Author

Amelia Knight

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Scott Allison

Abstract

There is a significant body of research reflecting that human beings are drawn to hero stories. This fascination stems from a basic human need for hope and the inspiration to achieve greatness. Most hero stories, especially fictional ones, contain symbolically embedded information, which helps us to mentally represent particular heroes. For example, when asked to visualize Batman and Superman two distinct images come to mind: Batman’s mask and Superman’s cape. In the real world, these symbols are a little more obscure, like a Policeman’s badge or a Fireman’s hat. Symbols are important for the understanding of viewers, but they can also hold significance in another sense. What if these costumes, uniforms, symbols or cultural images are actually influencing the heroic behavior? In the words of Csikszentmihalyi and Rochberg-­‐Halton (1981), “…the things with which people interact are not simply tools for survival, or for making survival easier and more comfortable. Things embody goals, make skills manifest, and shape the identities of their users.” Humans interact with costumes and symbols daily, as they shape who we are and help us to achieve our goals. In the case of heroes and villains, this symbolic interaction could shape identities and potentially drive them to act accordingly.

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