I have always been interested in how stereotypes form and why some groups are discriminated against, while others are not. That is why this semester in Psychology 1001, briefly learning about discrimination and the Jane Elliot blue eyes-brown eyes study is a topic I think will remain with me for many years to come. I had heard about this study when I was in high school, and it still amazes me the success of the exercise on not just the third graders, but also on adults from all around the world that participated. I have so much respect for Jane Elliot, because she saw a problem in our society, racism and negative stereotypes against blacks and other groups and decided it was far easier to make her point to young children than to adults, because adults can be set in their ways. So, Jane Elliot, the Iowa schoolteacher, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, split her class up into blue-eyed students (the privileged, superior group) and the brown-eyed students. Blue-eyed students had a longer recess, were praised by Jane, and sat in the front of the class; while the brown-eyed students wore brown collars around their necks, sat in the back of the class, were admonished by Jane, drank from a different water fountain than their blue-eyed classmates and basically could not interact with the blue-eyed students. Jane found that in almost 15 minutes the changes in the brow-eyed student's personalities was evident. They were quieter, while the blue-eyed students became bossy, loud, and acted superior to the brown-eyed students (Lilienfeld 530).
I think this study has ultimately taught me how dangerous discrimination can be and, yet how we, as individuals can overcome it, just as long as we treat people how we want to be treated!