"Blue-eyed people are smarter than brown-eyed people..." Jane Elliot

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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!


3 Comments

This is a very memorable study. The simplicity of the experiment and the vast implications of the results are amazing. It connects with the idea of a self fulfilling prophecy where your expectations on a person end up shaping that person to match it. The implications of this study are truly endless, it can relate to sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, spousal relationships, workplace relationships, etc. In any of these relationships, you're expectations of a person will shape them. The most amazing part to me is how much power we have, that we can change a person's personality by treating them a certain way. But with great power comes great responsibility.

Bravo topic to blog about. Very well written and intriguing. Personally I am glad I wasn't apart of that study as I would be one of the brown eyed subjects. I hadn't heard of this study until I had come to this class. It was an interesting study to hear about and I enjoyed how you elaborated on the topic. I agree with the comment by mehdi006 that it's amazing on the power we have to shape people's personalities. As cheesy as it sounded when we were younger it's true that we should treat others the way we want to be treated. Unfortunately, though we know the problem it still can be seen throughout our lives.

I also found this study to be very amazing and eye-opening. I watched the documentary of this study a few years ago and was just astounded by the personality changes in the students when they were classified into different groups. Years later, she got to meet with her students again when they were adults and all of them said that her experiment was something they took with them as a positive learning experience for the rest of their lives.

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This page contains a single entry by hass0333 published on April 28, 2012 6:54 PM.

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