We all know that our die-hard devotion to all things Harry Potter brought a serious dose of magic to our childhood but it turns out, the franchise may also have had a profound impact on the people we are today.
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According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, people who still dig out their loved-to-creases books for a little bedtime reading are actually more accepting and understanding of those from stigmatised groups - such as the LGBTQ community, immigrants and refugees.
In a bid to determine whether or not reading the popular books can "potentially tackle actual prejudice reduction", the team conducted three studies with elementary school children, high school and university students both in the UK and Italy.
The experiment involved giving the separate groups Harry Potter novels to dive into (erm, where was our invite to sign up?) to see how they identified with the main characters (the likes of Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley) and disidentification from the negative characters (ahem, he who shall not be named).
Researchers then gave the primary school children a questionnaire on how they feel about immigrants and divided them into two groups. The first read a scene about Draco Malfoy calling Hermione a "filthy little Mublood" while the second group read extracts unrelated to prejudice - such as Harry buying his first wand.
A week later, the participants were asked once more about their attitudes towards immigrants. Those who identified with Harry and read the prejudiced excerpt had improved their opinion towards the minority group while those who read the neutral passages didn't change their opinion.
In other words, children exposed to Malfoy's poisonous tongue were more likely to adopt a more understanding attitude towards others.
"Harry Potter empathises with characters from stigmatised categories, tries to understand their sufferings and to act towards social equality," said lead author Dr. Loris Vezzali. "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."
"Harry has meaningful contact with characters belonging to stigmatised groups. He tries to understand them and appreciate their difficulties, some of which stem from intergroup discrimination, and fights for a world free of social inequalities."
This very sentiment echoes the message JK Rowling tried to push through the franchise, as she previously said: "I wanted Harry to leave our world and find exactly the same problems in the wizarding world. So you have the intent to oppose a hierarchy, you have bigotry, and this notion of purity, which is this great fallacy, but it crops up all over the world."
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