income, and political
gested in the significant finding related
of
and
race, class,
party was found to be critical in the framing of
party.Here the salience

war, heroes, and villains. Our work here encourages future scholars of heroism, role the
ory, and attribution theory (especially those in the tradition of Hamilton and Sanders
[1981]) to formulate and testdifferent permutations of these theoretical traditions.

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92

SOCIOLOGICAL
FOCUS

A:RECODES
APPENDIX
FORINDICES
Status
Race:White =
Gender: Male

White = 0.
1; all other than
1 and female =

0.

= 1 and over65 = 0.
Age:Under 65
=
=
=
LevelofReligiosity:
Very religious 4; somewhatreligious 3; notveryreligious 2;

and not at all religious =' 1.


Marital Status: Married = 1; all other than married =

0.

Class
=
=
HighestLevelofEducation:Z score(postgraduate
degree 6; collegegraduate
=
5; some college

4; vocational

training

3; high school graduate =

2; and less

thanhigh schoolgraduate=1).
Annual Income:$100K and higher= 7; $75,001-$100K = 6; $50,001-$75,000 =
5; $35,001-$50,000 = 4; $25,001-$35,000 = 3; $15,001-$25,000 = 2; and less
than$15,000 = 1.

=
1; all other than full-time = 0.
Employment Status: Full-time
=
Status: Managerial/Professional
1; all other than managerial/
Occupational
= 0.
professional

Party
Conservative/Liberal: Z score (extremely liberal = 6; very liberal = 5; spmewhat
liberal = 4; somewhat conservative = 3; very conservative = 2; and
extremely
conservative =1).
=
=
Political PartyAffiliation: Z score
7; Democrat
6; leaning
(strong Democrat
=
=
=
Democrat
5; neither Republican or Democrat
4; leaning Republican
3;
=
and
2;
Republican
strong Republican =1).

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THE
MAKING
OFHEROES

B:PHONE
APPENDIX
SURVEY
DISPOSITIONS
Disposition Number
CompletedInterview173
Disconnect 310
Business 176
LanguageProblem21
No Answer360
Machine 387
Answering
Modem/Fax123
Busy 24
NotQualified(tooyoung) 21
Callbacks 29
Midterminates
(partialinterviews)26
Refusal 134
RefusalNeverCallAgain 197
TotalCalled 2368
Response Rate: 21.1%
ContactRate: 45.4 %
Rates were calculated according toGroves and Couper (1998).

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SOCIOLOGICAL
FOCUS

94

C: BIVARIATE
APPENDIX
CORRELATIONS

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THE
OfHEROES
MAKING

95

APPENDIX
C: BIVARIATE
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to
v

96

FOCUS
SOCIOLOGICAL

Gregory

C.

in the Department
is a Ph.D.
candidate
of Sociology and
at Purdue University. His research focuses on the gender and social
aspects of heroism. His dissertation research is aimed at understanding

Gibson

Anthropology

psychological
the role of gender in contemporary heroism.

is associate professor of sociology and American studies at Purdue


Richard Hogan
His
research includes studies of inequality in the United States, including
University.

the 2005 "WasWrightWrong? High-Class Jobs and the ProfessionalEarnings


Advantage" {SocialScienceQuarterly86:645-663), alongwith studiesof community
politics, includingTheFailure ofPlanning:Permitting
Sprawl inSan Diego Suburbs,
1970-1999 (Ohio StateUniversityPress,2003).
John Stahura is professor of sociology in theDepartment
at Purdue University. He is the director of Purdues
pology

of Sociology and Anthro


Social Research Institute.

of Sociology
Eugene Jackson is associate professor of sociology for the Department
and Anthropology at Purdue University. His research areas are social psychology and
mental health.

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