Potterheads are more tolerant people, says new psychology study

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Nov 16, 2017, 10:50 PM EST (Updated)

You may have gotten into Harry Potter for the witchcraft and wizardry, but another kind of magic exists in the wizarding world: tolerance.

People who are emotionally attached to the Potterverse are more likely to be accepting of those who are marginalized, a study recently published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology finds.

The study examined test subjects who had grown up with (or are growing up with) the Potterverse, giving them questionnaires asking about their feelings toward specific marginalized groups. One group would read a scene where prejudice happened, such as the passage where Draco Malfoy calls Muggle-born Hermine a “filthy little mudblood." Others would read about broomsticks, or Butterbeer, or something else that involved no prejudice. Subjects would then be asked about their attitudes towards a certain minority group the following week. Potterheads who had read the passage haunted by prejudice showed more tolerance towards the group in question, whether it was those who are immigrants, refugees, or LGBT.

"Harry Potter empathizes with characters from stigmatized categories, tries to understand their sufferings and to act towards social equality," study lead Dr. Loris Vezzali said of the story’s real powers.

Vezzali and his colleagues believe the spell for making prejudice vanish lies in empathy. There are all sorts of social hierarchies and age-old prejudices lurking throughout the Potterverse, and not just in the Forbidden Forest. Squibs like Mr. Filch are shamed for being born to magical parents, while being unable to so much as levitate something. Older wizarding families shun those without their prestige. Professors with an agenda target Harry for his revolutionary feelings—Umbridge, anyone?

Just think of all the groups and individuals on the fringe, even in a world where you're a minority just for being born magical. Hermione’s talent as a witch is questioned because of her Muggle parents. Ron is relentlessly laughed at for his hand-me-down robes (and just being a Weasley). Harry’s lightning-bolt scar with the terrifying backstory draws reactions from awe, to fear, to disgust.

Then you have Voldemort, who has an unnatural obsession with “pureblood” wizards as opposed to those who were either born of Muggles or have Muggle DNA somewhere in their bloodline.

Anyone who has ever been bullied or misunderstood can identify with Harry Potter, and that might be J.K. Rowling’s most powerful sorcery.

(via Business Insider)

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