A new study reveals that harboring beneficial intentions — or, conversely, the desire to do evil — results in an increased threshold for strength and endurance. In other words, you can be super if you really want to.
A study conducted by Harvard doctoral student Kurt Gray has found that people who either did good deeds, or even merely imagined themselves doing them, were able to lift or squeeze more weight than those who didn't.
In one experiment, 91 volunteers were asked to hold a five-pound (about 2.3-kilogram) weight for as long as they could, and then given $1 for their efforts. About half were asked if they would like to donate their dollar to UNICEF. Everyone in this group agreed to donate, while those not asked of course didn't donate. All participants were then asked to hold the weight a second time. Those who had donated to charity were able to hold the weight for an average of 53 seconds, or 7 seconds longer than those who did not donate.
In a second, similar experiment, people who actively thought about harming someone could suspend the same weight for even longer. "Evildoers have more [agency], because they need to overcome the voice of their conscience to harm others. It takes even more agency to harm those around you," Gray said, using "agency" to refer to the ability to have self-control, tenacity or strength.
In other words, people with a mission, or people who are angry, can perform better than the apathetic. Glad we needed a study for that.