White Doll/Black Doll Experiment
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The first time the white doll/black doll experiment was conducted in 1940s by Dr Kenneth Clark and his wife Mamie Clark. The researchers conducted the study to determine the psychological effects of segregation on black children (ABC News, 2006). During the experiment 4 and 5-year-old children were asked to pick the good and the bad doll given an option to choose from a white and a black doll. Most of them preferred white doll that was nice and good, while the black dolled was told to be ugly and bad. The experiment in 1940s proved that children internalize race stereotypes and racism at an early age. Yet, it helped to outlaw segregation at schools after the ruling on Brown v Board of Education case in 1954, when the American Supreme Court was persuaded “that “separate but equal” schools for blacks and whites were anything but equal in practice and were, therefore, illegal or against the law” (Experiment Resources, 2010). Although much has been done to eliminate segregation, fight racism, and provide equal opportunities both for children and adults, the replication of Clark’s experiment carried out by Kiri Davis in 2005 suggests that racism and race stereotypes are still quite a strong issue in the American society (ABC News, 2006).
In the social science, the negative attitudes towards skin blackness are mostly attributed to cultural and historical processes that stigmatized black-skinned people and other minorities as lazy, uneducated, and unable to learn (Kaplan, 2011). Thus, dark skin is perceived as inferior to white depriving non-whites of numerous opportunities and providing for gap in educational achievements. Furthermore, such race stereotypes are widely accepted by “victims” of so-called systemic racism in the process of stereotype threat (Kaplan, 2011). Since community, including parents, teachers, professors, etc., does not recognize the evasive effects of white culture on children and teenagers from other ethnicities, negative race stereotypes keep affecting children and adults disregarding attempts to fight and eliminate them. According to Steel, stereotype threat is the major component that affects achievement gap between white students and students from ethnic minority groups even and especially in integrated school settings (quoted in Scruggs, 2010).
The short film shot by Davis in 2005 is shocking and frustrating, as most adults do not realize that negative stereotypes become instilled in people’s sub-consciousness since very young age. Furthermore, most adult teachers do not realize the need to integrate diverse educational approaches into curriculum in order to combat race stereotypes and stereotype threat in teenagers and young adults. However, measures need to be taken in order to prevent development of sense of inferiority, self-hatred, and low self-esteem in children and young adults of other ethnic backgrounds.
In order to break the negative stereotypes on race and stereotype threat on performance and achievement based on skin color, society and families should take initiative steps on promoting diversity and equality of all people despite the race. Steel, for example, insists on providing children and students opportunities to freely communicate and interact with each other across racial or ethnic background lines (Scruggs, 2010). Kaplan (2011) advises to use multicultural resources extensively both in classrooms and in the homes, but insists on the need to accompany these materials with practical activities that would develop understanding and appreciation of other cultures and ethnicities in children and young adults seeking education and realization of their talents.