Harry Potter always did treat Dobby the house-elf with respect and kindness.
J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series cast a spell on millions of people around the world. But perhaps the most magical effect of her wizard world stories is they influence readers to be less prejudiced against immigrants, refugees, homosexuals and other minority groups, new research suggests.
Italian university researchers studied and surveyed small groups of fifth grade school children, high-schoolers and university students. With the young kids, the researchers had them fill out a questionnaire about their views on immigrants. Then, over the course of six weeks, the fifth graders were asked to read excerpts from the Potter books that particularly addressed intolerance and bigotry. When the elementary school students took the questionnaire again, researchers found their responses to be more empathetic.
"Harry has meaningful contact with characters belonging to stigmatised groups," the researchers stated in an article published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology this week. "He tries to understand and appreciate their difficulties ... and fights for a world free of social inequalities."
The researchers also surveyed high-school and university students about their attitudes towards gay people and refugees. In both sample groups, the same effect was observed: the more Harry Potter books the students had read, and the more they identified with Harry, the more empathetic their responses. Perhaps not surprisingly, readers who identified more with the severe, domination-bent Voldemort, were less tolerant in their views.
We at CBC Books are big Harry Potter fans and aren't surprised by what this research suggests. After all, it appears that people who read literature in general are more empathetic and are much more likely to donate money and volunteer their time than those who don't identity as readers. Check out this cool infographic to see the other enlightening benefits of being a reader!