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Home > Harry Potter News

Preliminary results released in Harry Potter character study

by David Haber, Wizard News Managing Editor

The preliminary results of a study of Opinions of Literary Characters and Their Choices have now been posted.

This study was conducted by Amanda Bolton, a PhD student in (Experimental) Psychology at the University of Calgary, under the supervision of Dr. John Ellard. Its purpose was to examine what people think of fictional characters, and the moral choices made by fictional characters. In April of 2006, she asked various Harry Potter or Psychology websites to post a link to the study so that fans (and non-fans) from all over the world, aged 13 or older, could fill out the survey and share their opinions. Over 1,000 people responded.

Scientific research was conducted to explore what fans and non-fans of Harry Potter think about some of the questionable choices popular characters make in Rowling's books. Questions were asked about Harry, Hermione, Draco, and Snape, exploring whether people agreed or disagreed with the character's moral choices. Further questions identified what people thought of the characters' choices in a general sense, and how much readers like or dislike and relate to the characters.

Brief conclusions from the preliminary results of the study:

  • People who like a character judge the character less harshly (or more leniently) than people who dislike a character BUT we don't know which came first -- judging the character or liking the character.

  • The more people have read the books/seen the movies, the more they tend to like the characters -- except for Snape.

  • The "bad guys" are judged more harshly than the "good guys" (even on the same question) and are liked less.

  • People are very split on what they think of Snape. Roughly one third think he's good, one third think he's bad, and one third don't know what to think.

The results currently posted show how people answered the questions. Results that will be posted in early 2007 will show how these answers related to each other. For example, do people who like a certain character judge that character less harshly than people who have no opinion or dislike the character? And if you've read the books many times, do you have a different opinion than people who have not read the books so many times? The results, and the differences and similarities between fans and non-fans are discussed.

More information:
• Opinions of Literary Characters and Their Choices - Study Results

Published October 4, 2006

This article is Copyright © 2006, David Haber, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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