Back in 2008, with the publication of Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell pointed out how important historical events can be to the possibility and character of Real Life Superheroes — giving as examples Sun Microsystem’s Bill Joy, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and The Beatles.

Now that it’s almost ten years later, the Beatles broke up in 1970 and Joy retired in 2003, what do you say we run a new report?

Beyond Ericsson’s 10K Effect

Gladwell’s analysis filtered mainly through Anders Ericsson’s 10K Study. We’re going to go one step further and suggest that what’s true of our superheroes is going to be true also, in many important and interesting ways, of our critical mass. This is because, instead of attending a prestigious violin academy, we’re all consuming the same popular media.

We’re going to sample Popular Media using Ericsson’s framework, assuming the same levels of intensity for the same age ranges, with just a few tweaks.

Implicit Association (Bias)

Exhibit B is Anthony Greenwald’s Implicit Association Test. Perhaps the most astonishing and haunting finding from Greenwald & Banaji’s research is the vignette about the studentat Harvard who stubbornly refused to accept the IAT’s finding that they were racist. So they took the test, over and over, trying to force their subconscious mind to unlearn racial bias — but the bigot needle wouldn’t budge.

Their bigot score just stayed stuck — until one day suddenly the needle cleared some sort of hurdle and it seemed like they were cured.

What happened?

They’d been watching the Olympics.

If you had your doubts before, that should clinch it for you. If Popular Media plays such a HUGE role in driving Gender, Race, Age & Class stereotypes, how is that not going to affect whose dreams get The Big Green Light?

But what else?

What else does Popular Media drive?

The Mindset Vector

Exhibit C is Dweck’s Fixed Mindset research, in particular the bit about 7th grade being when kids are mostly likely to begin experiencing the effects of Fixed Mindset – in droves. That’s ages 12 and 13 years old, in the United States.

But what Dweck’s work filters for is people whose mindsets are fixed maladaptively. We are interested in something a little different.


A Few Words on Looking for Things . . .


There’s no sense in deciding too much too soon about what qualifies as a weakness and what qualifies as a strength.

Again: everybody keep an open mind. Let’s just lift the lid and take a peek.

Superheroes Revisited
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