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Potterheads Rejoice: 'Harry Potter' Books Reduce Prejudice, Study Finds

Dec 28, 2016 11:01 AM EST
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It seems Harry Potter's greatest achievement may not be bringing peace to the Wizarding World after defeating Voldemort. It may all lie in his impact to his audience, and how his stories fight prejudice.

A new paper published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology claims that reading the "Harry Potter" series has significantly improved the perception of stigmatized groups like immigrants, homosexuals and even refugees.

According to Psychology Today, a total of three studies were used in the paper. The first study involved 34 Italian fifth-graders which underwent a six-week "Harry Potter" course. They began by having students fill out a questionnaire on immigrants, and split them into two groups which read passages from the series.

The first group discussed prejudice and bigotry as themes in the books, while the others didn't and served as control. The students in the first group "showed improved attitudes towards immigrants" but only if they identified with Harry Potter.

The second study involved 117 Italian high school students and found that a reader's emotional identification with Harry Potter's character was associated with a more positive view towards LGBT people in general.

Lastly, the third study surveyed U.K. college students. It found no association between an emotional bond with Harry Potter and perception of refugees. However, the researchers found out that students who had less of an emotional identification with Voldemort had "improved attitudes toward refugees."

The researchers credited the books in all studies, saying they improved the readers' ability to assume the perspective of marginalized groups. 

Of course it's impossible to rule out that there were inevitably other factors at work beyond the scope of the study. However, it may provide experimental backing on author J.K. Rowling's opinion that her books, in general, are a prolonged argument for tolerance and a plea to end bigotry. 

This may also show that conveying messages of tolerance through literature actually works, and that Harry Potter's journey may some day be immortalized in projects that aim to teach tolerance to young children.

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