In a recent study published in the journal Sex Roles Aurora M. Sherman and Eileen L. Zurbriggen examined the effect of Barbie on girls career ambitions.
The researchers had a group of girls play with one of three dolls. Two were Barbies, one in a clingy dress and one in a doctor's white coat and jeans. The third doll was a Mrs. Potatohead.
According to Scientific American:
"The girls who’d played with either of the Barbie dolls were more likely to pick traditional pink-collar jobs like teacher, librarian or flight attendant. But girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head envisioned themselves as also being firefighters, pilots or police officers.
The researchers say the limited occupational opportunity that Barbie seems to impart could be due to her unrealistic and overly sexualized image, rather than her outfits or careers. And the world is less limited when looked at through Mrs. Potato Head’s…eyes."
The above quote goes with a podcast interview with the study's authors. You can listen to it at Scientific American or just download the MP3.
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