On Harry Potter
Resisting Social Influence
Resisting social influence can be terribly difficult–but it can also be incredibly important. In the world of Harry Potter, just as in our own world, heroism comes from standing up for one’s beliefs, even if that means going against the group or breaking the rules.1 This focus on moral courage is clear from the beginning of J. K. Rowling’s series. In the very first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the last few points awarded to Gryffindor House, the ones that push them over the edge to win the House cup over the hated Slytherins, are awarded to Neville Longbottom (a classmate of Harry’s, better known for his forgetfulness and blunders). Did Neville single-handedly face down the evil villain Voldemort? Did he battle a fearsome magical creature? Did he perform an amazing spell? No, none of the above. Neville learned those points for his attempt to stop Harry, Ron, and Hermione from sneaking out of the dormitory. In Dumbledore’s words, “‘It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends’” (Sorcerer’s Stone 306).
How and when are people able to resist pressure from others? There’s no magical solution to this problem (although parents of teenagers would certainly rest easier if they could give their offspring an Anti-Peer-Pressure Potion). Courage is certainly part of the story, but social psychology tells us that features of the situation can have a powerful effect as well. In other words, …