Do you suppose that if a man thought twice, he’d give his life for Queen and Country? Not bloody likely! He wouldn’t go near the battlefield! One look at your foolish faces tells me that you’re going to be crack troops. Ohhh him there with the five-and-a-half hat size has the makings of a bloody hero!
Or so Daniel Dravot says in The Man Who Would Be King. An article in the WSJ explores some other factors which predict heroism under stress:
Certain traits make it more likely that a person will make a split-second decision to take a heroic risk. People who like to take charge of situations, who respond sympathetically to others, and who have a strong sense of moral and social responsibility are more likely to intervene than people who lack those traits, research shows. Heroes tend by nature to be hopeful, believing events will turn out well. They consciously try to keep fear from hampering their pursuit of goals, and they tend to block out the possibility of injury or material loss.
There’s this especially important bit, which recalls the Iron Duke’s saying about the Playing Fields of Eton;
Values that inspire heroism are often taught in childhood; “children who grew up watching their parents stick their necks out for others, are likely to do the same,” says Dr. Hupp.