The Harry Potter book series was a huge sensation when they first came out with the books becoming a massive part of the childhoods for millions of people worldwide while still others were exposed to Harry Potter in the popular film series based on the books. Now, a new study says that exposure might have made you a better person for it.
As reported by Business Insider, a new study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that people who are emotionally attached to Harry Potter are more likely to be tolerant of minority groups and are less likely to be prejudiced.
For those familiar with Harry Potter's world, this might not come as much of a surprise. There are a lot of different groups within the universe. At Hogwarts, the magical school Harry and his friends attend, the students are split into different houses each with their own characteristics and while the students are all different, there is an overarching theme of kindness right alongside the idea that prejudice is evil. This point is specifically driven home by the books' main antagonist, Voldemort, who is obsessed with the idea that only those from wizarding families -- "pure bloods" -- should be wizards themselves. "Mudbloods," or those coming from magicless families, need not apply to Voldemort's perfect world.
The study used the idea of anti-Mudblood sentiment to test how Harry Potter impacted views on tolerance. The researchers gave 34 primary school children a questionnaire with questions about their feelings on immigrants before dividing them into two groups. One group read a scene where Draco Malfoy called Harry's friend Hermione a "filthy little Mudblood," while the other read material unrelated to prejudice -- such as Harry buying his first wand.
A week later, the children were asked about immigrants again and those who read the prejudiced passage had improved attitudes towards immigrants while the children who read the neutral passages attitudes remained the same. The takeaway? When exposed to Malfoy's prejudice, children reacted by themselves showing tolerance. There were two follow-up experiments in the study, one that founds that high school students had more tolerance for gay people and college students had more compassion for refugees after reading passages.
Researchers think that the empathy Harry Potter has connects to readers and that empathy is key to changing prejudice.
"Harry Potter empathizes with characters from stigmatized categories, tries to understand their sufferings and to act towards social equality," said lead author Dr. Loris Vezzali, a professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. "So, I and my colleagues think that empathetic feelings are the key factor driving prejudice reduction. The world of Harry Potter is characterized by strict social hierarchies and resulting prejudices, with obvious parallels with our society."
Dumbledore would be proud.