Angels everywhere? How beliefs in pure evil and pure good predict perceptions of heroic behavior

Russell J. Webster, Donald A. Saucier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


We examined the effects of belief in pure evil (BPE) and belief in pure good (BPG) on perceptions and evaluations of a stereotypically altruistic (vs. egoistic) hero who apprehended a criminal perpetrator. Overall, participants appreciably supported formal, public accolades for the altruistic hero because they more greatly deified (i.e., venerated) the altruistic hero. Greater levels of BPG were associated with greater deification only of the altruistic hero, and levels of BPG did not predict support for awards or rewards for either hero. Levels of BPE were not associated with deification of either the altruistic or egoistic hero, although greater levels of BPE were associated with greater support for rewarding the hero because such individuals more strongly believe that rewards foster prosocial behavior. Ultimately, characterizing others as altruistic meaningfully impacts perceptions of their heroic behavior, but preexisting beliefs about good and evil importantly appear to impact such perceptions as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-392
Number of pages6
JournalPersonality and Individual Differences
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


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