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Idle Science

Study Finds Most Would Become Supervillians If Given Powers 419

Posted by samzenpus
from the super-power-corrupts dept.
It probably comes as no surprise, but researchers have found that most of us would gladly put on a mask and fight do-gooders if given super powers. From the article: "But power also acts like strong cologne that affects both the wearer and those within smelling distance, Galinsky noted. The person gains an enhanced sense of their importance, and other people may regard them with greater respect as well as extend leniency toward their actions. That combination makes for an easy slide into corruption."

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Study Finds Most Would Become Supervillians If Given Powers

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  • Re:Well that depends (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:39AM (#33868814)

    This is precisely what I was thinking. With the sate of government all over the world, I would have to ask who are the "good" guys?

  • by rotide (1015173) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:42AM (#33868852)
    It might be fun to say you would be a super villain, but I have a feeling most people aren't sociopaths. To do what it takes to punish people to further your agenda probably isn't in the cards for most people. Sure, you might not be the most stand up guy, given the powers, but you probably wouldn't be blowing up trains and taking school children hostage.
  • Most likely neither (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gad_zuki! (70830) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:51AM (#33868984)

    When we give people something of economic value they tend to monetize it. You don't need to become an altruistic weirdo or psychopathic criminal. Its just like talent. Some people have all sorts of talents and find a way to monetize them. Good singers try to get recording contracts, clever people go to college, etc. If you gave me super strength I would be performing feats for money. If I had super-smarts I would be cracking the stock market or starting a revolutionary tech company.

    This doesn't happen in comics because its boring to read about guys putting on shows or starting business. Most superhero comics are nothing more than a sci-fi version of cops and robbers.

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:59AM (#33869074) Journal

    :Give me superman-like powers and I'd be trying to drastically change the world, not protect it.

    Ever see the movie "Hancock" with Will Smith? Or for that matter, "The Incredibles". Both show how easy it is to fall out of favor when you have superpowers. Another good example is "Team America World Police", and while they weren't superhuman, they had super powerful weapons, and their attempt to "save" Paris from terrorists pretty much sums it up. The problem isn't about "doing good deads", it is about all the collateral damage you cause while doing those very deeds. And the fact that it is pretty hard to apprehend and detain you for that damage.

    That said, hell yes I would love superpowers, and yes, I would want to do nothing but good. The problem is the other damage, and resisting the temptation of all the Lois Lane types throwing their bodies at you. You would have super babies all over the planet.

  • by vekrander (1400525) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:25AM (#33869484)

    Have you ever read a comic book before, let alone a movie? Almost every issue you've raised is addressed in some story or another from Superman rejecting his power (the world is promptly asked to kneel before Zod). The first thing Peter Parker does is act for self gain and he sees that his family is promptly met with demise. In the watchman, Dr. Manhattan quickly becomes indifferent, while Ozymandias quickly decides that the ends justify the means. Honestly, I think we already know all of the possibilities if we look at all of the alternate universes humanity has scribed that contain such people. In the end it really comes down to the personality of the person wielding the power.

    It's really not so much different from becoming a public official. Do you vote to ban cable competitors from your district in return for Comcast financing your re-election? Well, you believe that the health care initiative you're trying to pass is for the greater good so you have to be there to get it through. So you take the money, but then they ask you to sign ACTA. But think of the children without health care. Some people will stick to their virtues and others will fall into corruption. If my both the study and my analogy are correct, then yes, the slide into corruption is slippery indeed.

  • by Pharmboy (216950) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:28AM (#33869532) Journal

    In other words, to change the world you need to think big. Hancock failed at that.

    Which made him human, like us. It is easy to say "think big" until you are overburdened with all the people who want cats rescued from trees, and want you to save them from the small stuff. It would seem you would get bogged down with minutia with no time to actually think big. "What good are you as a super hero if you can't even save us from the bank robber that shot two people!" kind of things. I dunno, it is an interesting thought game, but that is about it.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:35AM (#33869640)

    ...to get what you wanted. Anything you wanted would be given to you anyway. You'd be showered with acclaim, access, women, riches, and political power if you were a superhero. If you had the patience of a goldfish, you wouldn't have to go around using your super strength to break into bank vaults. About the only thing I thing you'd have to worry about is those currently in power being intimidated by you and trying to knock you off or extort you to control you.

  • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:39AM (#33869696) Journal

    >>>They're not choosing to be evil, they just rationalize being a complete dick as _good_ or at least excusable.

    Like politicians explaining why it's _good_ to assess a ~$1000 fine against people who choose to pay cash to their doctors, instead of having insurance? How does that saying go? The road to hell (or tyranny) is paved with good intentions? Or as Mark Twain said, "Lord save me from people trying to 'improve' me. I like my vices and foibles."

  • Plutonian (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:41AM (#33869726)

    Mark Waid did a better study of this in "Irredeemable"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irredeemable [wikipedia.org]

  • Re:Study? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wwfarch (1451799) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:53AM (#33869898)
    I read the article and the only study I saw mentioned giving people the power to assign tasks to a group. The less responsible ones (read villains) assigned more tasks while the more responsible ones (read heroes) took on more tasks themselves.

    If that's what their conclusion are based on then they're obviously making some massive leaps in order to determine who would become super villains
  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:54AM (#33869922)

    You don't need to start out blowing up trains and taking school children hostage. You could even start out as a superhero. You're taking down criminals to help out the cops and protect the innocent. Then you start seeing that you're busting the same criminals over and over because the justice system isn't working right (from your perspective... maybe the reality is that a vigilante who contaminates evidence with his actions & doesn't stick around to testify leads to charges that don't stick).

    So you start justifying taking harsher action against the worse criminals. After all, that guy that opened fire in the Elementary School would have just killed again had you not taken him out, right? You're still protecting the innocent. And this guy waving a gun around during a mugging? He's just a step away from killing someone. Take him out now and you save even more innocents.

    Before you know it, you make one little mistake. (Hey, how were you supposed to know the guy running with the purse was trying to *return* it to the little old lady before you zapped him with your heat vision?) Now everyone thinks *you're* the super-villain. They want to lock you up. But you can't help people if you're locked up so you fight the police... for their own good, of course. Why won't they just let you punish those people you find guilty without getting in your way? They must be part of the corrupt system and equally as guilty as those criminals they set free. Better take them down too. Things will be a lot better when you take over the world.....

  • Re:The intellectuals (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ebuck (585470) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @11:17AM (#33870272)
    They only tell the hero the plans because the director isn't good enough to show the action without explanation. Directors know that pre-screening is critical, and due to their past laziness they have a flaccid audience which expects everything explained in detail. Thus they feel that they need to explain even the obvious stuff or they might land an audience that finds the film confusing.

    Killing the hero slowly is to build up justification in the Hero's brutal execution of the villain. Basically it is an emotional argument based on revenge. The hero must suffer so he doesn't look like a thug when he dispatches the villain.

    The fact that these formula have been used so many times that they are now being parodied only indicates the poor quality of most film development. As long a enough people pay to watch poor quality films, expect to see more of them as their costs are easy to calculate; and, the money spent on development will always be 50% lower than the projected earnings.

    This stable but broken dynamic is what keeps independent and foreign film alive. As long as Hollywood only knows how to make smash hits and blockbusters, everyone else is free to explore the not-so-feel-good movies, or the ones which leave you with more questions than answers.
  • In reality "morality" breaks down to "What would provide a positive outcome to society."

    If one truely believes, especially when they have scientific evidence to back them up, that a decisions like mandating insurance would have a positive effect, they aren't being "evil", they are just making a decision that some may not like.

    Could the scientific evidence be wrong? Sure, but even still, doctors thousands of years ago, drilling holes in your head weren't "evil", they were just wrong.

  • Re:Well that depends (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fritish (1630461) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @01:52PM (#33873328) Homepage
    Have you read Superman Red Son? It's an interesting take on what would have happened if Superman landed several hours later... meaning his ship crashed into Russia instead of the US. How does the power shift? What ideals does Superman actually hold? Is he still the good guy or does that mean that Lex Luthor becomes more of the good guy now? Interesting read.
  • by Requiem18th (742389) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @03:09PM (#33874580)

    Seriously, I think I'd just go around killing billionaires and world leaders. Am sure I can come up with a reason later. It's easy to argue that if the world is wrong, reveling against it is actually good.

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