As if defeating Lord Voldemort and saving the entire wizarding community wasn't enough, Harry Potter now has something else to add to his impressive resume: helping combat bigotry. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, young people who read the Harry Potter series had a better perception of stigmatized minorities like immigrants, homosexuals or refugees.
According to the report's abstract, “Recent research shows that extended contact via story reading is a powerful strategy to improve out-group attitudes. We conducted three studies to test whether extended contact through reading the popular best-selling books of Harry Potter improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups (immigrants, homosexuals, refugees). Results from one experimental intervention with elementary school children and from two cross-sectional studies with high school and university students (in Italy and United Kingdom) supported our main hypothesis. Identification with the main character (i.e., Harry Potter) and disidentification from the negative character (i.e., Voldemort) moderated the effect. Perspective taking emerged as the process allowing attitude improvement. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed in the context of extended intergroup contact and social cognitive theory.”
In the article, Harry Potter and the Battle Against Bigotry, science magazine the Pacific Standard broke down each of the report's three studies, noting, “Bigotry, the researchers note, is a continuing theme in the series of phenomenally popular young-adult novels. Voldemort, who represents pure evil, makes arguments that have 'rather obvious' parallels with Nazism, they write, noting that he believes all power should reside in 'pure-blood' witches and wizards, as opposed to those born of one magical parent and one non-magical 'muggle.' In addition, Harry and his friends interact with various sub-human species such as elves and goblins, who regularly complain about being forced into subservient roles, not unlike blacks in apartheid South Africa. Harry 'tries to understand them and appreciate their difficulties,' the researchers write.”
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