The Harry Potter film series may have ended last year, but according to psychology researchers at Lancaster University in England, bringing magical content—everything from the tooth fairy to the witches and wizards that rule Hogwarts—into the classroom boosts student imagination and creativity.
In the first-of-its kind study [PDF], the research team split a group of 52 children between 4 and 6 years old into two groups and showed each clips from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. The first group viewed scenes that included Potter characters Harry, Hermoine, and Ron wielding their wands, using magic, and talking to animals, while the second group watched clips where no magic is used.
After watching the scenes, the students were asked to come up with alternative uses for a cup, think of different ways to place cups in a bin, and create "drawings of impossible items." The researchers found students who'd watched the clips containing magic significantly outscored the other group on creativity tests. They concluded that exposure to magical thinking— which they defined as "ways of acting and reasoning about the physical world that violate known physical principles"—enables children to "create fantastic imaginary worlds." That in turn increases student's ability to "view the world and act upon it from multiple perspectives."
Because creativity skills are highly sought in the 21st-century economy, the researchers recommend parents and teachers increase children's exposure to material—whether the Harry Potter series, the Chronicles of Narnia, or stories about the Tooth Fairy—that features magical thinking. That could lead to an increase in "imagination and divergent thinking in children," they say.