MBU Psychology Professor Puts Harry Potter on the Couch  

September 15, 2017

Thousands of wizards and muggles are preparing to convene in Staunton for Queen City Mischief and Magic (formerly Queen City Potter Party) Sept. 22–24. For Mary Baldwin University professor Louise Freeman, however, Harry Potter is year-round business.

Freeman’s research has shown that reading Harry Potter by college students is associated with increased empathy. Harry Potter reading in general is associated both with decreased stigmatization of people with mental illness and increased tendency to take others’ perspective. “This is in line with other researchers that found reduced prejudice against other groups — immigrants, refugees — in Harry Potter readers,” says Freeman. She speaks regularly at Harry Potter festivals around the nation and is a contributing faculty member at the Hogwarts Professor blog.

In Queen City Mischief and Magic, Freeman saw the perfect town-gown opportunity to bring her research findings to her own community. She has organized a slate of Potter-themed events hosted at Mary Baldwin University on Sept. 23, where she and other experts will analyze and share insights about the wizarding world.

The keynote “Accio Empathy!: How Harry and friends may promote understanding and reduce prejudice in Muggles” showcases Freeman’s investigation into the pro-social effects of Harry Potter and other pieces of quality fiction (some of her research was performed here at MBU).

Download the MBU schedule of events

Open House at Beauxbaton’s Academy, Saturday Sept. 23 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)

Hermione’s Army, Friday Sept. 22 (5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.)


For more on Freeman, visit her faculty page at https://bit.ly/louise-freeman.

Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that Freeman’s research was on 6th graders who read Harry Potter. Her Harry Potter study was on college students.