Publication 2186

Gash H. & Conway P. (1997) Images of heroes and heroines: How stable. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 18: 349–372. Fulltext at
Heroic images are presented here as constructed possible selves which may play an important role in self development. A questionnaire was given to 510 Irish and 190 U.S. third and fourth grade children in a study designed to investigate (1) their conceptions of the heroic and (2) the effects of a classroom intervention on the Irish children’s choices of heroes and heroines. The educational program was constructivist and designed to challenge children to reconsider their ideas about heroic figures and to engage in discussion designed to promote prosocial attitudes in concrete ways. While national origin and gender strongly influenced children’s heroic images, there were strong factor structure similarities in U.S. and Irish samples. “The good” was the first factor, the fifth an antiheroic factor, and the others reflected figures from film, television and sport. In addition, gender differences in the choice of proximal and distal heroic figures were identified. Prosocial effects due to the intervention program were encouraging and discussed within the context of Irish educational objectives. Relevance: Heroes play an important role in identity. This study shows both national differences between Irish and US primary/elementary age children, and also shows how a classroom intervention can influence heroic figures chosen.


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