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Study: Reading 'Harry Potter' Books Leads to Tolerance in Children

Friday Aug 1, 2014
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Forget the whole witchcraft thing. The religious right has a whole new reason to hate the "Harry Potter" series of books.

According to a study published by the Journal of Applied Social Psychologytitled "The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice," students who read more of the novels in the Harry Potter series showed more tolerance to gays, immigrants and refugees.

The study, which involved elementary school, high school and college students in Italy and the United Kingdom looked for a correlation between the subjects' knowledge of the "Harry Potter" books and their attitudes towards minorities.

The abstract for the study that was published online on July 23, 2014, in part reads:

"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."

"Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling has been open in the past over the fact that the series is a thinly-veiled analogy for civil rights struggles, and in particular the rise of Nazism. The plots centered around the conflict of "pure-blood," "muggle-born," or "half-blood" mirror real stories of persecution and ethnic cleansing.

Pink News points out that the series' werewolf character's struggle is an allegorical of the stigmatization and discrimination of those living with HIV based on fear and misconceptions surrounding the disease.

The religious right has long decried the popular series of books. Right Wing Watch reports that in a 2012 interview with the anti-gay Truth in Action Ministries, Linda Harvey of Ohio based SPLC designated hate group Mission America said that the Harry Potter series was leading children into the occult, now blames schools' "multiculturalism and diversity" curriculum.

According to Time, the "Harry Potter" brand is worth an estimated $15 billion.

Comments

  • Anonymous, 2014-08-01 23:58:21

    As a Christian, I also noted that the Harry Potter books are a wonderful allegory demonstrating the nature of the ongoing struggle against evil. In fact, there are far more Biblical truths in the Harry Potter series than there are in all the websites, hateful literature and fear-mongering emanating from the spokespersons of the religious right and their media.


  • Jonathan Willner, 2014-08-04 22:12:02

    "Biblical truths". Yet another religious oxymoron, like "Christian love".


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