Batman gives you brawn say the brains

Does the mere sight of a comic book hero leave most men feeling inadequate and far more in-touch with Peter Parker than Spider-Man? Does the image of Batman’s imposing physique that promises physical prowess and strength, make men feel like they are their superhero’s weedy sidekick? You might think that superheroes intimidate the average man but it seems not. In fact, just catching a glimpse of men in tights might super-size men’s strength and pump up their body image in the process.

For men, looking at images of superheroes doesn’t create a negative impact on self-esteem, to the contrary, it might just bolster it. The Buffalo University study, ‘Batman to the Rescue! The Protective Effects of Parasocial Relationships with Muscular Superheroes on Men’s Body Image’, looked at the effects on 100 men after they had looked at a biography of either Spider-Man or Batman, which included a full body picture which had been manipulated to either have a muscular or non-muscular physique

The participants believed that they were taking part in a memory test, but they were also assessed on their parasocial relationship, as well as their own body image. “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,” according to Ariela Young who lead the study.

She continued, “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.” The key to this superhero effect is that a man feels this kinship or attachment in the first place. It isn’t just body image that is affected either.

The men were asked about how they felt about certain parts of their body, such as their biceps or chest, for example, as well as their physical condition and their muscular strength. A digital reading of their grip-power was taken too, and the Batman and Spider-Man fans came out as stronger.

It’s good news for men who like to watch their action heroes at work on the silver screen too. They can not only enjoy the adventure unfolding before their eyes but imagine that it is building their body-image and esteem too. As Young comments, “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.”
Let us know who your favorite superhero is and why.

 

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