Harry Potter films boost creativity in children, researchers claim

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Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone', the film used in the Lancaster study. Photo courtesy of CLF.

A recently-published research paper from Lancaster University’s Department of Psychology has caused a stir of media attention over the past few days, with the indication that watching extracts of Harry Potter films could make children “more creative” in their problem solving.

The study, which examined whether there was a link between “magical thinking” and creativity in children aged 4-6 years, involved splitting a group of 52 children into two groups. One group was shown two 15-minute clips of magical scenes from ‘Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone’, whilst the other was shown non-magical scenes.

Following the viewings, both groups were asked to complete the same series of tests designed to examine creative problem solving and imaginative capacity.

Such tests included thinking of different ways to place a plastic cup into a bin and thinking of other ways in which to use the cup, as well as acting out a variety of scenarios – pretending to be a rabbit, for example.

The group exposed to magical scenes scored “significantly better” in all areas than their peers in the control group, who watched scenes without any magical content.

The researchers frequently cited the use of “magical thinking” in their study (a psychological term describing non-scientific beliefs). “Believing in magic and doing magical thinking are two separate things,” stated Dr Eugene Subbotsky, a researcher in the study.

“Magical thinking is a very widely spread phenomenon within our rational world.”

Researchers Dr. Eugene Subbotsky, Claire Hysted and Nicola Jones from Lancaster’s Department of Psychology established the conclusion: “Magical thinking enables children to create fantastic imaginary worlds, and in this way enhances children’s capacity to view the world and act upon it from multiple perspectives.

The results suggested that books and videos about magic might serve to expand children’s imagination and help them to think more creatively.”

The researchers have also conducted a similarly-designed experiment involving 64 children aged 6-8 years; again, they found that children who watched films with magical content displayed enhanced creativity in tests relative to their peers.

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