“Harry Potter” shown to promote empathy among readers

According to a paper published online in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology this week, researchers from Italy and the University of Greenwich report that students who read the Harry Potter series are less prejudiced against stigmatized groups than those who have not.

In one of the three studies, high school students were asked about the books they had read in one questionnaire and about their attitudes toward homosexuality in another.  Those students who identified more closely with Harry, in particular, were more likely to report positive feelings toward the LGBT community, while those who identified more closely with Voldemort were more likely to report feelings of prejudice.

The lead author of the paper, Loris Vezzali of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, told Science of Us,

The books do not directly refer to real-world groups, and so their message can be easily applied to several stigmatized categories.

Vezzali also suggested that schools seeking ways to teach students about diversity use Harry Potter as a teaching tool, adding,

Encouraging book reading and incorporating it in school curricula may not only increase the students’ literacy levels but also enhance their prosocial attitudes and behaviors and ultimately help in the creation of a more equal society.

Read the full article here.

Has reading the Harry Potter series changed your perspective on those you thought to be different from yourself? Do you identify more with Harry or Voldemort? Tell us about it in the comments!

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  • This just formalizes what I’ve seen in the fandom over the past decade: HP fans have taken the books’ message of equality to heart in a big way. I have never seen a fandom as including and accepting as the Potter fandom, and that makes me prouder than I can express.

    • MoodyFoodie

      You obviously like only the “right” characters then if you’ve only found acceptance…

      • Oh yes. I only like the right characters. Have you checked out the Three Broomsticks lately? I’d like to point to several pieces there that clearly fell on the wrong side of whom to like or not (Ron, Hagrid, Snape…)

  • Ebudae

    I am seriously disturbed that anyone identifies with Voldemort.

  • Gabe Stackhouse

    Like many other readers, I read Harry Potter when I was very young and very impressionable, and it completely changed my outlook on life. But more than anything else, it taught me how to be accepting of others, no matter their looks and their way of life. It makes me happy that others have taken the same message to heart.

    In the words of Albus Dumbledore himself, “Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”