Men's body image positively impacted by psychological bond with superheroes
(Medical Xpress)—Batman's awesome power may come not only from his ability to defeat the likes of Mr. Freeze and the Joker, but from the fact that his mere presence makes his devoted fans feel strong and physically fit.
So says Ariana Young, University at Buffalo doctoral candidate in psychology and the principle author of a first-of its-kind study on men's relationships with their favorite superheroes.
Young and fellow UB researchers Shira Gabriel, PhD, associate professor of psychology, and Jordan Hollar, an undergraduate psychology major found that if a man has a parasocial relationship (a one-sided psychological bond) with a muscular superhero, it not only protects him from the typically negative effects of exposure to muscular media ideals, but actually makes him physically stronger.
The study, "Batman to the Rescue! The Protective Effects of Parasocial Relationships with Muscular Superheroes on Men's Body Image," is in press for an upcoming issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. It is currently online at the journal's web site.
Young points out that body dissatisfaction is a growing problem among men and suggests that this may be partly caused by hyper-muscular ideals rampant in the media.
"Studies show that exposure to muscular media figures contribute to men's body dissatisfaction," she says. "Men tend to feel bad because, by comparison, their own bodies seem scrawny.
"Although the effects of muscular superheroes on men's body image had not yet been directly examined, it seemed reasonable to assume that superheroes, too, would provoke body dissatisfaction," says Young.
"However, we thought it would also be important to consider men's parasocial relationship status with these superheroes. Many people have parasocial bonds with media figures, either real celebrities or fictional characters, and we know from previous research in our lab that identification with these figures can favorably affect how we feel about ourselves," she says.
"People tend to take on the traits of their favorite media figures," Young says. "That is, a person may come to see himself as being more like a favored media figure following exposure. In this case, we thought men might feel stronger after being exposed to a muscular superhero.
"So we hypothesized that the negative effects of exposure to a muscular superhero might be attenuated, even flipped, if men had a parasocial relationship with that superhero," she says.
The researchers conducted two versions of the study—a Batman version and a Spider-Man version—to ensure outcomes were not specific to one particular superhero.
During a pre-testing session, potential participants indicated how much they liked and how familiar they were with Batman and Spiderman (separately). Their responses were then averaged and served as an indicator of their parasocial relationship status with each superhero. Participants with high scores (meaning they had a parasocial bond) and low scores (meaning they did not) for each superhero were recruited for the study.
Ninety-eight male participants later came in to the lab and viewed a profile of Batman or Spider-Man as part of what they were told was a memory task. The profile included a general biography and a full-body picture of the superhero. The images were manipulated such that some participants saw a muscular version of the superhero and some saw a non-muscular version.
The participants were then asked to indicate their current satisfaction with their own body parts or functions (muscular strength, physical condition, chest, biceps, etc.). Finally, their physical strength was assessed using a hand-held dynamometer, which, when squeezed provides a digital reading of the maximum achieved grip power in pounds.
"Consistent with previous research, men exposed to a muscular superhero with whom they did not have a parasocial bond felt worse about their own bodies," Young says. "However, men exposed to a muscular superhero with whom they did have a parasocial bond not only experienced no harmful effects to their body satisfaction, but also displayed greater physical strength," she says.
Young says, "It would be unfortunate if, as previous research suggests, the thrill of watching a beloved superhero swoop in to save the day inevitably made men and boys feel bad about their own bodies.
"This study shows that this is not always the case, and suggests that the popularity of superheroes may come in part from men who identify with them, and thus experience the psychological benefits of exposure."
Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Provided by University at Buffalo
- Admiring celebrities can help improve self-esteem Jun 05, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- It's a bird, it's a plane, it's super hero sexism Dec 21, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Pressure to look more muscular may lead some men to consider steroids Jun 03, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Boys and their bodies Sep 26, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Real-life spider men using protein found in venom to develop muscular dystrophy treatment Jul 16, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Why is zone 1 in liver more prone to ischemic injury?
8 hours ago Hi, Is it because around central vein, there is only deoxygenated blood from the vein where as in the periphery there is hepatic artery. Also why...
How can there be villous adenoma in colon, if there are no villi there
May 22, 2013 As title suggest. Thanks :smile:
How can there be a term called "intestinal metaplasia" of stomach
May 21, 2013 Hello everyone, Ok Stomach's normal epithelium is simple columnar, now in intestinal type of adenocarcinoma of stomach it undergoes "intestinal...
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
A brief visual task can predict IQ, according to a new study. This surprisingly simple exercise measures the brain's unconscious ability to filter out visual movement. The study shows that individuals whose ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 50 minutes ago | 5 / 5 (2) | 0 |
Nervous about that upcoming job interview? You might want to take steps to reduce your jitters, especially if you are a man.
Psychology & Psychiatry 1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—Research by U of T Mississauga psychology professor Glenn Schellenberg reveals that two key personality traits – openness-to-experience and conscientiousness—predict better than IQ ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 3 hours ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Parents naturally are concerned for their children's safety, particularly when there is news of a child abduction that happens close to home. Finding the balance between emotions and the "teachable moment" as parents talk ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A new report on suicide in Ireland shows that suicide cases experienced a significant number (and intensity) of life events in the 6 months prior to their death.
Psychology & Psychiatry 4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
A study by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital found "substantial evidence" that a regenerative process involving damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord could hold the key to better functional recovery by most stroke victims.
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0 |
As the human body fine-tunes its neurological wiring, nerve cells often must fix a faulty connection by amputating an axon—the "business end" of the neuron that sends electrical impulses to tissues or other ...
1 hour ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0 |
Scientists have uncovered a survival mechanism that occurs in breast cells that have just turned premalignant-cells on the cusp between normalcy and cancers-which may lead to new methods of stopping tumors.
52 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Gaucher disease causes debilitating and sometimes fatal neurodegeneration in early childhood. Recent studies have uncovered a link between the mutations responsible for Gaucher disease and an increased risk ...
37 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A discovery made in fish could aid research into motor neuron disease.
51 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
Spanish researchers have discovered that the daily clearance of neutrophils from the body stimulates the release of hematopoietic stem cells from the bone marrow into the bloodstream, according to a report published today ...
44 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0