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Playing with Barbie dolls could limit girls' career choices, study shows
Date:3/5/2014

CORVALLIS, Ore. In one of the first experiments to explore the influence of fashion dolls, an Oregon State University researcher has found that girls who play with Barbie dolls see fewer career options for themselves than for boys.

"Playing with Barbie has an effect on girls' ideas about their place in the world," said Aurora M. Sherman, an associate professor in the School of Psychological Science at OSU. "It creates a limit on the sense of what's possible for their future. While it's not a massive effect, it is a measurable and statistically significant effect."

Findings of the research, conducted by Sherman and Eileen L. Zurbriggen of the University of California, Santa Cruz, were published today in the journal "Sex Roles." The study was supported by research and start-up funding from the OSU College of Liberal Arts Dean's office and the School of Psychological Science.

Barbie, introduced in 1959, was the first "fashion doll," with an emphasis on her clothes and appearance. Past research has found that the way fashion dolls such as Barbie are physically formed and dressed communicates messages of sexualization and objectification to girls.

Sherman's experiment was designed to examine how Barbie might influence girls' career aspirations.

Most of the past research on fashion dolls has been observational study of children and the toys in natural settings. In an actual experiment, the researcher controls a variable - in this case, the type of toy each child played with.

Girls ages 4 to 7 were randomly assigned to play with one of three dolls: a fashion Barbie with dress and high-heeled shoes; a career Barbie with a doctor's coat and stethoscope; or a Mrs. Potato Head with accessories such as purses and shoes. Mrs. Potato Head was selected as a neutral doll because the toy is similar in color and texture, but doesn't have the sexualized characteristics of Barbie.

After a few minutes of play,
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Contact: Aurora Sherman
Aurora.sherman@oregonstate.edu
541-737-1361
Oregon State University
Source:Eurekalert

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