What IBM’s Watson Discovered About Harry Potter

IBM’s supercomputer Watson can do some pretty nifty things aside from whooping Ken’s ass in Jeopardy. One of those skills our future overlord has is the ability to analyze written text and compare it to the movie version of the book.

So Watson did just that. Vanity Misra, research staff member for Watson, fed the supercomputer text from the books and movies to see if the commercial-friendly hardware could find any discernible differences between the characters in the books and the movies.

This is what happened when Watson was asked to tell us what it thought of the Harry Potter books and movies using tone and personality assessment capabilities to rank their character traits.

Neville Longbottom and Voldemort are pretty similar

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“I think part of it is that Voldemort and Neville are very extreme characters,” Misra explained.

Both characters ranked low on the “openness to experience” portion of the Big Five personality test, which measures where you fit in the spectrum of extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to experience.

What’s more, they scored about the same on neuroticism and Neville ranked highest out of all the characters in this category in both the films and book.

Voldemort is just as neurotic as Neville

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“Voldemort is very high on neuroticism — it makes sense this guy is basically coming out in secret and has this master plan he must execute and anyone can screw it up,” Misra said. “The guy has a lot of paranoia around him.”

Different kind of neuroticism for sure, but you see where this is going.

Harry is just as angry as Voldemort

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“No one will be surprised to see Voldemort at the top of list, but Harry is also very high on the anger list in the books,” Misra said.

“That’s interesting because, in some ways, he’s a pollyannic character — he’s perfect in lots of ways, but he does have some personality flaws and that would be he is prone to anger,” he continued.

Watson’s ratings put Harry’s anger right behind that of Voldemort, which makes a bit of sense considering the fact that Harry struggles with his similarities to the dark wizard with no nose.

Ginger Ron’s comic relief is more obvious in the movies

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It’s no secret that Ron is the the butt of many Harry Potter jokes and he’s certainly the lightest character in the series, especially in his main circle.

While this is true, “he loses some anxiety and becomes a little less friendly as the books go on and things become darker,” Misra said. We do see that in the movies, but it’s nowhere near as pronounced.

Hermione “outshines Voldemort in assertiveness”

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Turns out that Hermione Granger  ranks high on Watson’s test for anger and assertiveness. That’s not shocking at all considering the drive she has, but she also got the highest score on the morality assessment.

“Even a robot can tell Hermione is strong in her convictions of what is right and wrong.”

“That’s a quantitative example of Hermione being a strong female character,” Misra said.

Ginny is dumbed down in the movies

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Plenty of people took issue with how Ginny was portrayed in the movies, so this one will make a lot of Potter fans feel validated. Watson found that Ginny’s intelligence and gregariousness ranked much lower in the movies than in the books.

“In the book, she doesn’t wait around for Harry — she’s very can-do, but they simplified and boiled down her character [in the movies],” Misra said.

Book Snape is angry, movie Snape is cold blooded

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Ah, Severus Snape. According to Watson, Snape’s excitement-seeking and anger “reduced noticeably” in the transition from print to film.

“Snape in the books is an unhinged jerk and is shouting and prone to anger,” Misra said. “In the movies he is more cold and distant, the jerkiness about him is more in attitude and performance.”

Oh Haaaaaaaans.

Professor McGonagall is the smartest of the bunch

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Now, this one shouldn’t be a shock at all especially considering she was (generally) right even though no one liked to admit it. The odd thing about this ranking is that Hermione didn’t even crack the top four while Snape and Ron snagged spots two and three respectively.

Anyway, McGonagall’s character was deemed to have been one of the least changed in the transition from print to film.

Hagrid is your liberal, but depressed, best friend

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When it came to liberalism and openness, Hagrid was atop the charts. That said, Watson was able to notice his inner depression. He’s the guy that’ll do absolutely anything for the people he loves, but is deeply tormented by something… likely the fact that he got expelled from Hogwarts.

That said, he’s not the most depressed character in the the series… that would be Harry.

Dumbledore is the most cooperative, sympathetic and cautious

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Misra was curious to see what Watson thought about Dumbledore’s shift from the books to the movies, especially considering a lot of fans think he came off as “less zen” in the films. Apparently, that’s up for debate.

“This isn’t reflected in the data,” Misra said. “The reason: Most of those changes aren’t in his language — it’s in the actors’ choices.”


And there you have it, folks. Watson’s observations of the Harry Potter films and books give us some interesting insight that some of you may have picked up on, but other might’ve been surprised to learn.

[Business Insider]

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