The Cycle | July 24, 2012
>>> today we're hearing from those best friends who met with president obama in aurora, colorado, over the weekend. and this story represents just one of the many incredible stories of survival and heroism coming out the otherwise absolute absolutely horrific tragedy.
>> saved my life which i, you know, that's always going to be, you know, a little emotional for me.
>> she was willing to give up hers to let me run and i was willing to give up mine to make sure she lived.
>> even though, like, he saved me and he gave me the opportunity to live, he would have done it for anyone that day.
>> as people were trying to escape, apparently running back inside saying no, we have to come back inside bus baus he's going to shoot people trying to escape and he did.
>> i remember thinking made go and i grabbed him and i remember thinking, i'm not going to die in here, me and my kids, we are not going to die in here we need to get out. and all i could think was if i stand up he's going to shoot, because that's what he was doing and i was just trying to think, how i was going to get my kids out of there.
>> our cops went through a lot. as i told you this morning, they rushed people out of that theater into police cars . i -- i have heard some compelling stories.
>> wow. hard to watch. but uplifting as well. so the question is, are we humans intrinsically heroic or or some of us programmed to be heroes? joining us now, psychologist dr. michelle callahan.
>> thanks for having me.
>> is heroism the sort of natural human response? would any of us behave the same way when under fire like that or are these people really special?
>> everybody has potential to enact her reism. we often think of it being police officers or firemen, only superheroes our true heroes when most heros are everyday people , there isn't anything uniquely different about them than anything else. we done see consistency against age or gender. across social lines we're seeing people take on heroic acts.
>> i want to talk about the nature of men in these situations and we know lots of stories of women doing amazing, heroic things, lifting cars to save their children. i was struck by so many of the men we heard about shielding their wives or fiancees or girlfriends and dying so they could live. i mean i think about sort of being a bar fight where my wife was or my girlfriend, i naturally shielded her.
>> er to ray gets in lots of bar fights.
>> and my own risk to myself. is there a way we socialize men to think of themselves as protectors and sort of want to protect the women that they care about?
>> absolutely. i mean, we've been saying, you know, women and children first for as long as any of us can remember. so men are absolutely socialized to put women and children first but also in a situation like this, of course people are going to immediately want to save and rescue and support and help their friends, families, even strangers because of that familiarity you have of being from the same neighborhood, being from the same town, liking the same thing. it doesn't have to be that you know the person to want to help them out but having some similarity to them is enough to everyo everyone pa thiz and step forward .
>> we just sort of snap into a mode and just go and just protect that person and you don't even really think about yourself in that moment, do you?
>> absolutely. most people are doing this completely second nature. this is psychological process, sort of kicks in, and they go with it. if they had time to think about it they'd worry about everything else. one of the key sort of principles of being able to take that heroic move is not think of yourself first but actually putting other people first and people who tend to do that more are the ones more likely without a second thought are going to immediately jump to action.
>> doctor, following up on that point i wonder, are there certain traits or characteristics that separate the people who would jump into action right a what from those who think of themselves first. i can remember hear in new york a few years ago the guy who jumped on to the subway tracks and shielded the guy who was having a seizure. we always have stories like that. i've seen stories of people confronted with similar choices who look the other way, run for the exits themselves who have the save themselves mentality. how common is that? what characteristics are there that separate people like that?
>> it it can go both way. people will fall into a sort of group mentality if everyone's doing nothing, they follow the group, there are other people who see themselves more as individuals and decide they want to take a stand and do something unique. there isn't one set of characteristics that would describe all heroes. everybody sort of almost has that seed of promise to do something great within them. certainly people more empathetic, able to take another's perspective and you know thinking about the greater good of other people and what's better for others and saving other people. a lot of what makes people feel motivated to step up and do that. but you never know because they've never been put in that situation before that moment. other than being nice, there aren't clear indications this is the person to bring to the -- to bring out with me because they're going to jump in front of a bus to save my life.
>> we've been talking about the -- what intrinsically makes you a hero. one of the victims had taken that day, her test to become a firefighter and the article i read spoke of how that training and that testing that she just had gone through kicked in at that moment. can you be trained to be a hero.
>> definitely. people are trying to train other folks to be heroes. and one of the two you know major things is to be able to take the perspective of someone else and think about what their needs are first. and the other thing is to be more proactive and just taking action. people are so complacent and passive and standers-bias opposed to having a mentality there's always something you can potentially jump in and do, be willing to take action.
>> thanks so much for that insight. michelle callahan.