Tuesday, September 30, 2014

"Harry Potter" Helps Teen Readers Empathize

In case you needed another reason re-read Harry Potter or gift them to your little cousins or nieces and nephews, a new study suggests reading the HP books increases your ability to empathize with different people, particularly "out groups" vs "in groups".  From the Scientific American article on the study:

For decades it's been known that an effective means of improving negative attitudes and prejudices between differing groups of people is through intergroup contact – particularly through contact between “in-groups,” or a social group to which someone identifies, and “out-groups,” or a group they don’t identify with or perceive as threatening. Even reading short stories about friendship between in- and out-group characters is enough to improve attitudes toward stigmatized groups in children. A new study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology found that reading the Harry Potter books in particular has similar effects, likely in part because Potter is continually in contact with stigmatized groups. The “muggles” get no respect in the wizarding world as they lack any magical ability. The “half-bloods,” or “mud-bloods” – wizards and witches descended from only one magical parent – don’t fare much better, while the Lord Voldemort character believes that power should only be held by “pure-blood” wizards. He’s Hitler in a cloak.
Intuitively, this feels right, but it's good to know it's backed by science and not just the innate yearnings of my heart.

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