Temar Boggs, 15, likes sports. He may want to play professionally when he leaves school. Or maybe design sneakers. Or be a chef.
He described himself as “typical.” Yet what he did is far from typical.
Boggs jumped on his bike and with the help of a friend, rescued a five year old girl from her abductor in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was quoted by the Lancaster Online as saying, “‘I’m just a normal person who did a thing that anybody else would do.'”
Boggs’ heroism brings to mind Charles Ramsey’s rescue of grown women kidnapped in Cleveland. Did Boggs and Ramsey actually do much more than most people would do? As the police chief said of Boggs and his friend, “‘For them to get involved took courage.'”
It also took going against the societal norm.
The Bystander Effect
In 1964, Kitty Genovese was murdered in New York. Despite neighbors seeing Kitty being stabbed three times outside of her apartment, no one called for help. The tendency to justify non-intervention by assuming that someone else will help is termed the “diffusion of responsibility” by Psychology Today.
People also take cues from others around them. In the Genovese case, none of the neighbors intervened. Taken together, the diffusion of responsibility and the social influence of others who fail to intervene is known as the “bystander effect.”
Boggs, however, like Ramsey, didn’t hesitate when he realized he might be of help. Instead, Boggs and his friend hunted down the kidnapper – who responded by pushing the little girl out of the back seat of the car.
Tamika Boggs, Temar’s mother, is justifiably proud.
The Case for Altruism and Heroism
Social scientists have debated why altruism exists. Dr. Antonio Luigi Paolilli of the University of Salento in Italy notes that cooperation is required to form groups. Paolilli conducted a review of the literature and presented mathematical equations about group interactions, concluding that “evolution may have favored the emergence in humans of altruistic attitudes…” The altruists, coexist with the egoists “or succumb depending on the value of certain parameters.”
Society’s Pressures on Teens
The people of Lancaster, and the little girl’s family, can be happy that Boggs did not succumb to societal pressures. We need altruistic individuals for groups to form. We need heroic individuals to help keep the balance of power.
According to the Heroic Imagination Project, or HIP, we define heroism as “the active attempt to address injustice or create positive change in the world despite pressures to do otherwise…” despite kidnappers and despots.
Watch out, bad guys, Temar Boggs, superteen is here. We should all be proud.
Nephin, D. Lancaster teen Temar Boggs Hailed as a Hero in 5-year-old’s Abduction. (2013). Lancaster Online. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Paolilli, A.L. Altruism, Selfishness and Social Cohesion. (2011). Sociology Mind. Accessed July 16, 2013.
Psychology Today. Bystander Effect. (2013). Accessed July 16, 2013.
Heroic Imagination Project. Redefining Heroism for the 21st Century. (2013) Accessed July 16, 2013.