Popular Culture: Harry Potter: July 2002 Archives

July 1, 2002

You know what they say about statistics

A US ministry has produced its own survey to 'prove' that reading Harry Potter leads to an interest in the occult. To this end, they asked teenagers which occult activities they had particpiated in.

To see how many teen-agers were dabbling in psychic-occult experimentation, researchers listed a variety of activities and asked teens which ones they had participated in. The list included: palm reading, fortune telling, going to a spiritual medium, calling or visiting a psychic, playing with a Ouija board, playing a game that featured witchcraft elements, participating in a séance, trying to cast a spell and trying to mix a potion. One in four teens had experimented with three items on the list; one in 20 had done all the items and met a profile Matlock labeled as heavily involved.

The proof of the nefarious effects of Harry Potter is that Out of all the teens that had either seen the Harry Potter movie or read the books, 74 percent told researchers they had tried at least one item on the list. Without any information on whether the 'experimentation' started before or after exposure to Harry Potter, this statistic only suggests that young people with an interest in the occult are attracted to the Harry Potter books.

An additional possibility is that the teenagers are lying in order to look cool. A similar effect has been found in research into children's exposure to 'video nasties'. For example, the Parliamentary Group Video Enquiry report Video Violence and Children from the early 80s was used to rush through some regressive legislation. It claimed that 45% of 7-16 year olds had seen a video nasty, and this figure was obtained by giving kids a list of 113 titles and asking them which they had seen. Later, researchers at Aston University repeated the survey, but added some fictitious titles ot the list. They found that 68% of children claimed to have seen one or more of the fake titles! (Cumberbatch, Guy. 1994. Legislating mythology: Video violence and children, Journal of Mental Health, 3, 485-494)

As researchers interested in the field we were puzzled at these survey results since it had proved difficult to obtain many of the titles and so we began to suspect the methodology. On obtaining the original questionnaire used in schools it became clear how such an inflated figure could have been produced. The questionnaire was far longer than desirable and the key questions came on the last five pages where 113 video titles were listed. At the beginning of this section children were asked if they had seen a film listed to rate it on a three point scale. This scale read great, just all right and awful. At the top of each page above each scale was a cartoon face corresponding to the judgement. Unfortunately instructions even if initially understood can quickly become forgotten and our hypothesis was that children might well have begun to rate the films even if they hadn't seen them. To test this, the original questionnaire was faithfully reproduced but with some non-existent titles substituted for the video nasties. These fictitious titles such as Blood on the teeth of the vampire were checked in specialist film guides to ensure that no similar sounding film existed. The results from five classes of eleven year olds indicated that two thirds (68%) of them had seen films which do not exist!

Study: Potter readers more occultic, WorldNetDaily, June 30th 2002.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Popular Culture: Harry Potter category from July 2002.

Popular Culture: Harry Potter: May 2002 is the previous archive.

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