3Standing Like Superman Makes You More Resistant to Pain
There's probably not a single incarnation of Superman where he doesn't stand with his hands on his hips at least once, like this:
Being socially awkward, Superman is never sure what to do with his hands.
It's like he's openly inviting villains to kick him in the nuts (they're even marked red, like a target). But, while most of us assume that Superman can only afford to stand like that because he's got that whole indestructible thing going for him, it turns out that assuming a dominant pose really does make you more tolerant to pain, even if you don't come from planet Krypton.
In a study, or a means of venting unresolved feelings related to bullying, scientists had volunteers stand in a dominant pose (with their chests out and expanding their bodies), a more submissive pose or a neutral "just kinda standing there" pose before slapping a blood pressure cuff on their arms and painfully pumping the shit out of it until the volunteers told them to stop. Even though all volunteers went through the exact same ordeal, those in dominant poses were able to take more pressure than those in the submissive or neutral ones. Just standing like Superman made them more resistant to pain.
Hit him in the nuts with a football right now and he'll barely notice.
But that's not all: personality counts, too. The study also found that even assuming a submissive attitude makes you suck more at pain tolerance and generally turns you into a bigger sissy. Scientists tested this by pairing up volunteers with actors who talked loudly and sort of got in the faces of their partners for the whole experiment. When the actors pretended to be douchebags, the volunteers turned meek and had less resistance to pain, and also their strength decreased slightly -- when the roles were reversed, the opposite happened.
Douchebaggery is our kryptonite, apparently.
Amazingly, the scientists think that even emotional pain could be withstood more efficiently by assuming a Superman-like pose. So maybe this is just a psychological thing? Nope: They repeated the experiment with two more rounds of volunteers, only instead of assuming the different poses, this time they were only shown pictures of people in them. Neither group got the resist-pain bonus in this case, meaning that it's the physical act that matters.
So the next time you're curled up on the floor being kicked by a gang of bikers, keep in mind that you can't just reduce the pain by thinking about Superman -- you have to actually stand up like him.
2Solitude Makes You More Empathetic and Gives You Super Memory
A classic element of the Superman stories is the Fortress of Solitude, a giant, secret palace in the Arctic where he can get away from the stresses of life and fart in his spandex without killing any bystanders.
"Yes, this oughta be enough room for my porn collection."
Everyone needs to get away from people every once in a while, but shouldn't Superman be, you know, above that sort of thing? Protecting others is his entire job, and assuming that he never needs to sleep or rest, what possible benefit could he get out of isolation? The answer, says science, is that it makes him a better person. Or alien, whatever.
A study from Northwestern University and the University of Chicago found that being lonely makes people more empathetic. Some of the volunteers were asked to write about family events like Thanksgiving or Christmas, and some weren't, and then they all had to answer some questions. The answers showed that those who were thinking about friends and family were more likely to dehumanize other people they didn't know.
Admittedly, Thanksgiving may not have been the best thing to put them in a peaceful frame of mind.
In another part of the experiment, some of the volunteers were asked to bring a friend, while others were alone, and then they were all asked what they thought about torturing suspected terrorists. The lone ones were less likely to endorse torture, while the ones who brought their friends were all about "waterboarding those motherfuckers in the dick."
The explanation for this is that being with friends or family satisfies our need for social connection, which in turns means you won't give that much of a shit about strangers. In other words, isolating himself in his fortress in the middle of nowhere helps Superman care about those puny little humans he saves every day. But that's not the only benefit he gets from being alone: Solitude also improves your memory. Seriously.
"Two or three more nights at home and maybe I'll remember where I put my keys."
In a study at Harvard University, volunteers were paired off and shown random images. Some groups were told they'd be working on the same task on their individual computers, while others were told they'd be working alone. A week later, the ones who thought they were working alone were a lot more likely to remember the images.
The obvious explanation here is that the people working in pairs got lazy and assumed that the other guy would cover for them, but researchers think there's something else going on here: Apparently, just the act of being with other people drains our attention and makes it harder to keep track of stuff. You can see how that could be a problem for Superman.
"Why is everyone looking at ... OH SHIT."