What Makes a Hero?

What Makes a Hero?

The Surprising Science of Selflessness

Additional Formats
  • ePub
  • ISBN 9781101622643
  • 240 Pages
  • Current
  • Adult


Recent breakthroughs in biology and neuroscience reveal that the human brain is primed for selflessness. But how do biology, upbringing, and outside influences intersect to produce altruistic and heroic behavior? And how can we encourage selflessness in corporations, classrooms, and individuals? 

Using dozens of fascinating real-life examples, science journalist Elizabeth Svoboda explains how our genes compel us to do good for others, how going through suffering is linked to altruism, and how acting generously can greatly improve our mental health.

Svoboda argues that it’s a common misconception that heroes are innately destined to be that way. In fact, anyone can be a hero if they’re committed to developing their heroic potential.


What Makes a Hero? is really about how to become a better person—a subject science has more to say about than you might expect. The world would be a better place if everyone read Elizabeth Svoboda’s fun, fascinating, and deeply researched book.
—Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
In this readable and engaging volume, Elizabeth Svoboda weaves research, public narratives and personal stories together to demonstrate the counter-intuitive truth of her title: that heroic action can be learned; that heroic inclinations can be nurtured; and that “heroes” can, in fact, be made. We all have it in us, and through rehearsal, practice, self-insight and peer support, we can bring our inner heroes to light.
—Mary C. Gentile, Ph.D., author of Giving Voice To Values: How To Speak Your Mind When You Know What’s Right

It’s a joy to join the journey of Elizabeth Svoboda, a young writer and researcher, as she brings together personal stories and exciting studies to explain what pushes us to aid others—from daily helping to headlined heroic acts.
—Allan Luks, co-author of The Healing Power of Doing Good
In these trying times involving global political conflict and economic hardship, Elizabeth Svoboda gives us all hope that science can show humanity the right path. Her book artfully describes the psychological and physiological explanations behind altruism and heroism—which just might crack the toughest cynic. But must importantly, she gives us a glimpse into how we all hold it within ourselves to make our immediate communities a little bit better.
—Cyrus Farivar, author of The Internet of Elsewhere and senior business editor of Ars Technica
Kudos to Elizabeth Svoboda for answering the question What Makes a Hero? She examines every facet that contributes to heroic behavior: genes, neurobiology, thoughts and feelings, social forces. She even does her own “experiments” in heroism and shares her results. A must-read for anyone curious about real-life heroism.
—Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D., psychologist and author, Superhero Origins: What Makes Superheroes Tick and Why We Care; editor, What Is a Superhero?
Elizabeth Svoboda’s engaging new book explores what makes a hero—and reveals science behind the greatness and generosity possible to any human being.
—Jill Neimark, co-author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People
“A satisfying investigation of the mechanics of heroism.”
Kirkus Reviews

“The world would be a better place if everyone read Elizabeth Svoboda’s fun, fascinating, and deeply researched book.”
Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein