An examination of courageous behavior in a laboratory setting
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Psychological research has given much consideration to fear; yet courage has received comparably little research attention. Thus far, the study of courage has been confined mostly to the examination of person variables that distinguish courageous individuals from non-courageous ones. In Study One, I tested several theoretically-derived interventions intended to increase courageous behavior. An undergraduate, non-clinical sample was studied. No effects of interventions were observed on performance on a novel semi-behavioral courage test. In Study Two, I examined several potential predictors of courageous behavior using the same semi-behavioral courage test. In addition, the effects of group and individual contexts were examined by having participants complete the courage test alone or in the presence of male and female confederates who were acting like participants. Students from introductory psychology classes were invited to participate. The findings indicated no effect of context for either male or female participants. In addition, there were no differences between genders. Performance on the courage test items involving physical risk was correlated with greater tendencies toward risk-taking and sensation-seeking and greater tolerance for physical distress. Fearlessness, defined as the absence of significant fear on any of the test items, was also generally correlated with these psychological constructs. The social courage items appeared to be problematic. Implications for the development of courage-facilitating intervention are discussed, along with a possible reconceptualization of courage and directions for future research.