(reposted here with permission from Pop Psych Magazine)*
– What Makes a Hero? –
by Dr. Avery T. Sheraton
The emergence of the “superhero” into reality, an occupation formerly relegated to the world of fiction, has brought personality testing to new levels of interest of late. Psychologists and psychiatrists the world over are facing a sudden inundation of parents and young people asking questions about the validity of such a profession, and what areas of themselves they might improve to reach such heights.
As an advisor during the early days of the US Government’s ANGEL Project, colleagues the world over have written or called, asking for guidance on this topic. While my tenure with the Project was brief, I was part of the initial team that put together baseline standards for what personality traits an ideal candidate would exhibit before gaining acceptance into the program. With permission from the ANGEL Project, I now present a brief explanation of these qualities.
Firstly, it was agreed by all that the ideal candidate possess altruistic tendencies. That is to say, they clearly demonstrate a deep desire to help others for little reward but to their own conscience. This was observed in controlled, but keenly monitored, situations, usually without the candidate’s awareness. As selectees are essentially giving up their very bodies to serve the mission, altruism is absolutely critical to becoming a superhero.
Meyers-Briggs personality tests were included in the initial screenings, though this was done more as a means to balance the selections, rather than looking for only certain types. All personalities bring unique qualities to the table, and the ideal team would feature at least one of each type. They are, of course, still building towards this balance, as a certain brand of outgoing individual was required for the public faces of the first selectees, but each new ANGEL moves the entire Project in the right direction. Leaders and followers, doers and thinkers— all are necessary for a fully functional group.
Intelligence is a key factor when considering superhero material. While an IQ test might prove the ability to learn, that ability must be demonstrated with actual knowledge. Candidates are tested in higher-level math, science, and language skills to ensure they are up to the highest of standards.
Any previous psychological trauma must be addressed at the screening. Issues such as clinical depression and certain personality disorders may result in elimination from candidacy. Of course, past traumatic events can often be the cause for altruistic tendencies, and so must be weighed accordingly. Some traumas may pose a risk as far as mental stability goes, and, as such, should be explored in great detail.
An individual’s personal drive must also be taken into account. However, the physical and intelligence tests can be used to demonstrate this trait passively. Those who have the greatest amounts of self-motivation are likely those who will pass the other tests, as they require a great deal of dedication, which must all be on the part of the candidate, rather than inflicted by an outside force.
If an individual were to pass all but one of these screenings, they would more than likely face elimination. There have been a few notable exceptions, but, in time, all boxes were checked on the list for every ANGEL. And so, I would advise my colleagues to encourage vast amounts of analysis and consideration on the part of individuals who express interest in the field of superheroism, as it is not something easily accomplished. These guidelines are not all-inclusive, but they are intended as a starting point for any seeking a vocation of this nature.
As a final note, I wish to extend my thanks to Dr. Roger Poznanski and General Michael Jacobs for granting me permission to address this subject. Hopefully, my words will serve my colleagues well and help them better prepare the next generation of ANGELs.
* – not an actual magazine. This post brought to you by Teaser Tuesday.