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In antiquity, a hero was a man of superhuman strength, courage or ability. In later times he came to be defined by his great or noble deeds. Today, Americans have a different idea of what makes a hero.

For almost two-thirds of Life-scapers, respondents to American Dialogue's poll on America Online for Advertising Age, a hero is someone, male or female, who helps humankind (63%). Just 1% discount that as an essential element to heroism. A third (34%) consider someone who surmounts difficult hurdles to be a hero while 2% consider that the least essential element of herohood. And 3% define a hero as someone who breaks some sort of record-like a speed skating record. Some 94% consider that inconsequential.

Media reports use the word hero to describe soldiers wounded in duty or people killed in accidents or incidents like the Oklahoma City bombing. While sympathetic to these victims, Lifescapers have a clear-and different-concept of what a hero is. Some 94% think a man who knocked the gun out of a robber's hand and stopped a crime is a hero: He took action. Just 3% think someone who was killed in a holdup is. Another 3% say neither is a hero.

Similarly, 91% of respondents consider Jonas Salk, who discovered the cure for polio, a hero, while just 3% consider the captain who went down with the Titanic more so. Six percent say neither is a hero.

While almost everyone wants a hero, not everyone has one. Just 69% of respondents have a hero.

Perhaps because the news media do not protect likely heroes and preserve them as blemish-free, 60% of people believe there were more heroes in generations past than there are today.

Lifescapers feel it's considerably more heroic to donate a child's organs after he or she is killed (66%) than to start Mothers Against Drunk Driving in the same circumstance (25%). Some 5% call writing a poem or song celebrating the child heroic.

Lifescapers believe the foot soldier on the front line is more of a hero than the general plotting a military maneuver (88% vs. 8%; 4% don't consider either heroes).

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