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ND Expert: Harry Potter Films Demonstrate Fierce Moral Motivation

Author: Arts and Letters

“Harry Potter and his friends again brandish heroism—bravery and cleverness—in the face of evil,” says University of Notre Dame psychologist Darcia Narvaez of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth film based on the popular J.K. Rowling series which hits theaters Wednesday (July 15).

Director of Notre Dame’s Collaborative for Ethical Education, Narvaez researches issues of moral development and education in children, with specific focus on the effects of violent video games and other media on the developing brains of children and teens. Narvaez directs Notre Dame’s “Good Media Good Kids” project, which features her Rating Ethical Content System ( RECS ). The system measures ethical content in children’s books and films by providing ratings for ethical sensitivity, judgment, focus and action, and their opposites.

Narvaez says the Harry Potter stories all have high RECS ratings and are good ways for children to learn about moral heroes.

“Although the Harry Potter films are sometimes not conducive to building moral imagination (nonviolent forms of fighting evil) or moral judgment (cooperative group moral decision making), they do demonstrate a fierce moral motivation and perseverance in carrying out moral action,” Narvaez said. “Harry is motivated to protect others and nearly always gets the job done.”

Narvaez says Harry and his friends put themselves at great risk to help others, try to change things that are cruel or unfair and follow through on completing a moral goal, no matter the cost.

“The messages I would want children to extract would be the need for friendship, the importance of having good mentors in life, and the necessity of confronting evil,” she said.

Note to the media: Narvaez’s comments may be used in whole or in part. She can be contacted for additional commentary at 574-631-7835 or

Originally published by Shannon Chapla at on July 13, 2009.