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Developmental Psychology

Self-confidence in Black children

Mamie Clark & Kenneth Clark
Mamie and Kenneth Clark

Clark and Clark were married African American psychologists, most famous for conducting doll experiments. They showed young children two dolls, one White with yellow hair, one Brown with black hair. Both Black and White children preferred the White doll and rated it more positively when asked questions such as “which one is the nice doll?" "which one is the bad doll?" "which one has a nice colour?" which one would you rather play with?”. This was evidence that African American children, especially from segregated schools, had internalised racism, a sense of inferiority, and a lack of self-esteem which affected child’s ability to learn. The studies were used as evidence in the US Supreme Court to desegregate schools, in which they also testified.

Clark and Clark (1947), Racial Identification and PreferenceLink opens in a new window (NB this paper uses terminology which is innapropriate by today's standard)

Video: Landmark Cases Brown v. Board of Education (1954)Link opens in a new window

A more recent replication of the doll experiments: Sturdivant (2021). Racial Awareness and the Politics in PlayLink opens in a new window

Video: Re-examining the baby doll study and its impactLink opens in a new window

BPS blog post: Fulfilling Black Children's Lives - Dr Mamie Phipps ClarkLink opens in a new window