"Heroes are made in the hour of defeat. Success is, therefore, well described as a series of glorious defeats." - Mohandas Gandhi
The "Big Five" personality traits, easily recalled by the acronym OCEAN, for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism, are often discussed in psychology and pop psychology in the passive voice - for example, "in recent decades, there has been a growing consensus among psychologists that five factors blah blah…"
The Five Factors are interesting enough, and there are many free online resources to test yourself. It is important to note that the Five Factors were chosen because they are very stable over a person's life. Most conscientious adults were conscientious children. Many studies also suggest that each of these five factors has a large genetic component.
It is also important to emphasize that the Five Factors were not meant to provide a complete picture of a personality, nor are they the most important traits. (A brief brainstorm of other traits: courage, kindness, sense of humor) The Big Five are stable and genetic and easy to measure.
Honest researchers have begun doubting some of the statistical foundations of psychological research, in particular, the issue of "external validity," which is when a result is not relevant to another population. Researchers at the University of British Columbia coined an acronym, WEIRD, which stands for Westernized, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. The vast majority of psychological research is conducted on American college (WEIRD) students, and therefore may be biased or irrelevant.
We may be missing vital aspects of human character, despite the studies being "scientific" or "randomly controlled," because life in modern western societies is so vasty different than the rest of the world (and the rest of history).
For example, psychologists have been trying to understand "everyday heroes," like the subway hero, who buck the "bystander effect," and have come up empty. The subway hero, Wesley Autrey, is a construction worker who saved a man who fell into the path of an oncoming train. Autrey jumped onto the tracks, wrestled the man down and held him as the train passed over them, narrowly missing killing them both.
These guardian angels come from all walks of life. Many are quiet and unassuming; some are not.
Many of these heroes change their lives after the event and continue a life of service. The event seems to have awakened something in them.
Perhaps there is a hidden hero trait that is not easily detected in sheltered Western life. There have been subway heroes after Wesley Autrey who left the scene and remain anonymous.
Could you be a hero?
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