Parents who feel guilty about letting their young children watch too many fantasy movies on TV can relax.
Researchers from Lancaster University have discovered that youngsters who watch films like Harry Potter improve their imagination and creativity.
This is the first attempt to study whether there any educational benefits in exposing children to magical content like witches and wizards, Santa Claus, the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy.
The study examined if there was a link between magical thinking and creativity in preschool children – and it found that there was.
Researchers Dr Eugene Subbotsky, Claire Hysted and Nicola Jones from the Department of Psychology at Lancaster University concluded that:
“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.”
Magical thinking involves believing in supernatural events like animals speaking human languages, or a witch flying on a broomstick. This involves the ability to construct an alternative world and research has shown that most 4 to 6 year olds think magically in everyday life.
The study involved showing 4 to 6 year olds two 15 minute film clips of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Some of the scenes includes animals talking and witches and wizards performing spells and using wands, while other scenes featured the same characters but without any magical content.
The children were then tested for creativity which included being asked to pretend they were a rabbit or driving a car. They were also asked to think of different ways of putting plastic cups in a bin and for alternative uses for the cup.
The children who had watched the magical scenes performed significantly better on the creativity tests.
The researchers concluded that rather than just being used for entertainment, “magical thinking can be viewed as an additional source of development of imagination and divergent thinking in children.”