Heroism is a Learned Behavior

The Lucifer Effect argues that heroism is a learned behavior!

One of psychology’s pioneers, Dr. Zimbardo has long been credited with providing the evidence that supports a central Cure Violence tenet that violence is a learned behavior. His new Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) focuses on pro-social behavior and was a feature at the Chicago Ideas Week on October 13 honoring eight heroes, including three of Cure Violence’s Violence Interrupters. Ameena Matthews, Eddie Bocanegra, and Ricardo “Cobe” Williams received a Hero Award—which in true heroic fashion—they humbly accepted on behalf of their more than 100 Outreach Workers and Violence Interrupters colleagues in Chicago and throughout the country.

Cure Violence supporters know a large part of our mission is to change the thinking around violence, both at the street-level and for our society as a whole. Having Violence Interrupters recognized for their good work and heralded as heroes helps to shape this discourse. Founder and Executive Director of Cure Violence, Dr. Gary Slutkin, said of the event, “Everyone at Cure Violence is proud to see Cobe, Eddie and Ameena—whose work was highlighted in The Interrupters—receive these awards. This is not only a recognition of their work at Cure Violence, but also of a new national approach to making our neighborhoods safer.”

Dr. Zimbardo and Governor Pat Quinn presented the awards. Honored alongside Cure Violence Violence Interrupters were other social justice professionals, including investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell, who exposed civil rights era hate crimes and Rob Warden, Executive Director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.


  • TED Talk: Phil Zimbardo and the Heroic Imagination Project
  • Quinn honors anti-violence activists at Ideas Week, ABC 7 News
  • CNN Names Tard Carter, East Baltimore Violence Interrupter a hero
  • Dr. Gary Slutkin, Founder & Executive Director of Cure Violence, named a Hero through Volvo for Life