Using the Knowledge@Wharton site, select an article that appeals to you.
Take a moment to scroll through the articles to find one that piques your personal interest. Once you have finished reading your selected article, address the following:
- Provide the title of the article you selected.
- Provide responses to the following reflective questions:
- What is your takeaway from the article?
- Why did this interview resonate with you personally?
- How can you apply what you have learned from the article to your professional and personal life in terms of the five practices?
Personal integrity predicted respondents’ heroes. Those higher in integrity spontaneously described their heroes as more principled,
What Makes a Hero? 337
honest, spiritual, and benevolently oriented toward others. Further,
on closed-ended scales, they evaluated their main hero as more prin- cipled, authentic, spiritual (as compared to materialistic), and benev-
olent (as compared to selfish and egotistical). On qualities such as likableness, similarity to oneself, and intelligence, which might be as-
sociated with any hero regardless of morality, there were no integrity differences. The qualities that were differentially endorsed by those
with higher integrity—principled commitment, authenticity, benefi- cence toward others and non-self-absorption, and spirituality are qualities that people associate with moral exemplars (Aquino & Reed,
2002; Lapsley & Lasky, 2001; Walker & Hennig, 2004) and that people with high integrity are more likely to possess (Schlenker, 2007).
The strong preference for religious or spiritual heroes (e.g., the Pope, a pastor, Jesus) by those higher in integrity probably reflects
several considerations. First, although the Integrity Scale does not contain any items that refer to religion, integrity scores are positively
correlated with intrinsic religiosity (Schlenker, 2007). The associa- tion may be due to the fact that most religions emphasize adherence
to moral laws and personal integrity. Given religious convictions, people may look to religion for their heroes. Second, religious figures are generally regarded as exemplars of high integrity, so those for
whommoral exemplarity is a highly valued quality are likely to select them as heroes.
Further, the category of religious heroes is the only one in which the prototypic figure is likely to be seen as highly principled. Within
the category of family members, for example, some respondents may have parents who are exemplars for morality whereas others may
not. Those high versus low in integrity select a parent with equal frequency, but their choices may be based on different criteria, with those high in integrity focusing on a parent’s morality and those low
in integrity focusing on a parent’s business success or nurturance. The pattern of ratings is strongly consistent with such preferences.
For example, those higher in integrity rated their heroes as spiritual rather than materialistic and tended to select fewer sports figures as
heroes. Sports heroes exemplify stellar personal achievement but are often noted for materialistic excesses rather than moral excellence.
Study 2 will examine integrity differences in selection criteria by manipulating the principled or expedient nature of a character’s
conduct, thereby testing directly whether those higher in integrity show greater admiration for moral principles over expediency.
338 Schlenker, Weigold, & Schlenker
People high in integrity differ from lows in at least three important
ways: (1) they have a relatively coherent code or set of standards for right and wrong to which they are personally committed, (2) these
standards are accessible in memory and a chronic input to their choice considerations, and (3) they believe that these standards are
binding, so self-serving rationalizations are unacceptable as ways to avoid the emotional (e.g., guilty, stress) and social (e.g., condemna-
tion, disrespect) costs of violations. The fact that integrity predicted people’s heroes suggests that those who are higher versus lower in integrity use different criteria and standards to evaluate the actions
of others and to decide whom to admire. It is difficult to argue, given these patterns, that those who differ in integrity merely perceive
different qualities in precisely the same person regardless of his or her behavior. However, a stronger, more definitive test of whether
different criteria and standards are used is to manipulate the prin- cipled or expedient conduct of a character and then assess judg-
ments. Such a test will also permit conclusions to be drawn about the roles played by ethics versus outcomes during social judgment. If the same patterns are found after controlling the principled or expedient
properties of the character’s behavior, then the converging data would confirm the importance of the principled versus expedient di-
mension for social judgment and the important role that is played by integrity in moderating the qualities people admire.
In Study 2, participants judged an individual who confronted an ethical dilemma while pursuing an important career goal. This char-
acter had to chose between an unprincipled route that seemed to boost in the chances of personal success and a principled route that
did not. It was hypothesized that integrity will be directly related to the strength of the preference of principles over expediency. The critical comparison—which directly contrasts principles and out-
comes— will be between characters who take the ethical route and fail versus those who take the unethical route and succeed. As com-
pared to those higher in integrity, those lower will evaluate an un- principled but successful character as more of a winner and as
savvier (more effective, intelligent), whereas an unsuccessful but eth- ical character will be seen as nice (likable) but ineffective (‘‘Nice guys
finish last’’), lacking the ‘‘street smarts’’ to realize that it is necessary to bend the rules to be successful. In contrast, those higher in
What Makes a Hero? 339
integrity should more strongly admire a character who upholds high
moral standards, even if it means personal loss, and more strongly disparage a character who violates ethical standards to accomplish
One hundred sixty-two students (115 females, 47 males) enrolled in a journalism course at the University of Florida participated for extra credit in their class. The average age of participants was 20.3 years (SD5 1.14), with a range of 18 to 24.
The study was described as examining reactions to people who make important decisions related to their careers. A short passage described a situation faced by a decision maker, the decision that was made, and the outcome that followed. Participants were asked to read and give careful thought to the situation described in the booklet, and then answer the questions that followed.
The scenarios described a situation in which the central character could engage in unethical behavior and thereby increase the likelihood of gaining a desirable career outcome. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of three behavior-outcome combinations: (a) the central character took the unethical route and succeeded, (b) the central charac- ter took the ethical route but failed, and (c) the central character took the ethical route and succeeded. The critical comparison for examining in- tegrity differences was between the ethical-failure condition and the un- ethical-success condition, because these pit a preference for principled conduct against a preference for expediency. The ethical-success condi- tion provided a relevant baseline for comparison to see how each group shifted when compared to this optimally desirable behavior-outcome combination. An unethical-failure combination was not included because it was expected that this combination would be universally condemned and would not distinguish those who score high versus low in integrity (those high in integrity would condemn the unethical behavior and those low in integrity would condemn the ineffectiveness). After reading the scenario, participants were asked to evaluate the behavior, outcome, and actor on 7-point attribute scales with labeled end points.