Reading Harry Potter might make you a better person (AP photo / Getty Images)
Reading Harry Potter might make you a better person
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Its been almost 20 years since Harry Potter was introduced to the world. And the boy wizard is still fighting the forces of evil. Of course, it's all in the imaginations of millions. But Harrys victory over the evil Voldemort may not be limited to the pages of a book.

This is according to a new study.

A group of Italian psychologists has been looking at Harry Potter. They believe that children who identify with Harry might grow up feeling differently about some groups of people. They could develop greater empathy and tolerance toward people from different backgrounds. Those might include refugees, immigrants and gay people. This is according to NPRs Shankar Vedantam. And it might be thanks to Harrys unhappy childhood.

Peppered throughout the stories are revealing references, Vedantam says. Harry wasn't brought up in the aristocracy of wizard life. At the same time, many wizards in the story came from privileged backgrounds. Some of them turn out to be the villains of the story, according to Vedantam.

Harry eventually escapes his life among normal people. (They are called muggles by his fellow wizards). He quickly discovers that the wonders of the magical world still hide prejudice and bigotry. They are cloaked behind wands and robes. By experiencing the world through Harrys eyes, the psychologists think that perhaps readers may become more attuned to people who often struggle in the real world.

Could it be true?

Here's what the researchers found.

They tested three groups of young people. The people were taken from elementary school-age through university students. The Potterheads were more accepting of stigmatized people. But while the researchers used Harry Potter as a benchmark, Vedantam says it might say more about how a good story changes the way you think.

When stories allow us to empathize with people who lead very different lives or come from very different backgrounds, it allows us to get into their shoes," Vedantam says. And, he says it occurs in a way that no amount of preaching can accomplish.

So it may look like Harry Potter could fight prejudice in the real world. But the study doesnt say whether listening to Draco and the Malfoys has the opposite effect.

Critical thinking challenge: Why did psychologists study Harry Potter instead of other books?

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COMMENTS (24)
  • caitlynnk-Hyl
    5/18/2015 - 11:57 a.m.

    That is amazing that a book can change a persons view. It was very cool that they did this experiment to see if a book can relay change the outlook on people around you. That is the power of a book. I am still amazed that is awesome. So cool. I wonder if there are any other children's books out there that can change a persons behavior. That is awesome.

  • leilam-bas
    5/18/2015 - 12:21 p.m.

    It gives kids ''greater empath'' towards different people.This includes immigants and gay people. It makes kids want to care about peoples feelings.

  • John0724-YYCA
    5/18/2015 - 08:52 p.m.

    I think that this is a pretty good idea because reading the Harry Potter book could understand the backgrounds of other people like immigrants and gay people because in the Harry Potter series Harry Potter is a child who had a poor life with mean foster parents. I really don't like the Harry Potter series but I guess after reading the article I am going to start on it tomorrow. Critical thinking challenge: Why did psychologists study Harry Potter instead of other books? Answer: I think that psychologists study Harry Potter instead of other books are because Harry Potter is having a weird life while others have a happy life.

  • Emilyg1-Cla
    5/18/2015 - 09:13 p.m.

    Ms. it is amazing how a book can effect a child's life . by just book pages it can feel a different way about some people. but it has been around for 20 years so it has been effect children for 20 years just because of Harry Potter.

  • Meganp-Cla
    5/18/2015 - 09:13 p.m.

    I love Harry Potter books or even the movies! But, I never knew that the book could teach you to be a better person. I think it teaches you to be a better person since Harry goes on adventures like going to defeat Lord Voldemort ! Harry Potter books and movies has actually teached me a lot like not being afraid and fighting for the people you love.First, I thought that Harry Potter and his books where just the adventures he was going on not to also teach you something like to be a better person.

  • florenciabenaventerubio
    5/18/2015 - 11:36 p.m.

    I Think that it is a very interesting article taking into account that harry potter is read by many young people and it is considered like an idol cause the wonderful and fantastic story that he starred, it is okay because it's a really beautiful story.

    But also if you can feel empathy for other persons, you are a good person, independent that the book that you read, or even if you don't read nothing.

    :Why did psychologists study Harry Potter instead of other books?"

    Why they choose this story?If you can read many others and based in facts.

  • madisonr-Pay
    5/19/2015 - 06:23 a.m.

    I think harry potter books make you a better person because you get to experience Harry's life with him in a book

  • kaylal-Hyl
    5/19/2015 - 12:10 p.m.

    I have never read Harry Potter but i wondered what the books would be like. I have seen the covers of the books and they look very interesting. Harry Potter is a wizard and i like wizards because they cast so many spells i wish i was a wizard to. I wish i think alot of other people want to cast cool spells. I know that there isn't a school called Hogwarts but Ive seen alot of sweatshirts that say Hogwarts. Ive seen the harry potter movies and i know that there different than the movies. Also i enjoyed the article very much. The article makes me want to read the books. somebody in my class named Maggie has read all of the harry potter books. I also liked the article because the article only tells you some harry potter details from the books. I also like the article because i think that more people would want to read the books.

  • TylerSB-Koc
    5/19/2015 - 12:59 p.m.

    Very intresting! It seems pretty logical. I just dont know if its true. whoever thought up the idea has not much proof. mabey he personally likes harry potter and wants to make others like him to too.

  • IsabellaC-Koc
    5/19/2015 - 01:08 p.m.

    I think this discovery could be something really big and that if people write more books like the Harry potter series it could lead to a better future.

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