On Harry Potter

The Magical World of Muggles

By Carol Nemeroff, Ph.D.

Introduction

For us Muggles, the world of Harry Potter is full of surprises. Excitement lurks around every corner, both in the epic struggle between good and evil and in the more mundane details of daily life in the wizarding world. Photos and portraits smile, wave, and visit each other; pots stir themselves and dishes wash themselves; visitors show up in fireplace grates and flames. Objects levitate and are transformed; magical creatures, plants, and substances abound. Harry’s world is vivid and attention-grabbing. It feels more real than the Muggle world. Coming back to the everyday world of Muggle experience feels pale and lackluster in comparison.

It is not surprising that many of us would prefer to live in Harry’s world, or at least take comfort in imagining that it exists just around a corner (and through a solid wall) in London, or hidden between Platforms 9 and 10 at King’s Cross Station. Apparently, it is a core part of human nature to imagine unseen, mysterious worlds lurking behind the visible, realms where the normal rules don’t apply. Humans are relentlessly imaginative, creative, and symbolic thinkers, and the idea that “this is all there is” seems frankly unbearable to us.

Believing in magic is a lot of fun, of course, but we don’t really believe in it–do we? Over the past twenty years, Paul Rozin, fellow researchers, and I have been studying everyday magical beliefs among healthy, educated adults in the U.S. Simply put, yes, we do believe in magic at some level–although we’re not  …

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