As if there weren’t enough reasons already to read the Harry Potter books, recent scientific studies have offered up more, according to an article posted by MTV.com on Aug. 2. These studies have shown that the books can make readers less prejudiced against immigrants, homosexuals, and other minority groups and make readers better people.
The Journal of Applied Psychology published an article last month explaining that reading stories is an effective strategy for changing the attitude surrounding social “out-groups.” The studies they’ve published were conducted with a wide range of individuals, ranging from elementary school children to university students. Three studies in all were run and documented.
It was found that after reading and discussing the books, students of varying ages who identified with Harry Potter as a bit of a hero (or who disidentified with Voldemort) had more positive attitudes about minority groups. They were able to begin thinking from the perspectives of those such as immigrants, refugees, and LGBT communities.
J.K. Rowling has said in the past that “The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance, a prolonged plea for an end to bigotry.” Throughout the series of books, Harry Potter and his friends consistently stand up for groups subject to prejudice. Now, not only has the author’s intention been voiced, but there is scientific proof that the books really do change mindsets.
Young people reading these books have also been reported as joining charity efforts. Some believe that the books may have also influenced voters’ decisions in the last presidential election.
The study took in students from Britain and Italy as part of a focus group. The group read the books and discussed themes of prejudice and oppression over a series of weeks.
While the findings of these studies are quite exciting, it is important to note, per the Pacific Standard, that reading any kind of fiction in which a reader can identify with its characters can help reduce the stain of bigotry. This kind of reading gives the experience of characters who come from diverse backgrounds. The Pacific Standard also lists many other boons to reading which make readers much better people than if they hadn’t read at all.