If you like 'Harry Potter' you're a good person, science says
It doesn't matter if you're a witch, wizard, Muggle-born or half-blood - as long as you're a Harry Potter fan, you're all good with me!
And that has absolutely nothing to do with my personal literary preferences. Because while I do think the books are wonderfully written and that J.K. Rowling deserves every accolade in the world for inspiring generations of children to read in their free time - I actually have a much better reason for commending the franchise and its fans.
It turns out that fans of Harry Potter might actually be better people, according to a new study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.
It appears, based on the findings of the study, that those who are emotionally invested in the characters, specifically the ones who fight for good, are more likely to adopt a more tolerant, open-minded and accepting attitude.
According to the researchers, fans of the series have a more tolerant view of immigrants and those who are slightly different from the norm.
Remember Viktor Krum? Turns out he got BUFF after Harry Potter:
While it's likely that it's not something you ever really thought about that much, even if you happen to be a fan, a lot of the good characters (including the eponymous hero) tend to be outsiders in one way or another.
Harry Potter is a half-blood who was raised in an abusive family outside of the wizarding world. I mean, this is the kid who was made to sleep in a cupboard under the stairs for a large chunk of his childhood.
And his best friends Ron and Hermione don't immediately fit in with their peers. The former comes from a poor family and Hermione, who Ron eventually comes to marry, is muggle-born and as such has to contend with hugely offensive slurs like 'Mudblood'.
If you need any more proof of this, check out Malfoy in action:
The study appears to confirm that children who read the books and resonate with the good characters - in other words, the outcasts - are more likely to be kinder towards those who are different from them in real life.
The researchers carried out the study by giving 34 primary school (US equivalent: elementary school) children a questionnaire on their perception of immigrants. The children were then divided into two groups.
This woman knows every Harry Potter book, word for word, from memory:
The first group read an extract in which Draco Malfoy refers to Hermione as a "filthy little Mudblood," and the second group read excerpts which had nothing to do with prejudice or discrimination.
The following week, the same children were asked to share their perceptions of immigrants once more. And those who read the 'Mudblood' scene had seen a huge improvement in their views towards immigrants.
The attitudes of the participants who read the more neutral excerpts didn't change.
"Harry Potter empathises with characters from stigmatised categories, tries to understand their sufferings and to act towards social equality," said lead author Dr Loris Vezzali, a professor at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia.
"So, I and my colleagues think that empathetic feelings are the key factor driving prejudice reduction. The world of Harry Potter is characterised by strict social hierarchies and resulting prejudices, with obvious parallels with our society.
"Harry has meaningful contact with characters belonging to stigmatised groups. He tries to understand them and appreciate their difficulties, some of which stem from intergroup discrimination, and fights for a world free of social inequalities."