Those who fit the bill also tended to possess particular personality traits: They generally felt good about themselves, rating themselves highly on statements such as, “I feel I have a number of good qualities” and “I can do things as well as most other people.”
That way, researchers could assess whether students who self-identified as moral rebels actually did behave in ways that were visible to others and weren’t just imagining themselves to be courageous.
They first asked the students to rate their own willingness to stand up to others and say or do the right thing in the face of social pressure to stay silent and go along with the crowd.
Half of the students were placed in a room alone to work on their questionnaire; the others were in a room with another student (who was actually the researchers’ accomplice).
To get around this problem, researchers at Columbia University looked at the personality traits of a select group of people who helped others in a real-world emergency: the Holocaust.