Hmmm, according to this article, after doing a good deed, your strength increases! But your strength increases after you do a bad deed as well. So it’s up to us to choose wisely.
Fiction abounds with incredible feats of strength. In the real world, too, strangers and neighbors perform incredibly physical acts—lifting cars off babies, raising fallen trees off trapped victims. Is it all adrenaline rush or is something else going on?
Harvard psychologist Kurt Gray thinks he’s figured out a key ingredient to feats of extraordinary strength in the real world. After a few simple experiments, (link is external)Gray concluded that moral activity has a distinct, measurable effect on people’s capacity for physical endurance and strength—he calls it “moral transformation.”
To put it to the test, Gray measured the physical strength and endurance of test subjects before and after they contributed to charity. After their charitable act, the test subjects were stronger and their physical endurance greater: Each was able to hold weights and hand grips longer than before their philanthropic contribution.
Not all tales are clear-cut good vs. evil. In fiction, as in real life, villains have power, too. And Gray’s theory of moral transformation most certainly has a dark side. In addition to testing the morally transformative power of “good” or charitable acts, Gray had test subjects scribble tales of doing harm to another human being. These “wicked” test subjects exhibited just as much higher strength and physical endurance as the “kind” group, leading Gray to conclude:
People perceive those who do good and evil to have more efficacy, morewillpower, and less sensitivity to discomfort. By perceiving themselves as good or evil, people embody these perceptions, actually becoming more capable of physical endurance.
The lesson for all of us is to use our power wisely. Being kind and being cruel empower us, and it’s up to us to make the right choice. At the very least, help out a stranger or give a dollar to someone in need on the way to the gym—not only will the world be a better place, but you’ll have a better workout.