According to a recent study, guys who identified with Bruce Wayne and his alter-ego Batman are more likely to feel satisfied with their own bodies than those who aren’t fans of superheroes. The Caped Crusader isn’t alone; gentlemen with an affinity for Spider-Man and Superman are also more comfortable in their own skin. In a few cases, looking at photos of the Dark Knight even increased the subject’s strength. Sometimes it’s healthy to be a comic book fan.
Researcher Ariana Young, a graduate student at the University at Buffalo in New York, said that identifying with a strapping crime-fighter can be rewarding for certain individuals. “For some men, exposure to extremely muscular superheroes may actually have a positive effect. It may make them feel better about their bodies,” she explained to My Health News Daily.
Medical Daily reports that men often feel dissatisfied with their own bodies after catching a glimpse of a guy who is in much better shape. In fact, exposure to incredibly good-looking fellas on a regular basis can have a seriously depressive effect on some folks. However, Young theorizes that fandom may result in a completely different outcome.
Here’s how the study went down: 100 male college students were asked to look at photos of Batman and Spider-Man. Both sets of images had been slightly tweaked to show each superhero as a muscular titan and a 98-pound weakling. After requesting the subjects to pour over the aforementioned pictures, researchers discovered that those who felt a kinship with Batman and/or Spider-Man tended to feel better about their own bodies. Those who didn’t feel a connection, meanwhile, reported that they felt bad about themselves. However, these negative feelings subsided a bit when they saw Batman portrayed as a scrawny guy in a cape.
Sharon Lamb, a professor of counseling psychology at the University of Massachusetts, explained that comic books are doing precisely what they were intended to do. “The comic book superhero was invented to address male vulnerability. Men who have actually read the comic books are exposed to all sides of the superhero and not just his body type,” she said. “I think the study shows that boys and men need role models who are whole people, and if they get those kinds of role models, they feel better about themselves, their vulnerabilities and their bodies.”
The study was recently published in the The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.