Super Power Corrupts: Most People Would Be Villains

| 12 Oct 2010 11:11

A study by social psychologists proved that, if they were given super powers, most people would be jerks.

What would you do if you had super strength? Break open a bank to grab some fast cash or would you lift a bus to save some nuns going off the bridge? A study by a team at Northwestern University in Chicago proved that the average person would fall into a life of crime if they were given a super power. If you did rob the bank as most people would, Uncle Ben would shake his head at your lack of responsibility, but Plato would just nod. Power corrupts, and you just proved it.

But like in most comic books, it's up to the individual. A select few would take their newfound power and serve the greater good. "That's where you can predict the supervillain or superhero," said Adam Galinsky, a psychological researcher on the team at Northwestern . "The average person is corrupted by power, but a select few see power as responsibility."

Galinsky points out that the seeds of who you are are magnified when you receive super powers, a concept with which most comic book fans are familiar. "Plato talked about how true power makes the person in terms of transforming and changing him or her, but power also reveals the person," Galinsky said. "My research and other people's research have shown that, in many cases, power makes you more how you truly are."

One mitigating factor is whether you have an alter-ego to keep you grounded. Spiderman may be tempted, but Peter Parker has to live in the real world and is morally guided by his friends and family. "You could make a case that having a secret alter ego that's a regular person is part of what keeps them grounded," said Robin Rosenberg, a clinical psychologist and author of several books on superhero personalities. "It's like the rock star having to take out the trash."

Finally, age is a factor. "A 20-year-old may go to the locker rooms and look through the walls," Rosenberg said. "I don't know that a 50-year-old would."

So what would you do if you had x-ray vision or could change your shape? Would you become a hero, or would you just try to get a peek at the girls in their knickers?

Source: Mother Nature Network

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