More Friday fun – Harry Potter in the medical literature

Following on from last Friday’s post about Monty Python references in medical articles, I thought I’d have a look to see if other pop culture phenomena have been discussed in the literature. Today I found a few articles in PubMed Central (which means everyone should be able to access the full text) which discuss Harry Potter.

One study in Germany used functional MRI to compare brain activity when reading “supra-natural” passages in Harry Potter to passages which didn’t deal with supra-natural content. It turns out that there was a difference, with the supra-natural passages evoking greater response in the areas of the brain responsible for feelings of surprise and reading pleasure. These passages also required more cognitive processing due to the “world knowledge violations” which occur in supra-natural content.

A study by staff working in a British hospital found that there was a significant decrease in the number of children attending the emergency department for musculoskeletal injuries on the weekends when two of the Harry Potter books were released. They conclude that “Harry Potter books seem to protect children from traumatic injuries”, and hypothesise that “there is a place for a committee of safety conscious, talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention.”

On a slightly difference tack, one study conducted social network analysis of the seven Harry Potter novels (as well as other fantasy series) to see if the authors had managed to recreate the features of real-life social networks. The authors argue that the social networks within novels needs to be similar to those in real life in order for readers to feel engaged with the story. They found that indeed there were similarities between the fictional and real-life social networks.

There were 183 articles retrieved by my simple search, so there is some interest in Harry Potter in the medical literature. Are there any requests for books/films/characters that I should search for next Friday?

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About Andrew

I'm a health librarian in Sydney, Australia, who also happens to be a geocacher.

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