Document Type



This study investigates the role of values in the actions of social heroes, which previous research has suggested may play a role in motivating principled challenges to authority. Kelman and Hamilton’s (1989) orientation to authority framework was used to identify when value-oriented challenges to authority – suggestive of later social heroism – first emerged in their lives, and the values associated with those behaviors. Analyses of archival interviews with 15 leaders of a social activist group found that all participants acted on a value orientation to authority, and they considered these actions to be important experiences in their development as social heroes. The values most associated with these actions were self-direction, universalism, power and achievement. Four participants made value-oriented challenges to authority in childhood; 14 by late adolescence; and all by young adulthood. The early emergence of this behavior suggests that a value orientation to authority is a core element of their identity, and value-oriented challenges to authority were critical experiences in their developmental trajectories as social heroes.





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