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Study Finds Most Would Become Supervillians If Given Powers

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the super-power-corrupts dept.

Idle 419

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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I'd become a supervillain (4, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868782)

Simply to avoid having to wear tights.

Maybe, but that's not what those studies say (5, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869188)

Maybe, but that's not what those studies say. You seem to assume that someone has a conscious choice to be hero or villain and intentionally choose villain.

Most people seem to have that kind of delusion. For them you're either clearly doing good and you know it, or you're aware that pillaging and burning is wrong but you deliberately chose evil. Their world has some people who basically chose to be villains and know they're villains.

You can even look at fictional organizations like SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) in otherwise non-parody movies. And it comes easy to swallow that someone would come up with a business plan like, basically, "I know, let's make an organization that's all about placing bombs and extortion, 'cause that market hardly has enough supply to meet the demand." And then a bunch of people would basically go, "yay, I always wanted to be an evil minion! Where do I sign up?"

In reality what these studies show has nothing to do with choosing to wear tights or twirl a moustache and cackle manically. They just show that most people, if given power, or even if role-playing a position of power, find it increasingly easy to rationalize bad behaviour. They're not choosing to be evil, they just rationalize being a complete dick as _good_ or at least excusable.

And not just business decisions. That's the fun part. Sure, you can rationalize evil business decisions via what I call an "argument from capitalism": being evil is good if it makes some investor money. But it extends beyond that.

E.g., in a study people role-playing some executive-level boss with a posh office would find a $100 bill. And most would not just pocket it and forget about it, but actually lie if someone came asking about it. Whereas those role-playing the peons would be less likely to.

Or like in that baker's statistic that folks on the executive level were more likely to take a sandwich without paying for it, than the peons on the cubicle floor.

The illusion that now you're above those pesky peons and their judgments extends not just deciding if to cut costs by dumping radioactive waste in the Mediterranean (actually happened, btw), but even to that kind of stuff. It's not even about fiduciary responsibility to the shareholders or anything, but basically about being a dick. Those in positions of power can rationalize it better and for being more of a dick.

It applies to heroes vs villains only in as much a case can be made that if they suddenly found Plato's ring and could be untraceable whenever they want, most people wouldn't think "yay, now I can do some serious good with this power", but rather "yay, let's steal some money from the bank" or even "yay, now I can take revenge on the boss/ex-gf/whatever".

Granted, as TFA points out, not all people. Some actually go in overdrive with applying higher standards to themselves when given power or an illusion of power. So I guess you'd get some heroes too. Most just start rationalizing more of what they want and now can take and be de facto villains.

But the fun part is that neither would actually consider themselves villains. Someone could be just in the process of leaving with a sack of cash from the bank and just think it's the due that society always owed them, or that they're actually doing a good thing because they might give a tiny portion of that to charity, or really whatever rationalization.

So, power corrupts. (2, Funny)

icebrain (944107) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869366)

And in other news, studies confirm that water is, in fact, wet.

More at 11.

Re:So, power corrupts. (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869584)

Indeed. Really, the only real news is that they don't know they're now corrupt. They think they're the good guys, only now more entitled to bend the rules a bit, but that's ok because they're the good guys, right?

And, well, it may not be news to you, but to most people it does seem to be.

Re:Maybe, but that's not what those studies say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869524)

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

The same mechanics underlie internet trolls.

Re:Maybe, but that's not what those studies say (1)

BakaHoushi (786009) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869538)

I think you hit the nail on the head. It's not that people who (in theory) get power say "I'm stronger! Now, let's go tie some poor damsel to the train tracks! Mua ha ha ha ha!" It's that people say "I know doing X is wrong, buuuuuuuuut... well, in this case, it's a bit of an exception because..."

I can even sort of understand the way they think. For example, what if I were invulnerable, or at least skilled enough that I might as well be? I thought, "Well, I could attack and kill evil people in far off lands. Heroine dealers, warlords, terrorists, etc." But in person, I'm actually against the death penalty. Pretty funny how quickly our own ideals change the second we even pretend we have power, huh?

Re:I'd become a supervillain (1)

Kierthos (225954) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869224)

That's a good point, but it's not like there aren't a ton of super-villains running around in spandex either (Spider-Man movies notwithstanding). At least some of the heroes have some color coordination. Then you have villains like Electro, the Trapster, or the Wizard who have.... um... incredibly garish costumes.

Re:I'd become a supervillain (1)

bhagwad (1426855) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869520)

You're right. Professor Chaos never wore tights!

Well that depends (4, Insightful)

Xelios (822510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868784)

One man's villain is another man's hero.

Re:Well that depends (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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?

Re:Well that depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868826)

The general public?

Re:Well that depends (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868850)

Have you even met the general public? Good is not the word I would use to describe them.

Re:Well that depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869390)

Well, we and everyone we know are the general public so I'd definitely answer "yes" to that question. But you also have to consider the public in a far greater context to determine if we're good or bad. We haven't destroyed ourselves yet and the majority of us can live peacefully side by side without killing each other so on a subjective note I'd consider us good. You can't judge humanity based on what you see on the news, our governments and our leaders or even by the fact that some countries are at war - these are, believe it or not, the minority. The fact that you can visit Paris, Madrid or Beijing without getting shot on sight suggest we all have a fundamental respect for life, in spite of our differences.

Re:Well that depends (4, Insightful)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868982)

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

- Kay MIB

Re:Well that depends (1)

Millennium (2451) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868986)

This article would seem to argue that the general public isn't all that much better than those in power over them. And could it really be any different in a democracy, where the government amounts to a reflection of the people? I mean, it still sucks less than every other form of governance yet devised, but it has no magical anti-corruption powers.

Re:Well that depends (5, Insightful)

Moryath (553296) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869238)

I mean, it still sucks less than every other form of governance yet devised, but it has no magical anti-corruption powers

Actually, the idea is to balance corruption against corruption, ambition against ambition, in such a way that nobody can get away with anything too terribly terrible.

The problem with the idea is that partisan politics short-circuits this theory; political parties operate as (almost) monolithic entities and the "cooperative" aspects of them make it so that attempts at balance get co-opted and circumvented.

On the hierarchy of theoretical governments, it's often been stated that the best would be that of the truly enlightened despot, a single ruler and his lieutenants beneath who all act for the greater good of (hopefully) as many of the people as they can manage. The problem here is that assuring such a despot is impossible.

The second-best would be that of the enlightened communism, wherein all put forth an honest and earnest effort to do what they can, even if the job they are assigned is not something they have a passion for; often proponents of this theory suggest that if there is a job nobody really wants, the populace should draw lots and take turns doing it. Unfortunately, the problem here is that you get the two lazy-classes - the leeches and the bureaucrats - who tip the system into unworkability. This is why religious communism (monastic orders mostly) works rather well, while all attempts to expand it into the larger population always fail - the religious orders are freely and happily able to kick those who don't behave as they should out of the commune!

Since those two are fundamentally unworkable on a large or sustained scale, forms of "democracy" are about all we have left. Alas, over time they too are becoming co-opted and short-circuited by those who want to make a "ruling class" of themselves.

So it's not surprising that most people, given power, would inevitably become a "villain" on some score. Everyone has something they think needs fixing and that they would gladly be an "enlightened despot" to fix. After all, even General Zod [zod2008.com] is for universal healthcare access.

Re:Well that depends (1)

ProppaT (557551) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868882)

Well...we can't all be Dexter's now, can we?

Re:Well that depends (1)

DrMaurer (64120) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869594)

No. Of course not. Where would he keep us all?

And those who onlyTHINK they would be superheroes (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868822)

For the vast majority of people, the most heroic thing they could do if ever presented with Superman-like powers would be to immediately reject them. A real human presented with such powers would likely be a much greater threat to the rest of humanity than a help. Sure, he might start out rescuing cats from trees and people from burning buildings, but how long before he has a mood swing or a temper tantrum? How long before he succumbs to narcissism and the kind of arrogance and paranoia that god-like powers would bring. How long before he comes to resent humanity for not loving him enough, or worshiping him at the level he has come to believe is sufficient?

And all that's not even factoring in the reality that this is a human being with sexual desires, greed, etc. How would this real life Clark Kent react the first time a girl turned him down for a date, or he didn't have money to pay his credit card bill? You can get into some VERY dark territory there.

Again, such a superhero would almost certainly be way more of a threat to humanity than a help. Unless there was an alien invasion or giant meteor strike imminent that he could stop, he would be much more likely to cause us way more harm than good.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (3, Insightful)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868874)

I would destroy ACTA, DRM, IP and all the rest monsters. Anyone with me?

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (2, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868950)

I don't think a good proportion of us would go that far.

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

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869044)

That's what you would start out doing. Are you sure that's where you would finish?

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (2, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869074)

: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.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (4, Insightful)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869426)

Hancock went to the middle of cities and stopped car chases.

I think what GP has in mind is more of a Dr Manhattan "War is obsolete, have free energy, I sure hope there's no super-smart guy who can make this into a bomb" kind of change the world.

Consider that the only outcome at the end of both the film and the original graphic novel is indeed "world peace." Either under the guise of mutual self interest in stopping Dr Manhattan / alien race, or an end to world hunger and war brought about by free and abundant energy. Viedt's manipulation of Dr Manhattan, and his underhanded scheme was moot. Hence Dr Manhattan's last line to Viedt in the graphic novel.

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

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (2, Interesting)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869532)

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.

WTF? (1)

BenEnglishAtHome (449670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869618)

The problem is...resisting the temptation of all the Lois Lane types throwing their bodies at you. You would have super babies all over the planet.

I would not accept any superpowers that rendered me so stupid as to forget that there are an infinite number of ways to achieve sexual satisfaction without risking pregnancy.

So what, exactly, is the problem here? I don't get it.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869636)

Or, what I got out of The Watchmen, which is, the line between heroism and villainy is really somewhat convoluted towards the extremes. Most super villains I've seen in movies or books seem to, more often than not, believe that what they're doing is for the good of humanity. When you're so exceptional that the ability to challenge you isn't generally present in the population its easy to get full of yourself and think you have all the answers. Its then a pretty short hop to just feeling like everyone who can't understand your vision is either an enemy or just unworthy. Heroes and villains feed off of each other and often times are the only ones who really understand each other. The fact that they take opposing sides has always sort of baffled me, as they would seem to be natural allies, or at least friends.

Even Dr Evil was more sympathetic than Captain Hammer, though. Its not always easy to say who is "good" or "bad"

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (2, Funny)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869644)

You would have super babies all over the planet.

Providing a woman could withstand your shotgun blast to her uterus.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869050)

For the vast majority of people, the most heroic thing they could do if ever presented with Superman-like powers would be to immediately reject them.

What, and give up my chance to finally avoid all the traffic around here?

A real human presented with such powers would likely be a much greater threat to the rest of humanity than a help.

But, but ... even a mere meek mortal like Mr Magoo?

Sure, he might start out rescuing cats from trees and people from burning buildings

Not if that darn cat was the one who started the fire in that building.

but how long before he has a mood swing or a temper tantrum?

Would you like that in fractions of an hour or would you prefer CPU ticks?

How long before he succumbs to narcissism and the kind of arrogance and paranoia that god-like powers would bring.

Well, probably not long after reading that sentence.

How long before he comes to resent humanity for not loving him enough, or worshiping him at the level he has come to believe is sufficient?

I guess that all depends on how long it takes before they get an appearance on Oprah.

And all that's not even factoring in the reality that this is a human being with sexual desires, greed, etc.

You say that like it's a bad thing.

How would this real life Clark Kent react the first time a girl turned him down for a date

Who's going to turn him down after a quick 'flying lesson'? "I don't want to drop you ... so, your place or mine?"

or he didn't have money to pay his credit card bill?

He's a superhero, not a professional athlete.

Again, such a superhero would almost certainly be way more of a threat to humanity than a help. Unless there was an alien invasion or giant meteor strike imminent that he could stop, he would be much more likely to cause us way more harm than good.

Once the alien invasion starts, or the meteor is spotted on its collision with Earth, it's a little too late to make nice with Superman. Best pay it forward and hope for the best.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869154)

A real human presented with such powers would likely be a much greater threat to the rest of humanity than a help.

But, but ... even a mere meek mortal like Mr Magoo?

If he has Cyclops' eye-blasts, assuredly.
"Now where did I put my glasses?"

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869166)

A real human presented with such powers would likely be a much greater threat to the rest of humanity than a help. Sure, he might start out rescuing cats from trees and people from burning buildings, but how long before he has a mood swing or a temper tantrum? How long before he succumbs to narcissism and the kind of arrogance and paranoia that god-like powers would bring. How long before he comes to resent humanity for not loving him enough, or worshiping him at the level he has come to believe is sufficient?

For me, about five minutes.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869206)

I think you're too worried. With superpowers, I might be narcissistic but at the same time people generally only care about opinions of their peers. Conquering the world would be like owning one of those ant colonies you observe from the side via glass. Or going into Karate class with a bunch of 5 year olds and kicking butt -- a regular human adult can do that today but how many bother? With time, a real superman would shrug and find a more exciting place and head for an alien planet. People want a challenge.

It would go from Super Man to Apathy Man. Either that, or they become a tyrannical dictator satisfying his urges with sex and bloodshed. But even that would get boring if they can get off-planet, unlike the Saddam Husseins of the world.

And it might be heroic for a person to reject powers, but the entire story of humanity has been the search of greater and greater power to be the top of the food chain. Via more and more advanced weaponry since the club and spear, and now expanded abilities like medicine. Superpowers is nothing more than this search taken to an extreme and getting it quick and dirty. It may be that in 1000 years, a human possessing some of superman's capabilities (albeit aided with machinery) is a commonplace thing.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869368)

Power is very corrupting (the more power, the more powerful the temptation to corruption). How many leaders start out as truly noble freedom fighters, believing in democracy and the people; only to end up as oppressive, paranoid dictators after they finally achieve power?

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869228)

Most people are barely responsible for themselves, as they are right now. Superpowers would simply make things soooo much more interesting, but not different.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869252)

Hold on a sec, champ. Just because I have super powers, you *expect* me to get the mangey feline out of the tree, or to extinguish the burning crack house? How about you step up to the plate and demonstrate a little discipline or ingenuity?

If one thing burns my super-bacon, it's the entitlement mentality shared by the lot of you. "Oh, I have done something irresponsible, and now I *demand* that you absolve me of responsibility for my actions." And when I don't? Somehow I become the bad guy.

(If you had gotten you cat declawed, it wouldn't be in the tree, now would it?)

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

zwei2stein (782480) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869256)

That assumes that he is actually weak: afraid of goverment? afraid of being turned down on date? placing his self value to hands of others?

Sound like a typical comic book nerd :) Yeah, such person should not get to power.

In reality, powerfull being would be asset that goverment will pamper and know better than piss off in any way. And he will know it too.

He will have no shortage of women in bed, and one refusal would be just "whatever, next in line please" because power is sexy, he will never be frustrated in this department.

No shortage of money or anything. Goverment would be smart enough to recognize that you need to have all your needs met because consequences of you being frustrated are not goign to be pretty.

Narcisism is not issue if you are going to get dedicated folowers - hypothetical "superman" would easily spring many cults, fandom and people ready to die for him. All it would that is little showmanship and good PR (given free by goverment that whats you to work for them), and possibly not even that.

Smart society will be able to handle powerfull human if he is still human. Of course, failure to handle him well would be ... most unfortunate. But people were able to handle Kings, Emperors and others just fine as well as those rulers were able to handle their power.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869340)

But people were able to handle Kings, Emperors and others just fine as well as those rulers were able to handle their power.

In other words, not well at all.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869476)

Sure, he might start out rescuing cats from trees and people from burning buildings, but how long before he has a mood swing or a temper tantrum?

I think you're vastly underestimating how much self-control most people have.

The average person doesn't shake babies, beat their spouse, or steer their car up on to a crowded sidewalk just because they've had a bad day. Even accounting for a degree of entitlement from a sense of power, it just seems like a stretch to assume that anyone with Superman-like powers is going to devolve into a childish sociopath.

Re:And those who onlyTHINK they would be superhero (4, Interesting)

vekrander (1400525) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

But... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868824)

What about those of us who already have powers?

What About ... (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868828)

What about those of us who are lazy and tired and just want to be left alone? Can't we just be left alone??

Re:What About ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868924)

Ah, I see you're already well in control of your "basement nerd" superpower!

Re:What About ... (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868934)

Have you ever heard about the invisible woman?

Re:What About ... (5, Funny)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869060)

Have you ever heard about the invisible woman?

Heard about her? I've been dating her for years!

Not me. (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868844)

I would use my superpowers to do good things. And if I wouldn't I sure as hell wouldn't announce it before they gave me those powers!

Re:Not me. (0, Offtopic)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868952)

Good for who? You know, there are laws, saying that if you get 10 cars, that means that at least 9 people are without car. I hope you've got my point!

Re:Not me. (1)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869346)

No I don't :( I don't even own 1 car...

Re:Not me. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869376)

> I would use my superpowers to do good things.

Of course you would. Everyone with power uses it for good things. Just ask them (and they really believe it, too. Why wouldn't they with everyone around them telling them how good they are?)

The intellectuals (2, Insightful)

Petbe (1790948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868848)

For myself, I would want to be the villain since they tend to be more intelligent. Granted, they time to time do stupid things like killing the hero slowly and explaining all their plans.

Re:The intellectuals (4, Insightful)

Reilaos (1544173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868884)

The fact that you value intelligence over morality already makes you the villain.

Also: Doctor Manhattan > Ozymandias.

Re:The intellectuals (2, Informative)

TFAFalcon (1839122) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869508)

What do you mean? Ozymandias saves the world from nuclear annihilation. Dr Manhattan leaves.

Re:The intellectuals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868922)

But they tend to not have time to reread what they typed before they post.

Re:The intellectuals (1)

Petbe (1790948) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869222)

Morality if a very iffy area, not quite as black and white as many would believe. Take for example Ozymandias, to some degree, he was a moral person. Granted, he was an consequentialist which led him to believe the ends justify the means. His approach may not be accepted by everyone, but he did do something which in the end, brought everyone together. Also, I do value intelligence, I also value logic and rationality. But in the end, the heroes rely heavily on arbitrary concepts such as 'justice' and 'honor' for which most could not truly explain or describe. Lastly, villains (for me at least) tend to look so much cooler. Villains and dark heroes (who tend to not be so pure) tend to look the best.

I don't believe it... (4, Interesting)

rotide (1015173) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:I don't believe it... (5, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868980)

How about just being selfish and pretty amoral? I bet a lot of folks could do that. It's not plotting-to-take-over-the-world villainry, but it's not good either.

Re:I don't believe it... (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869048)

How about just being selfish and pretty amoral?

You'd have to define a what set of morals I'd be defying... In themselves morals are usually selfish. These can vary widely from one person to the next, but they are mostly centered around making oneself "feel good about themselves."

Re:I don't believe it... (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869006)

You are right, we are blowing a whole countries even without having super-power, lol.

Re:I don't believe it... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869052)

Sociopaths are quite uncommon(I think the number hovers a bit under 1%, possibly tossing in a few hardline narcissists and 'serious bad news not otherwise specified' types); but the trouble is that almost everyone who isn't a candidate for sainthood has a sense of empathy calibrated pretty well for the size of the primate groups that we lived in 100,000 years ago. In a world of 6.5 billion, global trade routes, and a nest of externalities, that doesn't help nearly as much as it might.

This 'moral myopia' is extraordinarily useful, if we felt everybody's pain the way we feel that of close friends and kin we'd basically just spend all our time rocking back and forth in the fetal position, sobbing; but it also means that we can, in effect, act with impressive callousness if a modicum of intermediary structure distances us from what is happening.

Re:I don't believe it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869336)

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.

Speak for yourself. I fantasize about one day rising to power and launching the world into the darkest age it has ever known.

Re:I don't believe it... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869394)

If you read a lot of comics, you will see that many super villains started out life as "guys having bad days" (The new back story for the Jocker, for example. Or Mr. Freeze). Somebody who represents authority then comes along (in these cases, Batman) and makes things worse.

Suppose you had super strength and you accidentally hurt somebody. All it would take would be for some woman in the crowd to scream and some twitchy cop to come running and to see you standing over somebody covered in blood, and to get the wrong idea. A gun is draw, maybe shots are fired. Next thing you know your on the run and everybody thinks your a criminal.

Maybe you turn yourself in, maybe you get jumped by a swat team and give up without a fight. The newspapers are already against you. The conservative media is already saying that you're a threat that needs to be controlled, and even the liberal media is saying that you're dangerous because you may accidentally injure somebody.

You're an outcast, angry and alone, and the only people who want to know you will probably be the military who want to turn you into a weapon. Do you honestly think that you would become a super hero after that?

The typical human reaction is to run away, or to fight back. Either way you'd be regarded as a super villain without having to blow up a single train or to poison a single troupe of Boy scouts (If you know pick up this reference you're either a super nerd, or are showing your age).

Re:I don't believe it... (1)

karlandtanya (601084) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869486)

Supervillains don't look like supervillains from up close.
In fact, they look a lot like superheroes.

Think of all the injustice (however you choose to define it) in the world.
Now, if you could get away with it, would you punish the perpetrators?
Would you murder Hitler?
Where would you stop?

Re:I don't believe it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869536)

"It might be fun to say you would be a super villain, but I have a feeling most people aren't sociopaths."

Most people aren't sociopaths (by definition sociopaths are a rarity), but the question is: if given super powers, what would happen to your psychology?

If you suddenly obtain superpowers you are dramatically different from everyone else in the world. That's got to have an effect on you and your perception of everyone else, and I suspect it's more likely going to be a bad effect than a good one. Would it necessarily turn people into sociopaths? Probably not, but it would probably be easier for it to happen than when the person was a mundane [wikipedia.org] . Humans already have a bad habit of falling into a superiority complex and using that presumed superiority to justify doing horrible things. Imagine if they actually were superior in some sense?

Pinky, are you pondering... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868860)

...what I'm pondering?

I think so Brain... (1)

gijoel (628142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868970)

but shouldn't the bat boy be wearing a cape?

Homer (1)

quantumphaze (1245466) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868872)

You can run
But you can't glide

Study? (4, Informative)

Paul Rose (771894) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868892)

Study? Did they grant super powers to a set of people and observe the results? I skimmed TFA and didn't see anything about a study. Just a bunch of reasoning about what would probably happen.

Re:Study? (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869506)

They probably asked some 14 year olds who had just watched The Watchmen. "Hey, you! Dr Manhattan or Night Owl?" "Are you kidding? Night Owl was a fat old dude with a ship that looked like a dirty boiled egg! I want to blow people into gibs by waving my hands!" "Cool, good guy explosion of people? Like to stop tyranny?" "No way man! Super awesome bad guy gibs of ponies and people who love ponies! PEW PEW!"

Re:Study? (2, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869582)

They didn't get the extra grant money to purchase radioactive spiders.

They thought they had a mutagenic compound, but it was just someone's lunch left in the back of the fridge for six months. Botulism's only known power is to defeat wrinkles.

If I was a costumed hero... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868894)

I would become a super-powered dude who fights people who misspell words like 'villain', 'weird', 'too', 'grammar', 'compatibility', etc. That would make me a hero to some and a villain to most of the Internet and the US. Maybe I would call myself The Spell-Checker. Maybe I wouldn't.

Re:If I was a costumed hero... (1)

Kojiro Ganryu Sasaki (895364) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868956)

I'd personally aim for people writing "would of" instead of "would have" and similar...

This is why Superman is an interesting character (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33868902)

He has the power of a god, but deep down, he's still Clark Kent.

I'm shocked... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33868914)

Obviously people will abuse power given the chance; but don't the fools know that you are supposed to lie about your motives until you have the power?

And this is why sheep are harmless, wolves go through a brief period of dangerousness before being neutralized by the cops, and wolves in shepherd's are genuinely dangerous.

Re:I'm shocked... (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869542)

It's called being a politician.

Most likely neither (2, Interesting)

gad_zuki! (70830) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Most likely neither (1)

anti-pop-frustration (814358) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869498)

If I had super-smarts I would be cracking the stock market or starting a revolutionary tech company.

I'd rather crash the stock market and start a revolution.

You know. Stir things up a bit.

A reason the US needs term-limits on Congress (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869020)

Power corrupts.

Doctor Doom says... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869028)

Doom is not a villain. Doom is a hero to his people and has done a far better job for them than anybody else. Doom notes that 99% of Latverians report complete satisfaction with the rule of Doom. The 1% remaining is a grammar teacher, but Doom is benevolent and did not have that person executed.

It's like with politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869062)

Those who are most unwilling to wield power are paradoxically the best suited to wielding it.
Conversely, those who are willing to do what it takes to gain power should not be trusted with it.

liars touts & shills, 0h my (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869080)

the 'study' is some fiction/fantasy/continued death wish. we all already have (unused) 'super' powers.

fortunately, the creators' newclear power plan(et)/population rescue program/mandate is still on.

see you there? megasloth et al already has a more than sufficient replacement for our endless power needs, butt they have determined that it would not be good for them...., to tell US, as it might interfere with financing the glowbull warmongering crusades, if all of a sudden, we weren't paying by the mile/gallon etc....

'vote' (walk instead of drive, etc...) with (what's left in) your wallet. ignorance is...... dangerous? sanity is.... properly applied military/industrial/political hypenosys/espionage/terrorism? literally killing the opposition?

you have the right to remain silent.

the search continues;
google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=weather+manipulation

google.com/search?hl=en&source=hp&q=bush+cheney+wolfowitz+rumsfeld+wmd+oil+freemason+blair+obama+weather+authors

meanwhile (as it may take a while longer to finish wrecking this place); the corepirate nazi illuminati (remember, (we have been told) we came from monkeys, & 'they' believe they DIDN'T), continues to demand that we learn to live on less/nothing while they continue to consume/waste/destroy immeasurable amounts of stuff/life, & feast on nubile virgins with their self/evile worshipping 'friends'. they're always hunting that patch of red on almost everyones' neck. if they cannot find yours (greed, fear ego etc...) then you can go starve. that's their (slippery/slimy) 'platform' now. see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisocial_personality_disorder

never a better time to consult with/trust in our creators. the lights are coming up rapidly all over now. see you there?

greed, fear & ego (in any order) are unprecedented evile's primary weapons. those, along with deception & coercion, helps most of us remain (unwittingly?) dependent on its' life0cidal hired goons' agenda. most of our dwindling resources are being squandered on the 'wars', & continuation of the billionerrors stock markup FraUD/pyramid schemes. nobody ever mentions the real long term costs of those debacles in both life & any notion of prosperity for us, or our children. not to mention the abuse of the consciences of those of us who still have one, & the terminal damage to our atmosphere (see also: manufactured 'weather', hot etc...). see you on the other side of it? the lights are coming up all over now. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be your guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. we now have some choices. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on your brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

"The current rate of extinction is around 10 to 100 times the usual background level, and has been elevated above the background level since the Pleistocene. The current extinction rate is more rapid than in any other extinction event in earth history, and 50% of species could be extinct by the end of this century. While the role of humans is unclear in the longer-term extinction pattern, it is clear that factors such as deforestation, habitat destruction, hunting, the introduction of non-native species, pollution and climate change have reduced biodiversity profoundly.' (wiki)

"I think the bottom line is, what kind of a world do you want to leave for your children," Andrew Smith, a professor in the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences, said in a telephone interview. "How impoverished we would be if we lost 25 percent of the world's mammals," said Smith, one of more than 100 co-authors of the report. "Within our lifetime hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions, a frightening sign of what is happening to the ecosystems where they live," added Julia Marton-Lefevre, IUCN director general. "We must now set clear targets for the future to reverse this trend to ensure that our enduring legacy is not to wipe out many of our closest relatives."--

"The wealth of the universe is for me. Every thing is explicable and practical for me .... I am defeated all the time; yet to victory I am born." --emerson

no need to confuse 'religion' with being a spiritual being. our soul purpose here is to care for one another. failing that, we're simply passing through (excess baggage) being distracted/consumed by the guaranteed to fail illusionary trappings of man'kind'. & recently (about 10,000 years ago) it was determined that hoarding & excess by a few, resulted in negative consequences for all.

consult with/trust in your creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." )one does not need to agree whois in charge to grasp the notion that there may be some assistance available to us(

boeing, boeing, gone.

With great power (3, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869084)

.... nah, lets have fun.

Well, Duh (2, Insightful)

Alicat1194 (970019) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869140)

If TV and movie have taught us anything, it's that the bad guys have the best toys, the best costumes, and more amusing evil sidekicks (and henchmen. Can't forget the henchmen).

Compared with that, why would anyone want to be a good guy?

Re:Well, Duh (1)

Omegium (576650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869494)

They win and end up with the chicks?

Drunk Tank (1)

MBGMorden (803437) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869212)

I think many of us here would go by the Drunk Tank (podcast) explanation of 13 year olds with superpowers: (paraphrased)

"For any given superpower, the question to ask is 'How many steps does it take to translate this ability into seeing naked girls?'"

"slide into corruption" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869246)

Sliding into corruption? What rot. Most of us would run head long into it. I'd for one would be practicing my villainous laugh and strutting around in a black spandex faster than you could say "Superman is a mommy's boy".

Come on, own up, who here would use their powers for good, and who would go find their old high school bully and turn them inside out, or decide that they'd rather not listen to their neighbor playing "hit me baby, one more time" at top volume at 3AM, and actually go hit them?

I'm petty, and temperamental, and there are times when I'd really like to hit somebody and have them go splat. And I'm wagering that many people are the same. "Sliding into corruption" is an understatement. You get powers, you "abuse" them, and you like it. End of story.

Re:"slide into corruption" (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869544)

Sliding into corruption? What rot. Most of us would run head long into it.

I either want less corruption or more opportunity to participate in it.

As Acton said: (1)

gratuitous_arp (1650741) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869266)

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men." -John Acton (Baron Acton) This was all figured out 200+ years ago (I'm sure there are far older references to the same idea), but Hollywood came along to give us "hope" in the form of Superman, etc... that is, it came along to confuse us.

The best super power... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869272)

...is a 15 second commuting flight to work.

I'd have to admit... (1)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869280)

The thought of racing a fighter jet with Superman powers would be kinda fun. The other fun thing would be when governments BS about stuff and they say "Prove it!" and 5 seconds later you return with the proof. *zip zip* "Ok, here's the nuclear warhead I just snagged off your missile you said you didn't have. Nice lead door by the way, E for effort."

I think the biggest problem I'd have is just flying around without a care in the world. My luck I'd be hitting power lines, trees, planes, etc because super powers can't fix clumsy. >_>

I can see that. (1)

orsty3001 (1377575) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869286)

Think about it, Batman has more than one foe he fights against. So does Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman and so on. It's nice to know that in real live the ratio of good to bad would be around the same. That insures a great story.

thought experiment (1)

alex_guy_CA (748887) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869342)

I was thinking about something along these lines just last month. Here is a question for you. Suppose you had the power to stop time for everyone else but not yourself. How could you use this power for your own benefit without doing anything imoral or illegal?

Re:thought experiment (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869564)

Off the top of my head:
1) Renovate my house
2) Time to exercise
3) Time to read
4) A three hour nap in a half-hour lunch break.
5) Finish work projects on time

Ethics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869478)

The most ethical thing to do when you are presented with power is to reject it. If you did not earn it, you are not prepared for it. And even then you're probably still not prepared.

No study needed (0, Troll)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869502)

I *know* I would lay waste to most of you tools given the powers.

Seriously, you lot think you *don't* deserve a mighty supervillian smackdown? How precious.

Seems Logical (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33869522)

This seems spot on. The first thing I would probably do if I had superpowers would be to hunt down and take revenge on those people who have made my life hell since I was young. After that I would either grab a spot of land and tell the authorities that as long as they leave me alone, everyones fine, or just take over the world and finally unite humanity in its struggle against me.

Supervillian? No. Theif? Probably. (2, Insightful)

93,000 (150453) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869534)

I wouldn't spend my efforts trying to destroy mankind, but I'd probably rob a bank every now and then.

Answers the question... (1)

theBraindonor (577245) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869546)

The study answers one of my favorite questions:

"Do I use my powers for good or for awesome?"

Awesome it is...

Villain? No. Selfish? Hell Yes! (1)

Quantus347 (1220456) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869558)

I dont think Id go so far as to become a mustache twisting supervillian bent on bank robberies and world domination. But thats not to say i would be a noble protector devoting my life to helping the downtrodden either, necessarily. Barring some emotional scarring like my uncle dying right when I got the powers, there is a high likelyhood that I would just use them for personal gain, monetary success, and whatever (legal) means i could find to capitalize on my powers to support myself and my own private little slice of geek heaven.

And besides, the study justified their statement by saying "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." That doesnt need eye lasers or flying, as that rationale applies to any celebrity, no matter what the source of their elevated social status. Are all actors, athletes, singers, high-end businessmen, models, inventors, noted scientists, politicians, and that guy in the you-tube video doomed to (super)villainy? Nope. They are still just people, with the same overall distribution of asshole to saint as any other sampling of humanity.

We Needed a Study for This? (1)

oakwine (1709682) | more than 3 years ago | (#33869590)

This is why the Ruling Ring had to be destroyed in Lord of the Rings. Even Caesar Nero started out as a good guy. Power corrupts and the more power the more corrupt.

You wouldn't have to become a villian... (2, Interesting)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

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