The Psychology of Heroism

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"Heroism" is another name for "extreme altruism," which social scientists have a hard time explaining. Now, they have a real incident to work with — Friday’s extraordinary behavior of three Americans and a Briton.

French President François Hollande (L) awards US National Guardsman Alek Skarlatos (C) with the Legion d'Honneur as as US Airman First Class Spencer Stone (R) looks on during a ceremony at the Elysee Palace in Paris, August 24, 2015.
Photo: Michel Euler/Reuters/Pool

Today, French President François Hollande awarded the French Legion of Honor to Americans Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, along with Chris Norman, a 62-year old British consultant. Last Friday, they stopped a heavily armed gunman from shooting passengers on a high-speed train traveling to Paris from Amsterdam. David Rand is an Assistant Professor at Yale University’s Human Cooperation Laboratory.