Media Technology MSc

MSc Thesis


Being Superman: Effects of Superhero Embodiment in Virtual Reality on Exertion Capabilities


Maarten Lodewijk




Studies into Virtual Reality (VR) and embodied cognition reveal that VR is capable of altering one’s behavior, body schema and body image. This study aims to determine whether the particular trait of “super strength” commonly associated with superheroes can be induced in males by using Virtual Reality. Specifically, it is hypothesized that embodiment in the body of Superman through VR leads to increased exertion capabilities. In an affordance test, male participants were asked to estimate how long they thought they would be able to perform a planking exercise. They then had to perform this exercise for as long as possible. This was done three times: setting up the baseline, after being embodied in an Average Body (AB), and after being embodied in a Superman Body (SB). The order of the AB and SB conditions alternated per participant. Sense of presence was measured through a questionnaire after each condition. No significant effects that support the hypothesis were found within the affordance test results, but a significant relation in support of the hypothesis was found between average presence and the change score of SB Exertion. Further experimentation is needed in order to confirm this effect, see whether it exists in females, and to come to definitive conclusions about the effects of embodiment on exertion capabilities.

Full Reference

Maarten Lodewijk, "Being Superman: Effects of Superhero Embodiment in Virtual Reality on Exertion Capabilities", Master's Thesis for the Media Technology programme, Leiden University (The Netherlands), 2016