The ‘Batman Effect’: How having an alter ego empowers you
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Creating a fictional persona is a strategy that involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to think rationally about a situation. It allows us to rein in feelings like anxiety, and increase our perseverance and self-control.
Beyoncé created a persona that she stepped into just before a performance: "the moment right before when you're nervous... then Sasha Fierce appears, and my posture and the way I speak and everything is different."
Research shows that small shifts in perspective can help people in controlling their emotions.
In experiments, when people viewed themselves as "distanced" from a situation, they were less anxious than the group that viewed themselves as in the middle of the situation.
Self-distancing enables people to focus on the bigger picture rather than concentrating on immediate feelings. It improves the sense of emotional regulation, self-control, and general poise.
In a study, participants were asked to practice self-distancing when faced with various kinds of food - for example, fruit instead of candy. When participants asked, "What does David want?" instead of "What do I want?" they were more likely to choose the healthier option.
Researchers found that when children were told to consider their behaviour as if they were a character, such as Batman, the children seemed to have increased their resolve and were able to concentrate longer.
These laboratory experiments may be useful to avoid feeling dispirited during new challenges.
We could all increase our emotional regulation, self-control, and general poise by choosing to step into another persona.
To try it for yourself, pick a different person for different goals, a wise person for a personal dilemma, or a work mentor for a professional problem. The practice should create some psychological distance from potentially distracting feelings.
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