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16 March 2012, 15:20
Watching Harry Potter films could make young children more creative, research suggests.
A study by researchers at Lancaster University has found that showing youngsters films that have a magical element can improve their imagination.
It concludes that there could be some educational benefit to exposing young children to books and films about magic.
The small-scale study involved 52 four to six-year-old children.
The youngsters were split into two groups and shown two 15-minute clips from Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone.
The first group saw clips with a ''magical'' content, such as witches and wizards performing spells, using wands and flying on broomsticks, while the second group saw scenes with the same characters, but without any of the magical content.
Afterwards, the youngsters were given a series of tests, including acting out different scenarios, such as pretending to be a rabbit or a car; thinking of different ways to put a plastic cup into a bin, and to think of other uses for the cup, such as pretending it was a drum.
The six-year-olds were also asked to draw a series of real and non-existent objects.
The children were scored for their fluency - the number of alternative solutions they found, and their originality. For one test they were also scored on their imagination.
The findings show that after watching the clips, the group who watched the magical scenes in general scored ``significantly better'' in all three areas than their peers in the other group.
The researchers, from Lancaster University's Department of Psychology, concluded: ''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.''
The researchers also conducted a similar experiment with 64 six to eight-year-olds and again found that the youngsters who watched films with a magical content did better on the creativity test than their peers.
Some scenes in the Harry Potter films were filmed at the Leavesden Studios near Watford and a tour of the studios opens to the public at the end of this month