Chapter

Psychology of Superheroes
DOWNLOAD RESOURCES

NC Link

KS3 / Biology / Genetics and evolution
KS4 / Psychology / Knowledge, understanding and skills / Biological – an understanding of biological concepts within psychology, including neuroscience and genetics as contributors to behaviour

Psychologists are still trying to figure out whether we are born with certain characteristics (nature), such as being the brave and heroic type, or whether we learn those behaviours after we are born (nurture). In the world of superheroes, we find that some superheroes have had their superpowers from birth (nature). For example, Thor (the God of Thunder) in the Marvel superhero universe was born with enhanced strength and stamina. However, some Superheroes are not born with superpowers must work hard to learn the skills needed to undertake heroic tasks. For example, Batman (Bruce Wayne) trains himself physically and mentally to fight crime in Gotham City after he sees his parents murdered.

Task 1:

You are going to look at the origins of some superheroes, decide if they inherited their powers through their genes (nature), or they have acquired their superpower (nurture) during their life. It may not be completely clear cut!

Name:

Scarlet Witch

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

X-Men and Avengers
  • Member of a subspecies of humans known as mutants.
  • Possesses abilities to alter reality in unspecified ways and is a powerful sorceress.
  • She is the unknown daughter of the supervillain Magneto.

Name:

Superman

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Justice League
  • Born on planet Krypton to parents Jor-El and Lara.
  • His superpowers started to develop when he was a child.
  • By the time he was an adult he had superhuman strength, x-ray vision and superhuman breath, which enables him to inhale or blow huge amounts of air.

Name:

Invisible Woman (Susan Storm)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Fantastic Four
  • Has the power to become invisible, turn other objects invisible and manipulate powerful force fields.
  • She was a member of a starship crew who went into space and was exposed to high levels of cosmic radiation.
  • Her parents were Mary Storm and Franklin Storm, a couple from Long Island.

Name:

Professor X (Charles Xavier)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

X-Men
  •  Founder of the X-Men.
  • Member of a subspecies of humans known as mutants.
  • Can use telepathy to read and control the minds of others.
  • Extremely intelligent.
  • Son of Dr. Brian Xavier, a well-respected nuclear scientist, and Sharon Xavier.
  • Discovers his powers as a young boy.

Name:

Captain America (Steven Grant Rogers)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Avengers
  • Born to poor Irish immigrants, Sarah and Joseph Rogers in New York.
  • Tried to enlist in the US Army to fight in World War II but was rejected due to his frail body.
  • He was recruited to Project: Rebirth and injected with a special serum intended to create “Super soldiers”.
  • Described as being at the ‘peak of human potential’ he is as physically strong, fast and agile as a human can be without being classified as superhuman.
  • His mental processes were also enhanced, meaning his mind operates efficiently and quickly.

Name:

Wonder Woman (Diana Prince)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Justice League
  • Daughter of the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta.
  • Her powers of superhuman strength, courage, flight and speed were said to be the product of the Greek gods’ blessings.
  • As she grew up amongst the Amazon tribe of women, she trained to be a warrior.

Name:

Iron Man (Tony Stark)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Avengers
  • Son of Howard and Maria Stark, he was considered a boy genius, going to University at age 15 to study engineering.
  • He was injured by a booby trap which left him with shrapnel moving towards his heart.
  • To stop the shrapnel injuring his heart he designed a magnetic chest plate to stop it moving which also included a pacemaker to regulate his heart.
  • He wears the body armour he developed during his adventures as Iron Man.

Name:

Black Widow (Natasha Romanova)

Are their features due to nature or nurture?

Universe:

Marvel University
  • Orphaned early in life, she is part of the U.S.S.R.’s “Black Widow Ops” program from a young age and is trained as a Russian agent.
  • As a result of her training she is an expert tactician and excels at hand-to-hand combatant. She also has mastery of various weapons.
  • During her stay at the “Red Room” facility she was physically enhanced and now has slower aging and an enhanced immune system.

It is important to remember that even through superheroes may have been born with a superpower they will also be shaped by the environment. For example, although superman is born with the ability to fly, he must learn how to fly with the help of his adoptive parents Jonathan and Martha Kent. In non-superheroes, behaviours can be the combination of both nature and nurture. This means it is very difficult to identify which behaviours people are born with and which are the result of their environment. For example, if someone is good a running is that because they were born with the right characteristics to be a good running, such as having long legs? Or do people become good at running because they undertake a lot of training? The answer is likely to be a mixture of both nature and nurture.

Task 2:

If you could be a superhero what powers would you have? Create your character and give them a back story about why they have their powers.

Remember to include if they inherited their characteristics or acquired them during their life.e

Superhero Name:

Draw your character:

Superpowers:

Back story: