Heroism Science

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Heroism Science Conference 2016


The Rise and Future of Heroism Science – A Cross-Disciplinary Conference

11-12 July 2016, Murdoch University, Perth, Australia


Background and aims

In 2006 psychologists Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo published their seminal paper “The Banality of Heroism” in Greater Good, catapulting heroism into the realm of scientific inquiry and the everyday for the first time in academic history. The advent of the multiple disciplinary field of ‘heroism science’, coined by Scott Allison, George Goethals and Rod Kramer (Editors of the forthcoming inaugural Handbook of Heroism and Heroic Leadership), signals the opening up of heroism which has traditionally been the monopoly of myth, fiction and popular culture to other disciplines, offering a multi-perspective lens for the active and rigorous observation of this enduring phenomenon.

This conference will mark the first forum of its kind for researchers in Australia and around the world to come together and discuss key issues in the emerging field. It offers an open challenge to all disciplines to consider the following question: How can your field(s) of inquiry contribute a unique perspective to the re-conceptualisation and development of innovative frameworks of heroism, heroic leadership and the hero’s journey, and their relevance in 21st century societies? It is a challenge to a broad range of experts to discover the relevance of heroism and heroic leadership to their work, whether explicit or implicit, and critically examine these connections.

Potential topics

Expressions of interest for papers are being sought from researchers and postgraduate students across the humanities, psychology, social sciences and sciences, and especially other emerging fields which combine creative, multiple disciplinary and cutting-edge epistemologies. Presenters are invited to consider how emerging research on heroism and heroic leadership connects with their own research agendas and can lead to innovative, integrative and applied frameworks that advance human well-being and understandings of the human condition in an increasingly complex world. Examples researchers may wish to consider include, but are not limited to, the following:


  • Establishing definitions of heroism and dismantling pre-conceptions associated with the usage of the term ‘hero’;
  • Development of research methods (both qualitative and quantitative) and taxonomies in the observation and measurement of heroism;
  • The hero’s journey as an epistemological and methodological tool of inquiry;
  • Using heroism and heroic leadership research to build resilient and sustainable communities, foster well-being and combat pressing social issues in Western and non-Western societies;
  • Archaeological and anthropological studies of ancient heroes and mythologies.

Humanities and Social Sciences

  • The relationship between religion, spirituality and/or consciousness and heroism;
  • East/West cultural perspectives on heroism;
  • Gender and heroism;
  • Heroism and hero archetypes in the popular media, new media (e.g. social media and blogs), gaming, digital humanities, creative arts and so forth, contributing to new narrative constructions of the phenomenon;
  • Philosophical discourses of heroism (e.g. existentialism, phenomenology, ontology);
  • Heroism in the workplace (e.g. whistleblowing) and organisational management;
  • Heroic leadership and global sustainability;
  • Heroic leadership, Indigenous cultures and heritage;
  • Heroism, martyrdom and terrorism in the 21st century;
  • Heroic leadership and heroism in socio-political movements, activism and the promotion of civic engagement;


  • The use of heroism and narratives of heroism as an educational tool;
  • Heroism in healthcare services (e.g. nursing, counselling, medicine);
  • Heroism, the bystander effect and group dynamics;
  • Heroism and heroic leadership in emergencies, crisis and disaster management;
  • Diverse psychological approaches to heroism (developmental, positive, personality, social, transpersonal, humanistic, analytical, cognitive, evolutionary, critical etc.);
  • The intersection between heroism and other optimal behaviours such as morality, resilience, empathy, courage, altruism, sacrifice, intelligence and leadership;
  • Heroism, self-actualization, personal and social empowerment.


  • The neurophysiology and evolutionary origins of heroism;
  • The contribution of ‘hard’ science to the study of heroism (e.g. genomics, physics, molecular biology);
  • The contribution of heroism science to the study of resilient biochemistries;

Publication opportunities

The body of work produced from the conference is expected to be published as one or more special issues in peer-refereed journals, as well as an edited book. It is anticipated that these publications will significantly add to existing literature, advance the visibility and impact of the field, and promote and inspire innovative collaborative research avenues in heroism science and beyond.

We are pleased to announce that a Special Issue of the Journal of Humanistic Psychology (a publication of the American Psychological Association) on heroism is forthcoming. Dr. Zeno Franco is Guest Editor for the issue, which will focus on humanistic and existential aspects of heroism. Authors of high quality papers submitted to the conference will be invited to refine and expand their papers for consideration for the Special Issue.

Note: Presenters intending to both attend the conference and submit to the special issue with the same topic, please submit one proposal of 800 words (max.) only.

Note: Submission to the JHP special issue can be made without attending the conference.

It is also a great pleasure to announce that a second special issue has been secured with the peer-refereed journal IM: Interactive Media. IM is a refereed interdisciplinary electronic journal administered by the National Academy of Screen and Sound (Australia) and conceived as an interactive forum for researchers in screen and screen production. The special issue will focus on diverse contemporary representations of heroism in popular and digital culture, and creative production (both text and image based). The issue is expected to be published online and launched late July 2016.

Keynote speakers

Day 1: Leading heroism expert Professor Scott Allison will be keynote speaker for Day 1 of this event. Professor Allison has authored numerous books, including Heroes and Heroic Leadership. He is Professor of Psychology at the University of Richmond, Virginia where he has published extensively on heroism and leadership.

Day 2: Dr Peter le Breton Ph.D. (Transformative Studies, California Institute of Integral Studies) is Associate Lecturer, Centre for University Teaching and Learning, Murdoch University. He champions general education, and an ecological, holistic, integral and systemic approach to scholarship and education.

Abstracts and contact

The deadline for abstracts is 30 November 2015. Interested presenters please email your proposed title and abstract of approximately 300 words to Olivia Efthimiou at heroismscience@gmail.com.

Key dates

Submission of abstract (approx. 300 words): November 30, 2015 to heroismscience@gmail.com

Deadline for submission of conference papers, special issue papers and consideration for edited volume with major academic publisher: May 15, 2016

Conference: July 11-12, 2016

Information for speakers

Further information for confirmed speakers is available here.


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