Even Today, We Want Our Heroes to Know Right From Wrong

Posted on July 9, 2019

Given the popularity of antiheroes in movies and television series, researchers were curious as to whether morality still plays a role in determining an individual’s likeability. In order to investigate the connection between character morality and likeability, 262 college students were asked to mention fictional characters which they liked or disliked.

During the study, the students were provided with descriptions of character types, such as heroes, villains and morally ambiguous figures. They were then asked to name a fictional character which they liked or disliked the most that matched the description. They were also required to rate the character on how much they liked them and how moral these characters are.

Some subjects found themselves in a dilemma when having to decide on a hero that they disliked or a villain which they liked. Furthermore, it was difficult for them to rate how much they liked morally ambiguous characters.

The findings showed that there is a link between how much people like a character and how moral the character is perceived to be. Students tend to favor heroes whom they perceive as most moral and were inclined to dislike villains they rated as least moral.

However, it is difficult to determine the nature of this relationship. The study does not provide a clue as to whether we like a character because of the character’s moral righteousness, or we perceive a character to be more moral because we like them. It is also hard to predict the likeability of morally ambiguous characters, as the story’s context may play a part in deciding whether the character is moral. These characters might not be moral, but in comparison to the other characters in the show, they are one of the better personas.


Source material from Science Daily

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