According to an article at ScientificAmerican.com, people who saw a Superman poster were more likely to offer help than were people who saw another image.
“So there has been research that looked at, basically kind of, the motivational function of heroes. And we were thinking that they’re supposed to help set guidelines or be exemplars for moral or virtuous behaviors that people should emulate,” said Daryl Van Tongeren, an associate profession of psychology at Hope College in Michigan.
To see if superheroes could inspire people to be more altruistic or act pro-socially the researchers asked participants to enter a room with either a superman poster or a poster of a bicycle.
“And really what we wanted them to think was that was the end of the study.” However that wasn’t the case…
“They hand in their survey and the research assistant, you know, the experimenter said, ‘Great, thank you for your time. You know, you know, this only took 10 minutes, but you did sign up for a 30-minute time slot. You’ve got 20 additional minutes. We’re pilot testing this new study that’s in development, so you wouldn’t be getting any credit, but it would really help the research, you know, it really helped the professor if you volunteered.”
It was even emphasized to the participants that the task would be tedious and boring, even so “participants who were in the room with the superhero poster, they were more likely to help than those who were in the room with the bicycle poster. So they’re more likely to say yes, ‘I’ll help.'”
You can read the full transcript at ScientificAmerican.com.