Bonding with Batman could make you stronger
Study participants were shown either a scrawny or buffed-up version of these comic book characters.
September 17th, 2012
01:19 PM ET

Bonding with Batman could make you stronger

It was hard to keep track of all the superheroes hitting the big screen this summer: Batman in "The Dark Knight Rises." Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America and Thor in "The Avengers." Peter Parker in "The Amazing Spider-Man."

And each character seemed to have bulked up for their latest comeback.

"Over the last few decades, superheroes' bodies have become extremely muscular with body dimensions that are impossible for most men to attain," write the authors of a new study that analyzes the effects of superheroes on male body image.

Past research has shown that seeing muscular figures can make men feel badly about their own bodies, similar to the way seeing stick-thin supermodels can make women question their weight.

But the same effect may not hold true for our favorite comic book characters.

The study, published this week in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, suggests watching superheroes can actually increase males' self esteem - and might make mere mortals stronger.

The study

Researchers with the University at Buffalo asked 98 undergraduate males to rate how much they liked and/or were familiar with Batman or Spider-Man on a scale of 1 to 5. Participants who scored a 4 or higher were said to have a "parasocial" relationship with the superhero - i.e. a one-sided psychological bond. Those who rated less than 2.5 were put into a control group.

All participants were then shown a photo of either a scrawny or buff-looking Batman/Spider-Man. They were given one minute to look at the photo and then asked to rate their mood, self-esteem and body esteem (how they perceive their muscular strength, biceps, etc.)

The undergrads were then tested with a hand-held dynamometer to assess their physical strength.

The results

Participants who had a strong parasocial bond and were shown a muscular superhero photo recorded higher body esteem than those who didn't have a bond with the character.

On the flip side, participants who weren't familiar with the character who were shown a muscular photo experienced a lower body esteem than participants who were shown a scrawny superhero.

More surprising were the strength test results. The undergrads with a parasocial bond who were shown a muscular superhero were stronger than those in the control group and stronger than those with a parasocial bond who were shown a non-muscular photo.

The takeaway

"The thing that I find most interesting ... is the idea that these media figures have real psychological effects on the self," says study author Ariana Young, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University at Buffalo. "It’s not just mind-numbing entertainment. The bonds that we form –- and we do form real bonds - they affect how we feel about ourselves. And it’s not always in a bad way."

Young is planning another superhero study this semester where she'll analyze the effects of the characters on acts of heroism, or helpful behavior.

soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Buy Real Social Media Likes

    Rattling excellent visual appeal on this web site, I'd rate it 10 10.


    February 1, 2021 at 22:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. malatya escort

    esenyurt escort bayanar bu sitede üstelik hepsi ücretsiz...


    February 4, 2021 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. iskenderun escort

    iskenderun escort bayanlarla tanışmak için bu siteyi ziyaret edebilirsiniz.


    February 5, 2021 at 04:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. mersin escort

    esenyurt escort bayanar bu sitede üstelik hepsi ücretsiz...


    February 5, 2021 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Pianino System

    Definitely appreciate you discussing this article. Great!!


    February 5, 2021 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Pianino Producenci

    Hai bisogno di scaricare musica gratis?! Visita questo sito web. Cerchi musica gratis su internet?


    February 7, 2021 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Norwegia

    Zeby znalezc przyjaciela trzeba przymknac nieeco oko. Zeby go zachowac trzeba przymknac oba. N. Douglas. Czy wiesz co symbolizuja Kolory i jaka jest ich symbolika w psychologii ? Thx & Regards... 🙂


    February 16, 2021 at 01:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Blazing Proxy

    Hello there, just became alert to your blog through Google, and found that it's really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will appreciate if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!


    February 19, 2021 at 09:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Filozofia Kartezjusz

    Good job here. I genuinely enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you absolutely bring a new voice to this topic. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Properly, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see much more of this from you.


    February 19, 2021 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Turystyka w USA

    I am impressed, I have to say. Very seldom do I see a blog that is both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, youve hit the nail on the head. Your idea is important; the matter is something that not a lot of people are talking intelligently about. Im very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.


    February 22, 2021 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Cukrzyca

    Great website! I am loving it!! Will come back again. I am bookmarking your feeds also


    March 1, 2021 at 03:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Paris Winikoff


    March 4, 2021 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Nona Masterton

    I've read some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting. I surprise how a lot effort you put to make this sort of fantastic informative website.


    March 6, 2021 at 15:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. scr888 malaysia apk

    Google relies on a fairly democratic system by which consists of vast link structure to find a page's value.
    It really helps and is widely utilized by all SEO experts. Your page in order to
    look professional with zero errors.

    March 8, 2021 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Historia Szkła

    Hi there, I found your web site by way of Google whilst searching for a comparable topic, your web site came up, it seems to be great. I have bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.


    March 17, 2021 at 07:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. scr8882

    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my facebook group?
    There's a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content.
    Please let me know. Many thanks

    March 30, 2021 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Co to jest Leasing

    Every time I read from this blog site I learned something new, but the comments here make me think differently at times. http://www.piano.m106.com


    March 30, 2021 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. WWW.M106.COM

    I simply want to say I am beginner to weblog and actually savored you’re website. Very likely I’m want to bookmark your website . You definitely come with good posts. Thanks a lot for revealing your blog site.


    April 6, 2021 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2

Leave a Reply to Pianino System


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.