A story that often gets a lot of play in the press is how really thin and often airbrushed models on the covers of magazines can have a negative affect on women viewer’s self-esteem. While less often covered in the press, the same self-esteem issues have been said to arise in men who look at muscular figures.
With muscular superheroes dominating the box office, it was only a matter of time before someone did a study on the effects of looking at superheroes. Researchers at the University of Buffalo did just such a study that has been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. However, the results are likely to be surprising to most.
For people who didn’t have a parasocial relationship status (a fancy way of saying weren’t a fan of) superheroes, the results were as expected and the male test subjects felt bad about their bodies while looking at muscular superheroes. However, for people who did have a parasocial relationship status (were fans of) superheroes, they not only did not experience any self esteem issues but they also experienced increased physical strength.
So if you’re a comic book fan, then the next time you hit the gym, it might payoff to bring your Hulk comic book collection along to read.