Social Psychology and the Comic-Book Superhero: A Darwinian Approach
Carney J., Dunbar R., Machin A., David-Barrett T., Silva Junior M.
Why is the comic-book superhero such a persistent topic of cultural representation? Citing Dutton’s evolutionary aesthetic, we argue that comic-book superheroes persist because they offer a cultural means of negotiating the gap between the small group size that human beings have evolved a cognitive architecture to deal with, and the much larger group size that is entailed by modern social arrangements. This position implies four predictions: the superhero should (1) exhibit punitive prosociality, (2) be supernatural or quasi-supernatural, (3) be minimally counterintuitive and (4) display kin-signalling proxies. These predictions are tested against seventeen superhero figures from various comic-book universes.