Every fan of the Harry Potter series has thought about putting on the Sorting Hat and seeing what house they'd be placed in. Not just to know which classmates they'd be spending their years beside, but to know which of our traits - even the ones unbeknownst to us - truly dominate our personalities.
While this magical hat doesn't really exist, there are plenty of quizzes that will happily tell you where you'd be placed - including the one on Pottermore made by J.K. Rowling herself! Not long ago, the scientific journal Personality and Individual Differences published a study which shows that the quizzes (and thus the Sorting Hat) is pretty accurate!
In the study Harry Potter and the measures of personality: Extraverted Gryffindors, agreeable Hufflepuffs, clever Ravenclaws, and manipulative Slytherins, author Dr. Laura C. Crysel, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Stetson University, and her team asked 132 Potterheads (who had already taken the Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz) to take additional personality tests.
So, did their personality assessments align with what the Sorting Hat said about them? In short, yes! In the words of Dr. Crysel:
When J.K. Rowling came out with the Pottermore quiz, I wanted to know what, if anything, her personality test measures. Our findings suggest that fiction can reflect real underlying personality dimensions.
That being said, what does your Hogwarts house say about your personality?
You might belong in Gryffindor, Where dwell the brave at heart, Their daring, nerve, and chivalry, Set Gryffindors apart
Interestingly enough, the house which had the least personality association to their Sorting Hat result were Gryffindors. This was likely because it was hard to test for bravery, which is the biggest defining quality in a Gryffindor's personality. Instead, they tested for extraversion and openness, but their results were somewhat inconclusive because their pool of Gryffindor subjects may have been too small.
You might belong in Hufflepuff, Where they are just and loyal, Those patient Hufflepuffs are true, And unafraid of toil
The study found that Hufflepuffs were largely exceptionally agreeable people. Meaning that they are pleasant, friendly, and tend to take on the role of mediator in difficult situations.
Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw, if you've a ready mind, Where those of wit and learning, Will always find their kind
Unsurprisingly, those who were sorted into Ravenclaw had a high "need for cognition." Seeking out higher learning, comprehension, and understanding are all qualities of someone who would fit into Ravenclaw.
Or perhaps in Slytherin You'll make your real friends, Those cunning folks use any means, To achieve their ends
Probably the most fitting of Crysel's group, Slytherins tended to fit into their descriptions to a tee. The study states that people who were sorted into Slytherin were likely to show "Dark Triad" traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Is it any coincidence that "Dark Triad" is only one word away from "Dark Arts?" Maybe, maybe not.
There are a couple of explanations as to why a Potter fan's personality would align so well with the house they already associated themselves to. According to Crysel:
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.
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.
This is not to suggest that these personality traits did not already exist in each person, but that already sharing some affiliation to one of the houses might help sway their test results a bit.
But hey, thinking that you're braver, smarter, kinder, or more cunning and making it true isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think we could all benefit from living a bit more like Hogwarts' founding members...maybe not Salazar Slytherin, we'll count him out.
Furthermore, since only about half of the Pottermore quiz takers were sorted into their house of choice, Crysel suggests the results aren't pandering to their audiences:
Only about half of participants got the house they wanted from Rowling’s quiz. 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.
If you haven't taken the Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz already, I say it's worth a shot. You might actually learn something about yourself.