What is it about?

Some features of words have been shown to affect how long it takes to read them. For example, how common a word is. We have shown that when a reader is familiar with a text – in this case the Harry Potter universe – they can read fictional, niche words (for example muggle or quidditch) as if they were real, uncommon words.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show that with enough knowledge and experience of a subject readers can integrate words without grounding in reality into their mental dictionary. Readers use information from surrounding text to help them recognise when a fictional word is most-appropriate.


I found preparing this article both enjoyable and thought provoking. I was excited to see that fans of Harry Potter could read words like ‘quidditch’ without any difficulty when they were in a story clearly set in the Harry Potter universe. I hope that both those interested in reading research and fans of Harry Potter will be enjoy learning about our findings.

Dr Joanne Ingram
University of the West of Scotland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Words from the wizarding world: Fictional words, context, and domain knowledge., Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, November 2020, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/xlm0000946.
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