Viewing Spider-Man can fight arachnophobia suggests Israeli study

Viewing clips from Spider-Man were more effective at treating fear-of-spiders than footage of real spiders, Israeli research study suggests.

April 24, 2019 06:23
1 minute read.
Spider-Man spiderman

Peter Norbot (L) and Kris Hamilton, dressed up as fictional comic book superhero Spider-Man, wait for their turn to audition to be a part of a promotional campaign for the upcoming release of the new movie "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" in Chicago March 19, 2014. (photo credit: JIM YOUNG/REUTERS)


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A new Israeli study indicated that at least seven seconds of Spider-Man viewing reduces arachnophobia by 20% announced Ariel University. The concept of phobic stimuli to get over one's fears has been studied in the past, but never using fantasy or comic book movies.

Viewing images of fictional spider-like characters such as Spider-Man may work better than footage of real spiders, the new study implies. 

Dr. Yaakov Hoffman of the Interdisciplinary Department of Social Sciences at Bar-Ilan University and Prof. Menachem Ben-Ezra from the School of Social Work at Ariel University published their findings this month in Frontiers in Psychiatry

Part of the study also involved Ant-Man, both characters from Marvel comics and featured in popular new movies. 

Two separate groups were shown different video clips, one scenes from Spider-Man and Ant-Man movies, the other the Marvel opening credits scene and nature footage of actual ants and spiders. 

"Reduction in phobic symptoms was significant in the Spider-Man and Ant-Man groups in comparison to the control groups," the researchers stated in the journal article synopsis. "Seven second exposure to insect-specific stimuli within a positive context reduces the level of phobic symptoms," they explained.

"Incorporating exposure to short scenes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe within a therapeutic protocol for such phobias may be robustly efficacious and enhance cooperation and motivation by rendering the therapy as less stigmatic," they added.

Does this mean superhero movies can provide psychological benefits? The two researchers think so, adding such movies can be utilized positively as escapism, and good moral tales of how to confront ones fears. 

Prof. Ben-Ezra and Dr. Hoffman hope to continue their studies using the superhero genre to explore the effects on patients suffering from  post-traumatic stress disorder.

Spider-Man was created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko and Ant-Man by Lee, Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby, both in the 1960s. Today, both are featured in Avengers: Endgame, which premiered this week to box-office success and critical praise. Both characters also star in their own movies. In 2018 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was released and Spider-Man: Far From Home is scheduled for this summer. Anti-Man was released in 2015 and the follow-up Ant-Man and the Wasp in 2018.

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