Any true Harry Potter fan has daydreamed about hopping on the train at Platform 9 and ¾ and heading straight for Hogwarts. But once you get there, faced with the chatty sorting hat, a larger question remains—Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin?
Luckily, the internet is filled with quizzes to find out which Hogwarts house you belong in, but the arguably best one is found on the Pottermore website (created by J.K. Rowling herself). And according to a new study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences—the results are surprisingly accurate.
“When J.K. Rowling came out with the Pottermore quiz, I wanted to know what, if anything, her personality test measures,” lead author Laura Crysel, PhD, an assistant professor of psychology at Stetson University, told Health. “Our findings suggest that fiction can reflect real underlying personality dimensions.”
For the study—aptly titled, “Harry Potter and the measures of personality: Extraverted Gryffindors, agreeable Hufflepuffs, clever Ravenclaws, and manipulative Slytherins”—Crysel and her fellow researchers asked 132 Harry Potter fans (who had already completed the Pottermore sorting questionnaire) to complete an additional series of personality assessments. These questions—intended to determine if the participants’ personalities held true to those of their selected house—were based on common psychological identifiers, including everything from extraversion and agreeableness to the “Dark Triad” traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy.
And, for the most part, the participants matched right in with their house. Ravenclaws had a high “need for cognition,” while Hufflepuffs were exceptionally agreeable. Most ominously, Slytherins scored the highest out of all the participants on the Dark Arts, ahem, I mean the “Dark Triad” traits.
Crysel (who’s a Gryffindor through and through, for the record) has two explanations for the uncanny quiz results. “For one, people may be relating to the groups that really are more like them, and Rowling's quiz may be measuring a piece of those qualities,” she says.
“For another, fans may be changing how they see themselves based on the feedback from the Pottermore quiz. Imagine someone tells you that you are very smart and value learning. You may internalize that feedback and use it to guide how you respond to questions about your intelligence later. Being a part of a group, even a fictional one, may be a similar process. For example, thinking that Slytherins are cunning, and being told that you are a Slytherin, may make you want to be more cunning to be part of the group.”
The only house that didn’t match up to their personalities belongs to our four heroes (aka Harry, Hermione, Ron, and Crysel): Gryffindor. Crysel surmises that it had to do with their difficulty in finding a measurable personality trait that would show bravery, arguably the main characteristic of a Gryffindor.
“We tried to measure things related to bravery (extraversion and openness to experience),” she explains. But their very small pool of Gryffindor participants likely added to the problem. “I actually think we would have found an association between extraversion and Gryffindor status if we had more Gryffindor participants, but that is speculation on my part.”
And while the discovery that Slytherins like Draco may actually be as conniving as their reputation is fairly shocking, Crysel was most surprised to discover that people who took the Pottermore quiz weren’t able to “cheat” and answer the questions in a way that ensured getting sorted into their favorite house.
“Only about half of participants got the house they wanted from Rowling's quiz,” she explained. “Now, this is higher than chance, suggesting that some people are either A—wanting to be part of the group that actually describes them, or B—are answering the quiz to get the result they want. However, I believe that if Rowling's quiz was truly measuring only what people want to hear, this number would be much higher. So, I think the Pottermore quiz may be actually giving somewhat accurate feedback.”
So if you sat under the (virtual) sorting hat and got Ravenclaw, you probably are as clever as Cho Chang (and perhaps as kooky as Luna Lovegood). And if you’re wary of a new coworker, or maybe your BFF’s new boyfriend, it might be worth it to ask them which house they most identify with—and maybe send them a link to Pottermore to verify their leanings.