The Batman Effect: Access your “Heroic” Self

Vatsal Jain
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
8 min readOct 9, 2020

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Imagine you’re facing a high-stakes situation — an interview, a speech, or completing a demanding task. Mostly, in such situations, your unconscious mind takes over. Anxiety, anger, fear, and overwhelmingness fill your brain, sucking up your creative juices. You cannot logic your way out of those emotions.

So, how can you keep moving when you’re stuck in a frustrating, painful, or boring situation? One way of cutting through the noise is to form an alter ego — activating the “heroic self” — who always leverages the opportunity.

Image by Bastian Ungnade from Pixabay

This approach is called the “Batman Effect” — coined owing to Bruce Wayne’s continuous struggle to suppress obstacles being a mere mortal. This active cognitive strategy advocates the idea that people perform better in tasks if they simulate some other character, who is majorly successful in those tasks.

A Potential Booster for Kids

Earlier investigations have revealed that kids donning proficient media characters continue longer on tedious tasks and do better on executive function tasks versus kids thinking about themselves from the first-person point of view.

Seeing through the lens of individuals more efficiently than themselves enables kids to reflect upon the challenge and process it from various angles. It forms mental space or “psychological distance” between themselves and the effort-intensive task and helps them picture an exemplar.

A 2016 study at the University of Minnesota showcased the perks of self-distancing — looking at one’s own situation from outsiders’ perspective — on kids’ perseverance.

The researchers asked 6- and 4-year-old kids to accomplish a recurring task for 10 minutes while giving them the choice to take breaks by playing an alluring video game.

Across both age groups, kids simulating a role model — here a character like Batman — dedicated most of the time toiling, followed by kids taking a third-person perspective on self, or eventually, a first-person perspective.

Photo by Jessica Lewis from Pexels

Whether you’re influencing your kids to clean up their room or motivating them to finish their homework, the Batman Effect offers them much-needed encouragement.

Check up on them at regular intervals by asking, “How’s it going in there, Batman?” You’ll certainly see them doing better than usual. Every time your kids successfully keep going, they’ll establish the mental power they need to do demanding jobs. And the more confident they become, the more hurdles they’ll deal with.

Instilling kids with mental strength and perseverance in the contemporary world is challenging. Technology offers immediate contentment and digital gadgets provide a simple escape when things seem to go out of our hands.

Young children have reduced attention spans and patience than ever when things are going south. Without endurance, kids could turn into adults who give up soon whenever they confront a challenge. That could mean quitting a job when they don’t get a pay raise or ending relationships each time they encounter communication difficulties.

The good thing is that endurance is a quality that can be ingrained, even in the digital economy.

Simply call Batman for help.

Note: This motivational effect was named after Batman as out of every character that was put forward to the kids — Rapunzel from Tangled, Batman, and Bob the Builder — kids who went for Batman exhibited the greatest endurance with the tasks.

Not Only for Kids, but For Adults Too

We make lots of decisions spontaneously, even those we would’ve anticipated knowing better. A tincture of self-distancing can do wonders. That means, for instance, ceasing to doubt the “brain-gut” connection.

“What mistakes do I keep committing?”

“What do they show?

All of us have behavioral patterns, many good, few not. Impeding the bad ones could involve backing off.

Embracing an alter ego is an intense form of “self-distancing” that incorporates putting a lid on our instant emotions to see a situation more rationally. This has influenced various think tanks to wonder if alter egos also enhance aspects of self-control, such as determination, by keeping us glued to our goals despite getting distracted.

Photo by Tarik Haiga on Unsplash

In this vein, researchers conducted an experiment where they asked respondents whether they could better concentrate on challenging word puzzles if they had been asked to exercise self-distancing before the analysis.

Here, they were asked to offer advice to themselves from the second-person perspective — “You will focus on every question” — as if they were interacting with an acquaintance instead of themselves. Besides boosting overall performance, the examiners could also observe the results in questionnaires gauging their attitudes to the task, revealing a stronger intention to uplift their performance.

By strengthening their sense of self-control, self-distancing also improves the health behavior of people. It improves their intention to practice, for example, and helps them resist the urge of eating junk food. This is no mean feat. Some self-control strategies to date have positively enhanced eating outcomes.

Would Batman be able to resist a cheeseburger? See that’s the trick. Don’t ask, “Do I want a cookie?” Rather, ask: “Does my separate self want a cookie?”

Ego vs. Alter Ego

In comics, Peter Parker clicks photos for the Daily Bugle, and Bruce Wayne runs his firm (Wayne Enterprises) during the day. That said, both have a counter-crime alter ego who appears when needed. Parker has Spider-Man and Wayne has Batman.

Crafting an alter ego helps you move out of your comfort zone. After all, each time that you’re thinking to try something different, the tiny voice in your head — your ego — starts humming — How will people react? What if no one buys what you are selling? What if you look stupid? That’s when an alter ego shows up.

The ego says — “But what will they say?” The alter ego says — “Don’t these people have anything else to do instead of bitching about others? They can believe what they want. Their thoughts won’t hinder my way of living my life to the full.”

The ego says — “That’s too dangerous. I shouldn’t go for that.” The alter ego says — “That sounds intriguing!”

So, let Batman outsmart your ego and take entire control of the project you’re currently working on.

Photo by Josh Hild from Pexels

Switching from your ego to your alter ego will serve you a plethora of opportunities wherein you could be gutsy and let off your hang-ups. Leverage those opportunities to drive against your comfort zone and try anything new. Certainly, you know your alter ego isn’t anybody else — it’s you. Yet it’s a part that turns up when the doubts arise or the going gets tough.

A well-informed alter ego can help you fill the gap between where you are now and where you wish to be.

Creating Your Alter Ego

The key to crafting your alter ego is to realize the emotions and thoughts of a particular individual who has what you’re after and become that individual.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Follow these six steps to craft your alter ego:

Determine the Why

What do you want to achieve by creating an alter ego? Do you want to create a persona that will fetch you more Instagram followers or blog readers? Do you want to be more confident, outgoing, or unique? Give your alter ego a job, a mission, or a purpose.

Shape your Alter Ego’s Personality

What sort of individual does your alter ego has to be to meet the goal for which it was created? What’s their thought process? How do they think? Your alter ego’s personality can even be an image of your ideal self — the personality you’d prefer to have.

Form a Unique Image

You might be a jeans or t-shirt sort of person, yet your alter ego is in-trend all the way. Or maybe your alter ego prefers hooded sweatshirts or wears only black. Does your alter ego have an idiosyncrasy? What does their voice sound like? How do they walk or talk? The more info you can find out about your alter ego, the simpler it’ll be for you to dwell in their character.

Pick a Name

Come up with a name that is material and has meaning. You can derive the name from that of someone you admire, or the name of your favorite superhero. Also, you can just add an adjective to your name, like “the Great,” or use your own name spelled in reverse.

Follow a Mantra or a Call to Action

A Call to Action (CTA) will help you invoke your alter ego when they’re required. If you’re an ardent devotee of Lord Ram, you can use mantras like “Jai Shree Ram” to switch to your alter ego. Or create your own phrase.

Act as They Would Act

You’re not building an alter ego to escape into a James Bond fantasy world. Rather, you’re developing it to help you behave in a manner that will let you meet your goals. The moment you’ve formed your alter ego, ask yourself how they’d behave when it comes to meeting the goal that you established them for. After that, move forward to act in that fashion.

Once you figure out the alter ego that suits you, channelize it to that particular domain and don’t stay glued to one ego for every role. Don’t send the Batman to buy your essentials.

Wake up That Sleeping Dragon

Creating an alter ego doesn’t mean you’re creating a persona different than your true self. It’s not “fake it till you make it.” You’re actually digging into your CORE self, the self that’s always been residing inside you like a sleeping dragon.

So, open a trap door to the subconscious and wake up that dragon whenever you need it. It’s a more potent, consistent, and reliable source of courage or perseverance than affirmations alone can ever be.

Only we humans have the unique ability to use creative imagination. Use that intentionally and mindfully to combat any resistance.

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