Harry Potter's Sorting Hat is Right in Real Life, Too

Soon after he steps off the train at Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry Potter participates in a magical rite of passage: the sorting ceremony. The Sorting Hat matches students to one of the school's four houses based on certain characteristics—Gryffindors are brave, Ravenclaws are smart, Hufflepuffs are nice, and Slytherins are cunning. Fans of Harry Potter can take the sorting quiz online at Pottermore to learn where they’d land if they attended Hogwarts.

While the Sorting Hat accurately evaluates students based on their personalities, it turns out the quiz is almost as correct in real life. A new study finds that people who took the quiz possess traits consistent with the hallmark qualities of the house they sort into. 

“When Rowling developed the official quiz, I was curious to learn what it really measured, if anything,” writes Laura C. Crysel, an assistant professor of psychology at Stetson University (and a Gryffindor).

To determine whether the quiz results corresponded with participants' personalities, Crysel and her colleagues asked 236 people who had taken the quiz what results they received and whether they were happy with them. Then participants then completed a series of tests, which measured the "big five" personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—and the "dark triad"—narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. People also answered questions to determine how much they desired knowledge and how much they wanted to fit in with others. 

They found that in most cases, the sorting hat was right: people’s houses matched their personalities. 

“We did find some similarities between the sorting results and the personality measures. For example, Hufflepuffs reported higher agreeableness, Ravenclaws reported higher need for cognition, and Slytherins reported higher narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy,” Crysel told mental_floss

What’s more, the researchers found that only about half of the participants sorted into the house that they wanted. This means Pottermore’s sorting is better than chance. It also indicates that people can’t manipulate the quiz to get into their preferred house.

“I think this suggests that the quiz may be telling people something real about who they are, if only a little bit,” says Crysel.

Interestingly, Gryffindors did not score highly in extraversion and openness, which the researchers assumed would correlate with their penchant for bravery. Crysel says that Gryffindors didn’t have a direct personality match because there is no measure for bravery. And, more people want to be in Gryffindor—Harry's house—than actually placed there; she suspects those aspiring Gryffindors might be more extroverted than people who sort into the house.

While this might simply seem a fun exercise examining an online personality quiz, Crysel believes that the study reveals that people might use fictional characters as role models.

“People may be using fictional groups to describe and form their identity,” she says. “To a certain extent, our participants may have been reporting the traits that would allow them to fit in with their perception of a fictional group.”

Crysel says it’s important to remember that people ranked themselves. “Slytherin participants chose to rate themselves higher in these traits—we did not assign that rating to them. Also, while some of these traits have negative connotations, they can be used for good,” she says. “More importantly, these are average differences, so no one should expect they will apply to everyone. Like Harry, I think we are all entitled to choose our House, if we wish to do so.” 

Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
New 'Eye Language' Lets Paralyzed People Communicate More Easily
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // ;CC BY-SA 4.0

The invention of sign language proved you don't need to vocalize to use complex language face to face. Now, a group of designers has shown that you don't even need control of your hands: Their new type of language for paralyzed people relies entirely on the eyes.

As AdAge reports, "Blink to Speak" was created by the design agency TBWA/India for the NeuroGen Brain & Spine Institute and the Asha Ek Hope Foundation. The language takes advantage of one of the few motor functions many paralyzed people have at their disposal: eye movement. Designers had a limited number of moves to work with—looking up, down, left, or right; closing one or both eyes—but they figured out how to use these building blocks to create a sophisticated way to get information across. The final product consists of eight alphabets and messages like "get doctor" and "entertainment" meant to facilitate communication between patients and caregivers.

Inside of a language book.
Sagar.jadhav01, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

This isn't the only tool that allows paralyzed people to "speak" through facial movements, but unlike most other options currently available, Blink to Speak doesn't require any expensive technology. The project's potential impact on the lives of people with paralysis earned it the Health Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity earlier in June.

The groups behind Blink to Speak have produced thousands of print copies of the language guide and have made it available online as an ebook. To learn the language yourself or share it with someone you know, you can download it for free here.

[h/t AdAge]

How Bats Protect Rare Books at This Portuguese Library

Visit the Joanina Library at the University of Coimbra in Portugal at night and you might think the building has a bat problem. It's true that common pipistrelle bats live there, occupying the space behind the bookshelves by day and swooping beneath the arched ceilings and in and out of windows once the sun goes down, but they're not a problem. As Smithsonian reports, the bats play a vital role in preserving the institution's manuscripts, so librarians are in no hurry to get rid of them.

The bats that live in the library don't damage the books and, because they're nocturnal, they usually don't bother the human guests. The much bigger danger to the collection is the insect population. Many bug species are known to gnaw on paper, which could be disastrous for the library's rare items that date from before the 19th century. The bats act as a natural form of pest control: At night, they feast on the insects that would otherwise feast on library books.

The Joanina Library is famous for being one of the most architecturally stunning libraries on earth. It was constructed before 1725, but when exactly the bats arrived is unknown. Librarians can say for sure they've been flapping around the halls since at least the 1800s.

Though bats have no reason to go after the materials, there is one threat they pose to the interior: falling feces. Librarians protect against this by covering their 18th-century tables with fabric made from animal skin at night and cleaning the floors of guano every morning.

[h/t Smithsonian]


More from mental floss studios