The Psychology of SuperHeroes

By Peyton F

Introduction/Explanation for Artifact Portfolio

Since August 28, 2020, to October 8, 2020, we have been working on artifacts – pieces of work that showcase what we’ve learned during our psychology classes. Each artifact has to try and pertain to what we’ve learned that week, such as the structure of the brain, and we have to relate it to something that we wish to do in the future, be it for a career goal, or to a real world problem. 

I think of myself as a creative writer, I find myself writing stories and creating characters all the time, and my career goal is to one day work in the comic book industry as a writer for superheroes such as Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. So, the common theme throughout this entire portfolio is comic book characters and the psychology behind them, besides the first artifact, which focuses on the scientific method and applying it to how I write. 

Most of the artifacts focus on DC Comics and the character of Batman, his group, and his rogues gallery, as I’ve noticed in my years of reading heroes, Batman is a detective that deals with characters with psychological disorders, and he himself has psychological disorders of his own.

The amount of revisions this went through is quite varied, as two artifacts, the Artifact on Chapter 3 and the Artifact on Chapter 10 essentially experienced complete rewrites, as I deemed them low quality and inadequate compared to the other pieces. I’ve included at the end definitions and the usage of each vocabulary word, mainly because these rewrites required the use of new vocabulary seen in the book. It may be noticeable, but almost all of my sources stemmed from the comic books and our textbook, “Psychological Science.”  This is to keep the information as tight-nit as possible, and prevent outside sources from clouding the information.

 Superheroes and Psychology have gone hand in hand for years, the creation of Wonder Woman was created by psychologist William Moulton Marston, one of the creators of the “Lie Detector test,” which, although inaccurate, was considered a psychological breakthrough of it’s time. So, in keeping with this idea of Superheroes and psychology going hand-in-hand, I wrote a short story called “The Vengeance,” about a hero named Thomas Marston, protector of Furvus City. One night, he’s kidnapped by his arch-nemesis, Professor Mentality, and Professor Mentality performs a study over the course of a few days to learn what is going on inside of Thomas’ brain. Each chapter coincides with a different chapter that we learned about in Psychology, such as the third chapter describing how Thomas was classically conditioned to cry only when he heard a swingset, rather than seeing images of his family. This is set in a universe I’ve been building with the children’s novel I outlined in my first Artifact, which is included as well in this portfolio. I will be including this in a separate document. It’s a rough draft of a story, meant to showcase the psychological themes first and foremost.

Overall, this portfolio helped me gain a better understanding of writing characters all around, and helped me understand what makes these characters work and don’t work. It also taught me how to write group dynamics well by discussing the Avengers franchise. Superheroes deserve to be explored in a more in depth method, as seen throughout this artifact. This Artifact Portfolio, including the rewrites, took me about six hours. This does not constitute for the amount of time I had spent writing the seven artifacts and the outline, which probably, including research, took a combined full day or two over the course of six weeks. The story “The Vengeance,” was worked on over the course of a couple of days, during my freetime so it’s hard to gauge the amount of time spent on it.

Artifact on Chapter 2

In the hot summer of June, 2016 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, George RR Martin – author of the famous “Song of Ice and Fire” series and Stephen King, author of horror classics such as “It,” “The Shining,” and “Carrie” – had a conversational, live interview on stage at the Kiva Auditorium. For fifty four minutes they took questions and gave answers; the interview concluded with King asking, “George, we’re going to have to wrap this up pretty soon. Is there anything you’ve ever wanted to ask me?” Martin smiles, looks at him, leans closer, and in a whimsical charm asks “Yes, yes, there is something I wanted to ask you: How the [censored] do you write so many books so fast?!” King explains that he sits down and writes six pages a day, every day, for three or four hours (Atkins, 2016). In another interview, King said that he “doesn’t plot,” and that, when writing, he doesn’t know anything that’ll happen by the end (UMass, 2012).

The question of if I should outline out a story before writing the story or go in with simply an idea and see where it goes has been something I’ve struggled with as a writer. For example, I’m going into most of my college essays with a general idea and no “outline.” However, I can’t help but think that if I did have an outline, I may have a much more effective piece.

In my research, I found an article from the magazine “Technical Communications,” titled “Do Writers Use an Outline When They Write?” Although this was on a piece of technical writing, it could be used as fictional writing as well, as it is mentioned that “four of those surveyed [out of eighty] use no written outlines because they find it unnecessary and time consuming” (McKee, 11, 1972). This could be the viewpoint of many writers, regardless of what realm of the writing-space they write in.

The topic of a “better sense of flow” is referenced in some writers-helping-writers articles and websites, such as Novelize, a subscription service that gives free tips to aspiring authors on writing their novel. It’s stated there that with an outline, there can be a better sense of flow and makes the writing process easier, yet in the same piece under the “disadvantages” portion, it’s mentioned that this could “stop your creative juices from flowing.” The desire to write can falter or disappear completely when an outline is restraining you (Should you outline your story before you start writing?, n.d.).

The following hypothesis was then made: If I wrote with an outline, it would increase the quality and quantity of the work I’ve made. The study was set up around myself as the focus of the study, as this study wasn’t meant to test the wide array of writers, but for me, to see which I work best with: no outline, or with an outline? 

The following control variables were decided upon: the time (I’d make the effort to write every day for two weeks, for a one hour timespan at approximately five PM), the place (my bed), the age-range (I want to write kids novels, so I’d be aiming for a demographic of 6th-8th graders), and the genre (since I’m a big fan of superheroes, I’ll be writing origin stories for superheroes I have had forming in my mind for a few years now, but I’ve never had the chance to put them on paper.) These will stay consistent, and will not be changed. Unless there’s an emergency, I will be writing at 5-6 PM every day until the study is complete. The independent variable would be what I’m using: do I have an outline to refer to, or am I going into this with a general idea in my mind? One week I’ll be writing with the outline, the next without. The dependent variables would be a daily journal, reporting on the quality of my work, stating if what I’ve wrote is “good,” or if I feel the need to go back and rework and reword some things inside of it, and also the number of words that I wrote. There’s also some other aspects that I must take into account that would be reported in my journal piece. Let’s say the following week is rough, as in, I have an unexpected death in the family. This would probably affect my effort to write the story. That’s what the journal is also for, to find underlying qualities that could be affecting the results of the study and confound the results.. Since this study is being conducted on myself, there would not be a need to report my plan for the study to an Institutional Review Board. 

The study would start on Monday, September seventh, 2020. I’d start with the outline that I’ve written, seen in an alternative document uploaded as well. Every day, at five PM, I’d write for an hour, then gauge my results of the day. After that one week period, I’d write a story without an outline, but using this basic idea, “Invisibility can stink… unless you’re the most embarrassing student in class. A 6th grader who always embarasses himself finds he has the ability to go invisible. Can he make up for these embarrassing actions in the past, or will he continue to embarrass himself more?” The goal is not to finish the story, but rather, write a piece of work with as much quality as possible. Words written outside the time-frame or after the study is concluded will not be accounted for. 

After conducting this two week study, I’d report the difference and underlying factors. I would use bar graphs on the amount of words-to-page in the one hour time-span, and I’d supply the stories so far, along with my personal rankings of both. To get the best report of words written daily, I’d give the mean amount of words written based on the independent variable being used.  There will be no editing done to the stories, including grammatical errors. It’s to give the most raw version of the tale for others to read. 

After analyzing the data, I wish to be able to give a good, overall report of my findings. There could be some underlying factors, such as mood, passion, current of the world, or even weather that could affect the quality of my writing. I’d also make note of the quantity difference between the pieces. While it’s a common phrase to say “Quality over Quantity,” most of my works in the past have tended to be in the average amount of twenty thousand words. It would be noticeable if, say, the story without the outline is 25,427 words, while the one with an outline is 12,342 words. This would be helpful in my conclusion. By referring to the journals and looking at the quantifiable number of words written, I could draw conclusions on which is more helpful to me. 

There could also be a separate conclusion to be found here, which would be how the state of my personal well-being and the world around me could affect my writing. If there was a trace of that to be found in this study, then it would be reported. This should not be the main focus, however, but a noted lurking variable that is not visible beneath the surface. 

References

Atkins, A. [Andy Atkins].(2016, June 21) George RR Martin and Stephen King. Retrieved
September 04, 2020 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_PBqSPNTfg&t=6s 

McKee, B. K. (1972). Do writers use an outline when they write?. Technical Communication,
10-13.

Should you outline your story before you start writing? (n.d.). Retrieved September 04, 2020,
from https://www.getnovelize.com/should-you-outline-your-story-before-you-start-writing 

UMass Lowell. (2012, December 12) Stephen King On Twilight, 50 Shades of Grey, Lovecraft,
and More. Retrieved September 04, 2020 from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l8TkQvdJVbc&feature=emb_title

Artifact on Chapter 3

We live in a world in which comic books are more mainstream than ever. Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” became the highest grossing film of all time, beating James Cameron’s 2009 Blockbuster “Avatar.” Superhero video games, toys, clothes, and even miscellaneous merchandised pieces are sold at alarming rates. In fact, there have been so many pieces of merchandise made that videos have been produced, such as “Can You Live Entirely Off of Marvel Merchandise?” (Comic Drake, 2019). As the superhero genre continues to stay in the stream of consciousness, the question of what these heroes and villains’ brains look like rarely seems to come up. Searching “Superman’s Brain” yields results from the golden and silver age of comics showing Superman in perils involving brain machines, but no diagrams of the powerful Kryptonian’s biological brain.

Adding verisimilitude to comics can increase the believability of the characters and the world they occupy, adding immersion and depth. DC comics in particular enjoys looking into the psychology of their villains; the main “prison” for Batman’s rogues gallery is an Asylum called “Arkham Asylum,”  and recently, in 2018, there was an storyline  involving the characters reflecting on their post-traumatic stress in the nine-book murder mystery story “Heroes in Crisis,” where the superheroes are seen at therapy sessions in a rehabilitation center (King, 2018). But still, in the nearly eighty year run on these heroes, it has been nigh-impossible to find a diagram of any of their brains, or what damage they may have. Despite this, it’s possible to take from the source and make educated assumptions of what they possibly have.

The most interesting and best example of brain damage in comics is from the Batman Storylines “A Death in the Family” and “Under the Red Hood.” The character of Jason Todd is most commonly known as the “Robin that Died,” as he was the brash, whiny pupil of Bruce Wayne after Dick Grayson left the dynamic duo to become the hero Nightwing. Jason Todd was a homeless child that Bruce Wayne found and took in to be his new sidekick. The son of Willis Todd, a petty criminal, Jason would also commit criminal acts to get by. From the start of his recruitment, Jason was shown to be whiny and bratty, feeling as though he deserved everything. 

It’s believable to say that Jason’s whiny behavior was due to a decrease in serotonin, as Jason had a greater amount of aggressive behaviors, such as when he threw a serial abuser off of a balcony. While extreme, a decrease in Serotonin is known to bring about aggressive behaviors, and these aggressive behaviors lead to dangerous actions being done. Reuptake inhibitors could’ve been used to possibly increase Serotonin, but Bruce and others probably wouldn’t have figured to look into something like this until it’s too late.

What Jason lacks in the chemical of serotonin is made up in exchange for Dopamine, as Jason’s motivation is the thing that ultimately leads to his demise. Jason wished to be rewarded for solving a case on his own, so he went out to fight the Joker before being beaten up with a crowbar and left to die. Dopamine receptors activate when a reward is obtained, so Jason wished to feel the satisfaction of solving a case alone. 

Jason Todd probably has damage to his prefrontal cortex, similar to Phineas Gage (Gazzaniga, p. 91). While Jason was considered to be one of the most violent of the Robins, his revival led to him taking on more brutal, fatal approaches to his enemies, a hatred of the world, and an inability to calm down. This damage leads him to becoming the vigilante known as the “Red Hood,” vowing to be a better version of Bruce that uses lethal force to get the job done.

“Tell me,” He says to Bruce, “What bothers you more? That your greatest failure has returned from the grave, or that I’ve become a better Batman than you?” (Winnick, 2004). This rage he feels against Bruce and the rest of the “Bat-Family” is similar to Phineas Gage and other people’s brains after damage to their prefrontal cortex. The Prefrontal Cortex is the “area concerned with social norms, understanding what other people are thinking, and feeling emotionally connected to others,” and when damaged, there’s issues with aggravation and the ability to get along with others, but they have no loss in memory (Gazzaniga, 2018, p. 91). It’s understandable to find that Jason remembers all the stuff Bruce did when he was younger, and with a damaged prefrontal cortex due to the blunt force from the crowbar that the Joker delivered (Starlin, 1988), it’s also understandable that he has a sense of anger that he wasn’t saved by Batman, as damage to the prefrontal cortex leads to anger.

Because of the really emotional experience of dying and being brought back to life, Jason’s amygdala has seared in his memory this highly emotional event from his life. But, this creation of a Flashbulb memory is not an entirely accurate one, as Jason doesn’t remember Bruce caring for him and being worried about him, he claims to only remember Bruce hating him and wishing he’d just go away. In situations of high-emotion, those emotions tend to cloud the judgement and the way that they function.

The endorphins in Jason’s body probably experienced a boost after his revival. Because he has peak fitness due to his training with Batman and the unknown chemicals found in the Lazarus Pit, it is seen that after his revival Jason can resist blunt trauma and gunshot wounds. He, like a morphine addict, feels the pain but doesn’t care as he continues to truck forward and fight on. The Endorphins appear to have been blocked in the reuptake as he continues to fight.

In Conclusion, Jason Todd is the whiny pupil of Bruce Wayne, but there’s secretly a lot more that’s hidden under the surface, deep in the biology of how his brain is made up. Jason’s pain and struggles are fueled by a chemical imbalance of Serotonin and Dopamine, and the damages he sustained only made this worse. Writers of comics typically don’t think about this, usually they’ll write it off as the character simply being really emotional or harsh. Jason was a teenager when he was murdered, puberty tends to lead to changes in the chemicals in the body before reaching a homeostasis,  but because of this death, this was all stifled, giving us an unintentionally accurate depiction of what damage to the prefrontal cortex and a chemical imbalance look like.

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2018). Psychological science. New York City, New York: W.W. Norton &
Company.

McWhorter, D. (Director). (2019, November 16). Can You Live Entirely Off of Marvel 

Merchandise? (Ft. Red Bard) [Video file]. In Youtube. Retrieved September 12, 2020, 

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZE8kag4T_uA

Starlin, J., Wolfman, M., Aparo, J., & Pérez, G. (2012). Batman: A death in the family. New 

York: DC Comics.

Winick, J., Mahnke, D., Davis, S., & Battle, E. (2006). Batman: Under the hood. New York: 

DC Comics.

Artifact on Chapter 6

Every Hero has their origin. Superman falls to Earth from Krypton, Batman’s parents are killed in Crime Alley, The Flash is struck by lightning while working in his laboratory. After this origin occurs, the character will experience training – Bruce Wayne travels the world, learning different martial arts forms and detective skills, the Flash works with Star Laboratories to harness his powers. But the character of Damian Al Ghul Wayne, the Son of Bruce Wayne and Talia Al Ghul, is a special case when it comes to his form of learning, as he was a product of operant conditioning with frequent negative reinforcement and positive punishment.

Damian is the product of a rape. His mother, Talia, drugged and raped Bruce Wayne to create a child. “The Ultimate Child, genetically perfected and grown in an artificial womb, Damian was engineered to kill and replace his famous father” (Morrison, 2007).  Trained in the underground “League of Assassins,” Damian was given multiple trainers on a variety of systems, such as martial arts, sword fighting, detective skills and voice mimicry. Typically, Damian would be placed in a dangerous situation, such as shark-infested waters, and he’d have to somehow find a way to fight it out and survive. To quote Talia, “You will immerse yourself in each and every subject, and I expect nothing but complete mastery over all of them” (Tomasi, 2012).

By being immersed in all of these subjects at a young age, and placed in dangerous situations in which he must use these subjects, Damian gains negative reinforcement in the form of being removed from a hostile environment, and safety in the knowledge that he has yet again mastered another important ability in being the best assassin the League can offer and also get one step closer to being the heir to the title of “Batman.”

Despite all of this training, Damian has one thing constantly on his mind: who his father is. When he was four, he asked his mother this question. She refused to answer until he could beat her in a fight; only then would he be ready to know and meet his father. This, to Damian, is the ultimate form of Positive Reinforcement. His mother refuses to praise him everytime he loses, saying “Happy Birthday Damian, you lose.” This reinforces in his mind to try harder and aim to be better. It’s not easily expressed in the comics that he knows he’s doing the right thing, he just sees that what he attempted to do didn’t get the outcome he wanted, and so he goes back and tries again every year until he can defeat his mother. But this form of reinforcement is variable, rarely happening, and when it does occur, it can only occur once.  With each defeat, Damian receives a positive punishment, decreasing the potential of him losing again. He gets punished, and he realizes his mistake, and so he makes the effort to try something new to defeat his mother..

Damian has also been the product of shaping, as each battle with a shark or tiger, each covert assassination, and each intelligence gathering operation is training him to take on the role as the leader of the League of Assassins. The word “groomed’ appears commonly in association with Damian. In the 2014 animated film Son of Batman, Damian says “I’ve been climbing them [the mountains] since I was four. It was a part of my training… First time I climbed, I fell. Broke my wrist. I made it to the top anyway. It was expected. I was being groomed to lead humanity, like my grandfather” (Spaulding, 2014). One of the definitions for “groom,” according to the Oxford dictionary, means “to train or prepare for a career.” Damian was trained, shaped, and raised to be the best assassin known to man, and to be the leader of the League.

After being taken in by Bruce Wayne, Damian Wayne went out and killed a low-level villain. When he returned back to the batcave, he said “In the League of Assassins, we showed our enemies no mercy” (Morrison, 2007). This is quite telling of just how far he had gone in the League’s beliefs of honor and duty, of not letting their enemies live. Because of this entitlement and desire to take on roles he is far too young for, Bruce Wayne (and other members of the “Bat Family”) had to teach him the core beliefs of Batman if Damian wanted to become his new Robin. Damian had to learn that there’s good in people and that the world, and the people living in it, are worth saving. 

This goes against all he was taught in the League of Shadows, but after the death of Bruce Wayne and the rise of Dick Grayson as the new Batman, it became Dick’s responsibility to teach Damian these responsibilities. It was through the interactions with Dick that Damian experienced an extinction of his learnings from the League of Assassins involving murder and killing. A “do not kill” policy was clear, and Damian learned this discipline as those things he was conditioned to believe went away.

As life continued for Damian, Damian joined many teams and made many friends. He declared himself leader of the new Teen Titans group, being a strong force that combined the teachings of Batman with the brute force he had learned in the League of Assassins. His lessons he gained never truly went away from the League. Sometimes he’d experience spontaneous recovery and go back to killing, such as when he killed a villain named “Morgan Ducard” for threatening his father. While this caused a massive rift between the duo of Bruce and Damian, Damian also learns the lesson of having a moral code and being more like his father and less like the villains that raised him (Tomasi, 2012).

Damian holds potential to become the next Batman, but his hostility is holding him back. In a recent series from 2017, Damian, now fully in the Robin position, becomes acquainted with Superman’s son, Jonathan Kent. Jonathan and Damian go on adventures together, and they become close friends as Robin and Superboy. But Damian’s frequent hostility and occasional inability to understand others prevents him from being truly great. He struggles to fit in, never having a proper childhood, but with Jonathan, he learns to truly be a kid (Tomasi, et. all, 2017)

The story of Damian Wayne is that of a child conditioned since birth to be the inheritor of a group of assassins and to be the next Batman. However, as he worked with his father and the surrogate siblings he had, he grew out of that idea and became his own person, less bratty and more understanding of others. It reflects the story of Little Albert and the phobias he had of small furry creatures. That child was removed from the experience by his mother, like Damian was removed from the circumstances he was trained in by his father. Albert went on to live a relatively normal life, like Damian, who, if he had remained in the League of Assassins, would probably still be a murderer and have no friends to go to. Now, after being removed from the League, he lives a life with friends, the leader of his own team, and has become a hero in his own right.

Works Cited

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2018). Psychological science. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

Morrison, G. (2007). Batman (Vol. 1, 657-666). New York, NY: DC Comics. Retrieved
September 19, 2020.

Morrison, G., & Quitely, F. (2011). Batman and Robin. Batman reborn. New York, NY: DC
Comics. Retrieved September 19, 2020.

Spaulding, E. (Director). (2014). Son of Batman [Motion picture on DVD]. United States: Warner
Brothers.

Tomasi, P. J. (2012). Batman & Robin. New York, NY: DC Comics.

Tomasi, P., Barberi, C., Pelletier, P., Peeples, B., Thibert, A., Smith, C., . . . Sanchez, A. (2017).
Super sons. Burbank, CA: DC Comics.

Artifact on Chapter 10

Batman has been a juggernaut of the pop-cultural sphere since his 1939 introduction in Detective Comics. Over his Eighty One year run, Batman has changed as a character, going from a user of weaponry like guns and explosives to a character that uses batarangs and utility belts. Batman went from a character that would kill to further his gains to a person that developed a “No-Kill” policy after the death of his parents. Since the 1960s, Batman has been put onto the silver screen many times, but it can be argued that the psychology of the character, what he goes through, and the emotions and motivations is best depicted in the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan Trilogy of “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises.”

The films follow Bruce Wayne as he goes through a beginning, middle, and end as the masked vigilante of Bruce Wayne. Along the way he meets partners and friends, and he learns to cope with the death of his parents as his fight on crime becomes a fight that the entire city pursues to put an end to, leading to a movement that brings about the safety of the city and it’s inhabitants from the criminal underworld and chaos.

Bruce, as a young child, had developed a fear of bats after he was attacked and swarmed by them. After attending an opera with his parents, he witnessed the murders of both of them, experiencing a negative, unaroused primary emotion of being depressed. This negative primary emotion led to a variety of secondary emotions, including guilt, shame, and bitterness. Bruce had grown bitter of the world and the criminals that lived in it, so he disappeared and was declared missing as he had retreated to the mountains of himalayas to be trained by the League of Shadows to harness these emotions into a force of good.

The death of his family became a motivator for him, and throughout the next three movies he strived to fight crime and rid his city of suffering and struggle. This motivation was also quite destructive, as Bruce would sometimes fight criminals like The Joker and Bane, who would take over and destroy large parts of Gotham City to push agendas of violence. 

The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight is different from Batman in nearly every way. Portrayed by Heath Ledger, the performance is built on misdirection, we never learn the true meaning or purpose of the Joker, he’s an idea of chaos and anarchy. The city of Gotham, to the Joker, is like a body that struggles to find homeostasis. He believes that the city, and the rest of the world’s true steady point is founded in chaos, not in order. Bruce, meanwhile, believes that order and control would be the best way to save the city, so in this constant struggle of ideas, the motivations differ but the conclusion is the same: the needs of the city is driven by a need to achieve homeostasis. 

The Need Hierarchy of Bruce is in an imbalance, as he has everything: Money, a mansion, food, friends, a positive reputation – but he can’t move past all of this and go above because of his inability to feel safe in Gotham City with the mafias and clowns that run the town into chaos and disorder. Bruce is unable to find this balance and because of this he’s unable to achieve Self-Actualization along with the city, until the last film of the trilogy: The Dark Knight Rises. 

The Dark Knight Rises follows another battle for dominance, this time between Bruce and the Gotham City Police Department, against Bane and his goons, led by the League of Shadows that Bruce was a part of in the first movie. It’s been eight years since Harvey Dent, the District Attorney passed away, and Organized Crime has been eradicated. Batman has disappeared since then, and the city has seemed to achieve Self-Actualization, until Bane shows up and takes over the city. Bruce struggles to fight crime as he has resigned from being Batman, but he makes an effort to try and stop Bane, who is trying to explode the city. 

A city that has achieved Self-Actualization and found an end to crime altogether usually has some new opponent that is fresh and new comes about, and this is no different, as the organized crime has dropped, premeditated terrorism has given rise, and the Need Hirearchy is set back down to “Security, protection, and freedom from threats.” Thus, Batman must make a return and fight Bane and the League of shadows once again to bring safety to the city.

Bruce, during all of this chaos, finds love and acceptance with a woman named Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman. Selina is driven by a need to steal and commit cat burglaries for protection and security, but she eventually finds protection and security by being by Batman’s side. Being the deuteragonist has made Selina go on a similar journey of achieving her own form of Self-Actualization and living up to her full potential, not just as a petty thief, but as a hero in her own way.

Drives, motivations, emotions and needs are all really important throughout these films as they push the characters forward. Although Bruce had retired as Batman, he makes a return to keep the city safe. When he risks his own life and makes a disappearance, Bruce is found having achieved self-actualization by living with Selina Kyle overseas, hidden from the public eye. He’s made a new life for himself, living a free life with his physiological, safety, belonging and love, and esteem needs all met.

By watching these films with this lens of psychology, needs and emotions, one learns to pick up and view a new theme for the character of Bruce Wayne – one of always striving to be the best, to make it so the city is safe once again. The need for security is much greater than feeling safe in one’s own home and in the neighborhoods they live in, the need for security is city and nationwide. Director Christopher Nolan included a theme of belonging and striving to have needs met throughout this action-trilogy. To some, the Nolan trilogy is seen as the best set of Batman films put to screen, as it expresses Batman in a  realistic way through the lens of a post-9/11 world with fears of terrorism and destruction of cities looming on the shoulders of the American Citizen. In a similar way, the Nolan Trilogy is also realistic for depicting Bruce Wayne’s emotions and motives in a realistic way, making him more than just a scared child in the alleyway, and turning him into a scared boy in an alleyway that is driven to turn his crime-ridden city into a safe haven.

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2018). Psychological science. New York City, New York: W.W. Norton &
Company.

Nolan, C. (2005) Batman Begins. [United States] Warner Home Video

Nolan, C., Bale, C., Ledger, H.. (2008). The Dark Knight. [United States]: Warner Home Video.

Nolan, C. (2012) The Dark Knight Rises. [United States]: Warner Home Video

Artifact for Chapter 7

Amnesia is a common theme in fiction that is usually done to reset a character to a previous state, make the character no longer remember what happened in a previous arc, or as a one-off comedic gag. In comics, however, amnesia is sometimes used to make good characters go bad, or bad characters go good. No character is safe from the cliche of the “Amnesiac Hero,” where a hero can only remember their name, and the character of Bruce Wayne is no different. When Bruce Wayne lost his memory in the “Superheavy” storyline, this was actually one of the rare accurate depictions of Retrograde Amnesia that comics had.

For some background: Bruce Wayne was in a battle with the Joker, who was revealed to have gained immortality through the fictional liquid element “Dionesium.” When they were fighting, an explosion went off in the cave, collapsing over them and killing both (Snyder, 2016). After a few issues, Bruce is seen to have been brought back to life but without any of his previous memories, such as the death of his family. In this interpretation of the character, it reimagines Bruce as happy, that without the burden of the double homicide of his parents he’s able to live a normal life with a fiance and a daycare that he runs. As chaos ensues on the streets of Gotham city, however, Bruce recognizes that he must return as Batman and gains all of his memories back through a machine called “The Alfred Protocol.” (Snyder, 2016)

What Bruce has is Retrograde Amnesia. This is seen throughout the twelve issues as Bruce fails to recollect who villains are, who the commissioner is, or the memories that he had with Alfred, the many sidekicks he had, or with his parents.  Take for example Example A,  in which Bruce tells James Gordon, the new Batman, that he doesn’t remember that person he was before, and that simply can’t be that person. After the damage he had sustained, he no longer remembers anything about the past twenty or so years of his life, and he’s trying to get a new and fresh start. 

Bruce has sustained damage to the entirety of his brain, not just to the frontal lobe. In Example B, Clark Kent is looking at Bruce’s brain diagram, in which specific red marks on the brain shows where things are different. By interpreting this image, it’s implied that Bruce had sustained damage to mainly the prefrontal cortex and frontal lobe, and damage to the temporal lobe, where the hippocampus and amygdala are found(Snyder, 2016). Alfred explains, “he was dead for hours. His heart stopped, his brain died. But then he was… healed.” Although scientifically inaccurate – a brain can usually only last up to three to ten minutes after death – sometimes after the brain has experienced a loss of oxygen for an extended period of time, memory loss and amnesia can occur (Gazzaniga, 2018).

Before his amnesia, Bruce had constant persistence of the negative memory of his parent’s demise by the hands of a low-life criminal. According to the Riddler in Example C, Bruce used to be so traumatized over the death of his parent’s that he’d “start screaming uncontrollably” at a boarding school, begging for his mother. It’s also mentioned, in the same issue, that Bruce had sought electric therapy to remove the persistence of these terrible memories, trying to experience Memory Erasure. 

Other people try helping Bruce remember, but it never succeeds, as Bruce cannot relate to that version of Bruce before the amnesia. He no longer feels the pain. Although Bruce is constantly told things like “You’re Bruce Wayne, your parents were killed in an alleyway, and you’ve vowed for vengeance,” this has the unwanted effect of causing memory bias, in which Bruce believes that the memories people claim he should have have now changed over time, like in Example A. When he’s referring to “whoever I was before,” he’s referring to the angry child in the alleyway. He says that there is no way that that is him anymore, and the way he  tries to make himself believe that he remembers this event is different from the Bruce Wayne of before. This Bruce wants to make sure no child is left behind and alone by working with kids and being a teacher for them, while the Bruce that was Batman rescued children and tried to make the city as a whole safer, creating a “city wide” safespace, when sometimes all that’s needed is a specific place to go as a safespace for kids.

The villain of the main-plot, a criminal named Mr. Bloom, suddenly takes over Gotham City and its inhabitants. When Bruce witnesses the kids in his care in danger and how scared they are, this causes a Retrieval Cue to activate in Bruce. He may not remember anything from his past, but he realizes now that he’s Batman. So, he makes his way back to his old mansion for Alfred’s help (Issue 47). Then, there’s a physical machine that also acts as a retrieval cue, called “The Alfred Protocol.” When Bruce uses the Alfred Protocol, it retrieves all his memories over the course of twenty seven years and puts it back into his brain, giving him all the memories of the trauma and pain he has gone through. Every battle, every piece of training, every sleepless night and screams in the dark for his mother and father come back to him. In an eventful scene like this, the science takes a background role, but it is there – his memories were encoded inside this computer chip backup called “the Alfred Protocol,” It was stored there, and when Bruce activates the machine, this acts as a retrieval cue for him to gain his memories back.

In conclusion, it’s a common trend for a hero to go on a quest for identity after they’ve experienced amnesia. They may not remember what has happened in their past, and they’re trying to gain their memories back. This story is no different as Bruce travels along on a path of discovery, as he feels he has a new chance at life but the idea of Batman always comes back to him. To take the science in the “science fiction,” and examine how accurate it is, the writer Scott Snyder managed to ace a great depiction of an amnesiac man who just wants to separate himself from what he was before. In a world of cliche storytelling that uses amnesia as a means to an end, “Batman: Superheavy,” showed the struggles of a man finally at peace because he no longer remembers anything about who he was, while everyone just wants their old friend back. 

Appendix

Example A (Issue 42)

Example B (Issue 43)

Example C (Issue 45)

Example D (Issue 43)

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2012). Psychological science. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Snyder, Scott, and Capullo, Greg. Batman Superheavy . Vol. 1, ser. 40-50, DC Comics, 2016.

Artifact on Chapter 12

The superhero genre is built on two parts: the solo outings, and the teams. A solo hero, such as Spider-Man, belongs to no team and works as the “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man.” Meanwhile, characters such as Captain America and Iron Man may have their solo adventures, but their stories are also continued in the united team of “The Avengers.” The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s phases are built on this crossing of paths with heroes in their big, end-of-the-phase films “The Avengers.” Despite the group of heroes all trying to hold themselves up to a strict moral code of helping the citizens of the earth, they are not different from the groups found in society. Through the entire franchise, they pull rash decisions, conform to a certain idea of what the group should represent, misattribute reasons that an enemy did something as a part of their personality, identify outgroups inside of the group and removed them from power, and they put themselves on a higher pedestal than others.

“The Avengers” and “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” directed by Joss Whedon, set the rock of which the team would be built upon and eventually collapse upon. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark’s hubris leads him to believe that creating a “suit of armor around the world” would bring world peace. After the artificial intelligence he created named “Ultron” became self-aware and declared a war on humanity, Stark and the Avengers declared him an enemy, something terrible that they have to take down. Throughout the film, Ultron gives speeches about what motivates him to cause this extinction upon humans, how humanity needs to evolve. The team refuses to accept or acknowledge this, believing that Ultron is just an evil robot gone wrong. This emphasis on his personality of “evil,” and not examining the situational factors of why Ultron believes this (such as the overpopulation, the environment being destroyed, the imminent invasion of alien forces) is a showcase of a fundamental attribution error. 

After the first Avengers film, the following films dealt with what it meant to be an Avenger, and heroes like Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man had sequel films that revolved around them and what it meant to be an Avenger and a hero. Iron Man, for example, tries conforming to this idea of being a hero but falls into alcoholism. The idea of conformity is rough for the heroes, especially when they have to deal with death – like in Thor: The Dark World – and the return of old friends that leaves the hero confused – such as in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Trying to conform to the idea of what an Avenger should be when one continues to get curveballs tossed at them is insanely hard to do for these heroes, which eventually leads to a rift of what the team should stand for. They’re trying to be heroes, yet they continue to fall short, and they end up betraying their friends, the government, or their kingdom, showcasing Cognitive Dissonance as well, since their thoughts of “I’m a hero” conflict with their actions of, for example, taking down an entire government branch, as seen in “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

After the attack on Sokovia in Age of Ultron, the governments of the world presented the Sokovia Accords, which put stipulations on what heroes could and couldn’t do. This caused a rift amongst the team, with half believing this was reasonable, and the other half believing that it was wrong and authoritarian. This caused a divide in the group, as Tony Stark believed this to be a right thing due to personal circumstances, meanwhile Steve Rogers believed that this was a dangerous slippery slope to go down on. When the Avengers team split in “Captain America: Civil War,” both separated teams believed the other to be less varied in their beliefs, leading both sides to exhibit the Outgroup Homogeneity Effect. This effect eventually led to fighting and the dissolution of the team. Both sides are shown throughout the film believing that they were in the right with their own reasons, and that the other team was just simply “wrong.” 

“We’re the avengers, we can bust arms dealers all the live-long day,” Tony Stark says before pointing to the sky, “But that, up there? That’s the endgame. How do you guys plan on beating them?” Steve Rogers nods his head and says “Together” (Whedon, 2015). Statements like this, seen in Avengers: Age of Ultron, shows Social Identity Theory amongst the team. Each member believes that since they’re in the same social category, their value is more than any other concept. They experience pride in being a part of this special team, and since they’re the Avengers, they must be the only group that could defeat the enemy. They don’t rely on the military, which gets them into hot water later on in the franchise, and they also don’t rely on the citizens of a nation to help assist in the battle. 

The team gets taken down to level in Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Anthony and Joseph Russo, when the Avengers, for the first time, lose. When they fight the great “Mad titan” Thanos, they believe it to be another enemy that they just need to come together and take out, but because of their inability to put issues aside, they fail, and half of the universe’s population is wiped out in one foul swoop. After a few months, they get a signal at the start of Avengers: Endgame of where Thanos is located. The group “Assembles” to go and defeat him out of the pure motivation of revenge and to hopefully bring the world back to its original state. They’ve been pressured into saving the world, since they’re the Avengers, the team that has saved the world plenty of times. So, they have the brash idea of going to the planet and defeating Thanos. This is an example of Groupthink, as when they commit this brash decision, it makes everything worse, and it takes about five years before they reassemble.

In conclusion, the Avengers is best understood as a group. It goes back to the original speech that Nick Fury gave in the first Avengers movie, “There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to to fight the battles we never could” (Whedon, 2012). In group settings, people work together to become something bigger than themselves; a football player is just a football player, but when they’re on a team, they’re a member of a cohort that work as one unit to get touchdowns and win games. A student may join Greek life to become something bigger and have a group of people they can relate to. The Avengers are no different, they come together and become something more because of it, which is essentially Social Facilitation in action, as the performance of the individuals greatly improve because of it. Over it’s thirteen year run in this connected universe, the Marvel Universe has made a group that has had it’s ups and downs like any group, and the social psychology of the group is at hand throughout the many scenes the heroes are in. It’s an amazing example of a team-up group done right.

References

Gazzaniga, M. S. (2012). Psychological science. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Russo, A & Russo, J. (2018). Avengers: Infinity War [Video File]. United States: Walt Disney
Studios Motion Pictures. Retrieved October 2, 2020 from Disney+.

Russo, A & Russo, J. (2019). Avengers: Endgame [Video File]. United States: Walt Disney
Studios Motion Pictures. Retrieved October 3, 2020 from Disney+

Russo, A & Russo, J. (2016). Captain America: Civil War [Video File]. United States: Walt
Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Retrieved October 1, 2020, from Disney+.

Whedon, J. (Director). (2012). The Avengers [Video file]. United States: Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from Disney+. 
Whedon, J. (2015). Avengers Two: Age of Ultron [Video File]. United States: Walt Disney
Studios Motion Pictures. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from Disney+.

Vocabulary List

Chapter 2

Hypothesis – a specific, testable prediction, narrower than the theory it is based on. I described the hypothesis early in the artifact.

Independent variable – The variable that gets manipulated in the study. In my study, the manipulated variable was me changing whether I used an outline or not.

Dependent Variable – The variable that gets measured in a study. The Dependent Variables was a daily journal, reporting on the quality of my work, and also the number of words that I wrote.

Confound – anything that affects a dependent variable and that may unintentionally vary between the study’s different experimental conditions. I mentioned in the artifact that stuff that confounded the data would probably be external circumstances such as my mood, since this is a study on myself.

Data – A collection of measurements gathered from the research process. The data from this experiment would be my overall quality of work and how many words that I wrote – one of the pieces of data would be subjective, the other objective.

Chapter 3

Serotonin – A chemical compound important for emotional states, impulse control and dreaming. In my artifact, I made the case that Jason had low levels of serotonin before his brain damage, resulting in him doing brash actions that resulted in the damage of others.

Dopamine – A neurotransmitter related to motivation and reward. Because of his high amount of dopamine in his system and the lack of reuptake, his behaviors toward objectives and goals in the pursuit of a reward, such as independence, leads to more damage being done than good.

Prefrontal Cortex – The frontmost center of the frontal lobe, it’s important for memory, decision making, appropriate social behavior, and personality. When damaged, like in the case of Phineas Gage, people can become hostile and hard to approach. I identified damage to the prefrontal cortex as having an effect on Jason Todd in this Artifact.

Amygdala – a brain structure that is important in learning to associate things with emotional responses and in processing emotional information. I also said that this was probably damaged as well, most likely during Jason’s revival period. He begins to process emotional information, like his resurrection or Bruce finding a new Robin, as offensive and because Bruce hates him, rather than thinking it through as Batman grieving in his own way.

Endorphins – Natural pain reductors. When Jason comes out from the Lazurus pit, it appears that he has natural pain reduction as he doesn’t mind getting hit, bludgeoned, or shot. He admits to feeling it, but he doesn’t care. It’s similar to a morphine addict and their endorphins.

Chapter 6

Operant Conditioning – Our book defines Operant Conditioning as “Operant conditioning is the learning process in which an action’s consequences determine the likelihood of that action being repeated.”  Damian learned through Operant Conditioning how to fight and become an amazing detective and assassin. Trained by a variety of trainers, he learned through Positive Punishment, as every time he did something wrong, he was hit, and he learned not to do that thing again

Positive Punishment – Positive Punishment is the administration of a stimulus to decrease the potential of a behavior recurring. Damian’s training made him a killing machine, and his punishment he received by his mother every time he lost his battles against her decreased the probability of him doing it again.

Positive Reinforcement –  Positive Reinforcement is the administration of a stimulus to increase the probability of a behavior occurring. Damian’s primary positive reinforcement is in the form of learning who his father is. He fights and trains just to eventually, one day, learn who his father is and so he can meet him.

Shaping – Shaping is the reinforcement of behaviors that increasingly is similar to the desired behavior. Damian is being trained to take up the Mantle of Batman and the head of the League of Assassins, so his training regiment starts out menial, and increases to killing tigers and sharks, growing in his capabilities. It’s a progressive growth that helps him learn.

Negative Reinforcement – Negative Reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant stimulus to increase the probability of a behavior being done. Damian was removed from dangerous environments after he truly mastered his skills, which helped him reinforce behavior of strength and agility. 

Extinction – Extinction is the gradual process of a conditioned response being weakened when the conditioned stimulus is repeated without the unconditioned stimulus. Damian’s life changes when he’s moved in with the Bat Family, and his lessons he learned when he was with the League – that it was okay to kill, that there are no morals – were all fading away when Damian lived with Bruce and company.

Spontaneous Recovery – After Extinction occurs, the extinguished Conditioned Stimulus produces a Conditioned Response. Even though Damian has learned not to kill and experiences extinction in certain lessons he was given, he experiences spontaneous recovery under immense pressure, and has been known to kill again.

Chapter 10

Primary Emotions – Innate, evolutionarily adaptive and universal. When Batman’s parents die in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Bruce feels the immense primary emotion of Depression. 

Secondary Emotions – blends of Primary Emotions. Bruce felt a large range of these, including guilt, shame, and bitterness. 

Motivator/Motivation – a process that energizes, guides, and maintains towards a goal. The loss of Bruce’s parents led to a goal of ridding Gotham City of Crime, something that energized him and motivated him to fight crime.

Homeostasis – The tendency for bodily functions to maintain equilibrium. This is mainly talked about in reference to the city of Gotham City, as most of the time directors try to make Gotham City a character in it’s own right.

Self-Actualization – A state that occurs when a person achieves their personal dreams and aspirations. Both the city and characters are striving for this throughout the films.

Needs Hierarchy – Maslow’s arrangement of needs where basic needs must be satisfied before higher needs can be focused on. This is discussed with a variety of characters, and the City of Gotham City itself, as each are striving for a certain goal but they’re held back by the basic need of security. 

Chapter 7

Amnesia – A deficit in long term memory in which people lose the ability to retrieve vast quantities of information from long-term memory.  This is used in the first paragraph to introduce the concept as a whole. Amnesia is actually really common in fiction and is almost a cliche at this point. The amnesiac is a character trope that has received criticism in the past and can be relatively inaccurate or unexplored. When I used this vocabulary word, I wanted to go more in depth and say that Scott Snyder’s writing on Superheavy showcased an effective piece of story-telling that was also scientifically accurate.

Retrograde Amnesia – a conditioned in which people lose past memories for events, facts, people, or even personal information. This was to simply explain and describe what Bruce Wayne had, as there’s different types of amnesia.

Persistence – the continual recurrence of unwanted memories. Bruce Wayne has not had the easiest of lives. He lost his family when he was a child, most of his sidekicks have been traumatized, there’s been so many unwanted memories that continue to pop up. There’s a scene mentioned where Bruce couldn’t stop screaming for his mother and father, a while after they passed away. This persistence went away after he lost his memory. 

Memory bias – the changing of memories overtime to become consistent with current beliefs or attitudes. Bruce, after losing his memory, was told that he was all of these things and that he lost his parents and vowed to keep the city safe. Bruce realizes that’s not him in this current attitude he has after his memory loss, so rather than keeping the city safe, he uses the trauma that he doesn’t remember to create a safespace for kids.

Retrieval Cue – any stimulus that increases memory recall.  I’ve deemed two different occurrences as “Retrieval Cues,” one of seeing the kids in his care being in danger, and another which is a physical machine that helps him regain his memories. Both are stimuli that increased memory recall and helped propel Bruce forward to take up the mantle of Batman again.

Chapter 12

Fundamental Attribution Error – Putting overemphasis on personality traits and underestimating situational factors when explaining other people’s behavior. The team in the entire film “Avengers: Age of Ultron” continuously disavow Ultron’s ideas of world domination as simply wrong without living up to the situational factors at play in his decision. 

Conformity – The altering of behaviors or opinions to match those of others or to match what is expected of them. The Avengers actually struggle with conforming to the idea of what’s expected of them as heroes – Tony Stark falls into an alcoholic depression, Steve Rogers struggles with being a hero in a corrupt government, but they try nonetheless to conform to match what’s expected of them as the great superhero team.

Cognitive dissonance – An Uncomfortable mental state resulting from a contradiction between two attitudes or between an attitude and a behavior. Because of their inability to conform with the idea of what’s expected of the team as heroes, they experience a cognitive dissonance in which they believe that they are heroes, all the while they’re doing some unhero-like things, like drinking or dismantling a government.

Outgroup Homogeneity Effect – The belief that the outgroup is less variable than the ingroup. When the team split in half over a new law, both sides saw the “other” as wrong and the “enemy.” Old allies became the faceless enemies behind the masks, and both sides declared war on the other to take them down.

Social Identity Theory – Ingroups consist of individuals who perceive themselves to be members of the same social category and experience pride through their group membership.. The Avengers believe themselves to be above anyone else, they’ve saved the world once before, and so they feel like the world can’t stop them and that they can do anything. They experience pride with phrases like “We’re the avengers,” and the catchphrase of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.”

Groupthink – occurring typically when a group is under immense pressure or facing external threats, the group will typically make bad or rash decisions to preserve the cohesiveness of the rest of the group. The Avengers team, after half the universe was wiped out, took on this mindset of “Act first, Ask questions later,” when they went and attacked the villain, Thanos, on his country farm. Thanos is murdered, and they learn that they have no way of bringing half of the universe back. This rash decision to try and maintain cohesiveness led to half a decade passing before they attempted time travel to save the universe.

Social Facilitation – The idea that the presence of others enhance performance. It’s mentioned in the conclusion that the Avengers team is a group of people that become something more. Their abilities become better and are enhanced when they work together.

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