How Tragedies Like The Paris Attacks Can Drive Us To Risk Our Lives For Strangers

In the middle of a horrific act of violence, we often hear of altruistic actions performed by total strangers — simply in defense of their fellow humans. What exactly gives these civilians, often called “everyday heroes” the courage to act so selflessly toward others, in moments their own lives may be at risk?

David Rand, an assistant professor of psychology at Yale University, explained to BBC that something as abrupt and incendiary as the Paris attacks can spur people to do something altruistic in response — without much time to think about it.

“When forced to make rapid, intuitive decisions, we tend to act the most selflessly,” he says. “Our default is to cooperate.”

After Friday’s horrific attacks, in which gunmen opened fire on a concert venue and in restaurants, and suicide bombers entered a sports stadium — leaving 129 dead and 352 injured — the terror headlines were soon followed with stories of the heroes that stepped in to protect others, even when their own lives were compromised.

One man, for example, at the Bataclan concert venue stood in front of a female stranger while the building was under siege, putting his own life at risk.

“A man saved my wife’s life last night at the Bataclan by hiding her under chairs and shielding her with his body,” the woman’s husband, Clément, posted on Facebook, as reported by The Daily Beast. “His name is Bruno and we would like to thank him.”

Safer, a worker at Casa Nostra restaurant, was working behind the bar when he heard firing outside. After seeing two wounded women outside the restaurant, Safer ran onto the street, amid the ongoing shooting, and rushed the two injured women into the restaurant’s basement, BBC reported.

“I picked them up and —> Read More