A report by Pacific Standard describes how researchers conducted three studies with students at Italian and British schools.
In the first study, 34 Italian elementary school students completed a questionnaire to determine their attitudes towards immigrants.
The students then completed a six-week course in which one half read and discussed selected passages from Harry Potter novels that tackled issues of prejudice, and the other half discussed unrelated topics from the novels. When the course ended, all 34 students completed a second questionnaire about their views on immigrants.
Researchers found that the students who read and discussed the issue of prejudice in the novels had “improved attitudes towards immigrants”, but only if they identified themselves with the main character, Harry Potter. The children also noted the similarities between Harry’s defence of “Mudbloods” and the unfair prejudices held towards immigrants.
In the second study, researchers asked 117 Italian secondary school students how many of the Harry Potter books they had read, whether they emotionally identified with Harry Potter or Voldemort, and what their attitudes were towards LGBT people.
The researchers found that the students who had read more of the books had a positive perception towards LGBT people, but again, only if they emotionally identified with Harry Potter.
In the final study, British students were surveyed about their views on refugees.
In this study, identification with Harry Potter was not linked to lower levels of prejudice. However, students who emotionally identified less with Voldemort had “improved attitudes towards refugees”.