Why are people so attracted to evil characters?

Why are people so attracted to evil characters?


Whether on television or in a movie, we generally love bad or negative characters. No matter how selfish, power hungry or greedy such a person is, many of us are still drawn to their dark side. , partly because we suspect that some of them may have a good quality in themselves.

In fact, according to a new study from the University of Michigan, USA, both adults and children more often reported that negative characters were better on the inside than heroes, who are thought to be evil on the inside.

"So people believe that there is a discrepancy between the external behavior of a bad person and their inner self, and this is a bigger gap for negative characters than for heroes" - says Valeri Umsheid, doctoral student in psychology at this university , and the main author of the study.

Umssheid and her colleagues conducted three studies with 434 children (ages 4-12) and 277 adults to determine how individuals perceive antisocial acts committed by bad people. They focused on the participants' judgments about the negative characters and fictional heroes known or new, such as Ursula from "The Little Mermaid" and Udi from "Toy Story".

Study 1 found that children viewed the actions and emotions of the latter's characters as very negative. This suggests that children's well-documented tendency to judge people as good does not preclude appreciation of extreme forms of their evil.

Studies 2 and 3 assessed children's and adults' beliefs about the moral character and true selves of heroes and villains, using a variety of convergent evidence, including how a character felt internally if the actions of a the character reflected their true self, and if the latter can change over time.

Through these measures, the study showed that both children and adults consistently rated the true selves of such characters as extremely evil and far more negative than heroes. At the same time, the researchers discovered an asymmetry in judgments, where negative characters were more likely than heroes to have a true self that differed from their outward behavior. Umsheid said both children and adults believed that characters like Ursula had some inner goodness, despite the bad or immoral actions they regularly performed.

Originally published on Bota.al