Having An Alter Ego Like Batman Will Make You More Confident And Less Stressed
I wouldn’t necessarily say Batman has a laid-back life, considering he has to constantly be on the lookout for bad guys attacking Gotham, but apparently having an alter ego like Bruce Wayne can actually make you less stressed.
That’s not to say you should go out and buy a Batman mask before single-handedly taking on criminals – unless you want to, of course.
No, your alter ego can be much more low-key than the Dark Knight, because the mere existence of it could reduce anxiety and boost your confidence and determination.
Researchers have determined that adopting an alter ego is an extreme form of ‘self-distancing’, which involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to view a situation more dispassionately.
When acting as an alter ego, we have better self-control, enabling us to rein in undesirable feelings like anxiety and increase perseverance on challenging tasks.
Rachel White, assistant professor of psychology at Hamilton College in New York State, commented, ‘Self-distancing gives us a little bit of extra space to think rationally about the situation.’
A number of studies have taken place to back up the claim, one of which asked participants to think through their emotions before giving a small public talk, the BBC reports. They were advised to think in the third person, rather than the first person, to create a psychological distance from their emotions.
The study found that by thinking in the third person, participants were able to better master their anxiety.
It seems that self-distancing enables people to focus on the bigger picture of a situation, so researchers expressed theories about whether it could also improve elements of self-control, like determination and willpower.
To test this theory, White conducted a concentration test on a group of six-year-olds, which involved them having to press the space bar whenever they saw a picture of cheese amid a series of images flashed on a computer.
White motivated the young participants by telling them it was a ‘very important activity’ and that they would be ‘good helpers’ by working on it for as long as possible. Researchers left an iPad loaded with a fun games in the room, designed to lure the children away from the task.
Before getting started, the children were told that if the task got too boring, it could be helpful to think about their feelings.
One group were told to think in the first person – ‘Am I working hard?’ – others were encouraged to think in the third person – ‘Is Hannah working hard?’ – and a third group were given the option to adopt the role of their favourite fictional hero, such as Batman.
The third group were given props to dress up in, and when they got bored they were told to consider their behaviour as if they were the actual character, asking, ‘Is Batman working hard?’
Results showed that while thinking in the third person led to children spending 10% more time on the task than those thinking in the first person, the children who adopted alter egos spent 23% more time on the task.
With these results in mind, White suspects that we could all boost our emotional regulation, self-control and general poise by adopting an alter ego. She suggested picking a different person for different types of goals, such as a wise member of your family for a personal dilemma, or a work mentor for a professional problem.
So there you have it. If you spot an extremely relaxed-looking person in a Batman mask next time you’re out, you know exactly what their secret is.
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