Why calling veterans ‘heroes’ might not help them
"We may be unfairly limiting their agency and limiting their options.”
By Stephen Beech via SWNS
Stereotyping former members of the armed forces as "heroes" may limit their future career earnings, suggests a new study.
People believe "heroes" are more willing to forgo higher salaries to serve others, according to the findings.
While many people venerate volunteers who enlist in the military, constantly referring to all veterans as “heroes” may direct them into lower-paying careers associated with selflessness, suggests the study.
Lead author Doctor Matthew Stanley, of Duke University, said: “We know that veterans face issues with unemployment and underemployment, but we also know that the public holds overwhelmingly positive views of veterans as a group.
"The public’s views of veterans are so positive that the entire group is often given the hero label.
“We were motivated to better understand how it could be that veterans face these serious problems concerning unemployment and underemployment in spite of the public’s overwhelmingly positive perceptions.”
Across 11 experiments involving 6,500 participants, researchers examined why veterans experience lower rates of employment and earnings than their non-veteran counterparts despite the persistent positive stereotype that veterans are heroes.
In one experiment, researchers had 149 people rank common careers in the United States based on how selfish they believed the typical employee in that career to be, in order to create a list of the five careers perceived to be the most and least selfish.
A second set of 311 participants was asked to rate each of those careers by how well they would suit a US military veteran entering the civilian workforce.
The researchers found that participants were more likely to say that careers ranked low in selfishness, such as a firefighter or public school teacher, would be more appealing, a better cultural fit and better suited to a veteran’s skills than careers ranked high in selfishness, such as estate agent or banker.
Another experiment examined whether people would still think veterans were better suited for selfless careers if they thought that someone enlisted in the military for a reason other than serving others, for example, to acquire technical skills.
The researchers introduced 407 online participants to a fictional US military veteran named “Peter Miller” who received formal training in information technology (IT) while serving in the military and was preparing for a career in the civilian workforce.
The participants were told Miller was applying for IT jobs with similar starting salaries at an organization designated as self-focused by participants in a pre-trial and an organization designated as selfless.
The participants who were told that Miller joined the military specifically to receive training in IT were less likely to consider Miller a hero and were more likely to believe that Miller would be a better fit for the job at the organization designated as self-focused
Dr. Stanley, a post-doctoral research associate at Duke, said: “We typically don’t think that describing groups in such extremely positive terms - as heroes - could actually have negative effects on group members.
“But in the case of veterans, people see them as a better fit at jobs, roles and organizations that they associate with selflessness, which tend to be lower paying.”
He said the more “heroic” the participants believe veterans to be, the more likely they are to think that veterans would be willing to make a career out of serving others at the expense of other needs or desires such as financial security or providing for their family.
A follow-up experiment found that the positive stereotypes about veterans and heroism could also be applied to other careers people perceive to be heroic, including firefighters and nurses.
The researchers randomly assigned 1,245 participants to one of six groups often stylized as heroes by the American public: firefighters, paramedics, elementary school teachers, nurses, physicians or social workers.
Participants were told that some members of the group were to receive a 5,000-dollar bonus that could be split into a personal holiday fund and a fund for a local charity.
The participants were also told that the employer would match any donations made to charity, then asked to determine how much the group member would want to give to charity and how much they would keep for their holiday.
For firefighters, elementary school teachers, nurses, physicians and social workers, the researchers found a "significant" positive relationship between how heroic participants believed a group member to be and how much money they believed that group member would choose to give to charity out of their bonus.
Dr. Stanley said that suggests people who are perceived as heroic are expected to sacrifice more for others than those who are not.
He says the persistent belief that heroes should be self-sacrificing may funnel veterans into lower-paying, service-oriented careers rather than careers that fit their own needs and experiences.
Dr. Stanley added: “There are lots of reasons why Americans enlist in the military, and we should not assume that veterans want to make a career out of serving others, especially at the expense of other needs and desires.
“By funneling veterans into specific jobs, organizations, and careers associated with selflessness, we may be unfairly limiting their agency and limiting their options.”
The findings were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email [email protected] or submit an inquiry via our contact form.
The ‘perfect’ living room layout to improve your mood and well-being
“We become blind to rooms that aren’t working and it’s hard to see a problem when you’re in it."
Cancer survivor finally becoming a mom after friend offers to be surrogate
"I had hoped for so long to be a mom."
This is how ants spread all over the world
How ants evolved to become so ubiquitous has remained a mystery until now.
Drone footage captures boyfriend pulling off the ‘ultimate proposal’
"It was just perfect."
Daily pint or glass of wine doesn’t raise the risk of premature death: study
However, those who down up to a bottle a day are 61% more likely to die before their time.
- Health1 week ago
Women reveal reasons why they don’t exercise enough
- Food & Drink3 days ago
Family dinners are more important than you’d think
- Sports4 days ago
This is how far sports fans are willing to go for their favorite team
- Weddings4 days ago
Couple ditches their wedding dresses for matching sweatsuits
- Home1 week ago
1 in 6 Americans put off cleaning for at least a month
- Wellness1 day ago
Average American feels insecure 5 times a day: poll
- Animals4 days ago
This dog is so big people often mistake him for a pony or a lion
- History1 week ago
Early European farmers survived because they had lots of sex