Reading fictional stories may do more than entertain us. Researchers have found evidence that they may help to reduce prejudice against outgroups. Over a six-week period, grade five students in Italy were read passages from the Harry Potter novels that were either neutral (e.g., Harry purchasing his wand) or related to prejudice (e.g., Draco insulting “mudbloods”). The students completed self-report measures of their attitudes towards immigrants before and after this intervention. For students who identified with Harry Potter, there was a reduction in negative attitudes towards immigrants. In a second study, high school students in Italy were asked to complete two questionnaires. One asked about exposure to the Harry Potter novels and overall book reading and television viewing, and the second surveyed social attitudes with some items measuring contact with and attitudes towards homosexuals. Students who had both read more Harry Potter books and identified with its main character, had more favourable attitudes towards homosexuals. A third study used a college student sample and found that in the students who disidentified with the villain of the books (Voldemort), more exposure to the Harry Potter films was associated with better attitudes towards refugees. Although there are some limitations to the design of these studies, this research program lends support to the idea that fictional stories can supplement educational programs for reducing prejudice in youth.
Posted by Tonia Relkov.
Vezzali, L., Stathi, S., Giovannini, D., Capozza, D., & Trifiletti, E. (2014). The greatest magic of Harry Potter: Reducing prejudice. Journal of Applied Social Psychology.