The benefits of having a dual identity are real

22 April 2022

Thinking of yourself as another person, in the same sort of way Bruce Wayne thinks of himself as the Batman, may be surprisingly empowering. You don’t need to imagine you’re a superhero though, even assigning yourself a pseudonym may be sufficient.

Although the embodiment of a fictional persona may seem like a gimmick for pop stars, new research suggests there may be some real psychological benefits to the strategy. Adopting an alter ego is an extreme form of ‘self-distancing’, which involves taking a step back from our immediate feelings to allow us to view a situation more dispassionately.

“Self-distancing gives us a little bit of extra space to think rationally about the situation,” says Rachel White, assistant professor of psychology at Hamilton College in New York State. It allows us to rein in undesirable feelings like anxiety, increases our perseverance on challenging tasks, and boosts our self-control.