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Can Harry Potter change the world?

Can Harry Potter change the world?

In the OpTalk section of The New York Times’ website, Hanna Kozlowska writes:

Researchers from several European universities found that reading Harry Potter may make young people more tolerant. In the study “The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice,” psychologists led by Loris Vezzali at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia say that reading “Harry Potter” improves attitudes toward stigmatized groups, such as immigrants, gays and refugees. …

“Of course there are many factors that shape our attitudes toward others: the media, our parents and peers, religious beliefs,” writes Bret Stetka at The Scientific American. “But Vezzali’s work supports earlier research suggesting that reading novels as a child — implying literary engagement with life’s social, cultural and psychological complexities — can have a positive impact on personality development and social skills.”

Kozlowska also cites the work of Anthony Gierzynski, a political-science professor at the University of Vermont and the author of the 2013 book “Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation.”

“Through surveys of 1,141 college students in the United States,” she writes, “Mr. Gierzynski and his associates found “Harry Potter” fans to be more tolerant, but also “to be less authoritarian, to be more opposed to the use of violence and torture, to be less cynical, and to evince a higher level of political efficacy. They are also more liberal, with a more negative view of the Bush years.”

So what do you think, can Harry, Ron, Hermione and other fictional heroes move enough people and move them deeply enough to have a wide-spread effect on social attitudes?


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It is a nice thought, but there is a correlation/causality problem here. Perhaps being less authoritarian, etc. came first and led them to become interested in Harry Potter. Or there is some 3rd factor leading to both.

Glenn McDavid

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