Two dolls are presented to you, one is white skin with blue eye and the other is black skin with brown eyes yet in all other physical feature the dolls are the same. As an adult which is the doll you pick up to play with? What lead you to that doll? Could it be the skin color or perhaps the eye color? If asked which of the doll is the prettiest or ugliest or which is the bad or good doll which one would you choose? These questions were asked to children in a psychological test known as “the doll test”. The doll test has been given to children at a young age from all over the world. When the children were asked these questions of which doll is light, dark, good, bad, pretty, and ugly they gave almost the same answers. Again in 2016 the test was re-created for children from Italy they were asked the same questions yet being far different from America where the test began in, the children gave the same answers as children have before.


The doll test raised the question of are children born or taught to be racist. The biggest debate in child development is it nature versus nurture? The doll tests help measures how much are children born with the concept of race and what is taught to them. Differences in individuals, such as skin color, are visible to children and they will be curious of it as they are to many new things to them. So, when the children taking the doll test are asked which is the black and which is the white doll is expected of them to know. The children sit at a table and only have the two dolls placed on the table, as shown in the video they sit in a room with a single color room which prevents to influence their answers. With the child an adult, in some cases the adult is of the same skin color as the child, is present to ask the questions. Which is the good doll, and which is the bad doll? Repeatedly the children pick the black doll as bad and the white as good, including children who are dark skin. The next question is which doll is pretty and which is ugly. Again, the black doll is chosen to be ugly and the white is the pretty one. It becomes difficult to understand the children’s answers to the questions. A child in the video is young girl in a red shirt being asked who the good doll is and why the light skin doll she picked is pretty her answer was simply, “because she has blue eyes.”  The children do not realize how much of an impact their answers are until asked which doll the children look like. At that moment the ugly and bad doll reflects themselves and even hesitate to answer the question. It is shown on their face the children do not wish to point at the doll that looks like themselves. It is at that moment the video becomes difficult to watch. Without knowing or thinking the children had prejudice the doll simply on the skin color. Yet in this video we see a boy in his blue shirt who is dark skin clearly point at the dark skin doll with a smile on his face that the dark doll is the pretty one. Children like him stand out, time and time again as the test is being given the children do not pick the dark skin doll as the pretty one even when they are themselves dark skin. His smile brings a smile to those who are watching because for a moment we understands he to can be consider pretty. 

When the doll test was first performed, by psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark in the 1940s, is was to “to study the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children (Brown at 60: The Doll Test).” doll-test-onyx-truth-620x400.jpgNot only did it proved that the self-esteem of young children of dark skin tone was being affected but also “that racism was an inherently American institution, and that school segregation inhibited the development of white children, too (Brown at 60: The Doll Test).” America separated the white skin and black skin to benefit society but not only were the young black children’s development being damage so was the white skin children. Primary caregivers were not explaining to the white skin children why the black skin children could not sit, walk, or play with them. Perhaps the white children came to the conclusion that the black children done something bad and for that reason were not allow things the white children were. Almost 80 years later and the doll test is still being conducted and the results are the same. Segregation is gone yet why are the children picking the black skin doll as the ugly and bad doll.Clark Doll Test 1.jpg

Do children understand race and racism? The doll test brought awareness not only to society but to educators and parents who work closely with children and can help their development.

Children seek to play and do not see race but that does not say they do not notice skin color. Children at the young age of two are curious about others and why people do not look all alike. This is perfectly fine in a child’s development as they enter preschool they are seen playing with children who typically look like them and interact with adults who remind them of their primary caregivers. Children do not see skin color as race, yet as color which is one is light and the other is dark. Louise Derman-Sparks, has work in the field of child development over 50 years and dedicates her time to bring anti-bias awareness to educators, states in her research that children “identify and match people according to “racial” physical characteristics and groups, but often confused about complexities of group categories (Stages in Children’s Development 2).” For example, two individuals who are dark skin are in two racial groups such as Native American and Mexican. Children only saw two dark skin individuals, yet society saw two different races. Could the results of the test be different if the children were asked “which doll is Mexican? Which doll is Japanese?” The video had children from Italy who were dark skin and when society think of an Italian we do not picture the children in the video but light skin with dark hair. For an example at the end of the video a girl is asked which of the dolls is the black doll and she becomes offend. She understands she is to point at the black doll but the word “black” is offensive to her because children have used it to be mean to her. She even goes as far as to accuse the white doll looking at her funny. We are witnessing her feelings and actions of being prejudice by others due to her dark skin and living in a light skin culture. In society we go as far to know what race an individual is by asking someone when meeting them to having it filled out in application to schools and/or jobs. If adults are aware of race than why would not children be?download-wr.jpeg

In the article Children, Race and Racism: How race Awareness Develops the concept of race is define as, “a social concept, in that the classifications of group membership have been decided by people within particular social systems (5).” The physical appearance, ethnicity, and cultural tradition can categorist you into a race. Another way of looking at race is “how we see ourselves and the world, how others see us, and how we relate to each other (Understanding Race and Ethnicity).” This is our personal identity and race plays a major role in how we see us as humans and how we identified ourselves and others. “Which doll do you look like?” is asked to the children at the end of the test and the skin color of those children are their personal identity. It is safe to say, even as adult, our skin color determines our race and it is connected to our identity.

Explaining to children of race from when they began noticing skin color can help with understanding the difference and similarities. Adults avoid the topic of race with their children in hopes that they will be non-prejudice. A concept that their children will be “color-blind”. Being “color-blind” as it is explained in the article Children, Race and Racism, means to be “unaware of race and racism.” Children are aware of race and it is best for parents to be ready to answer their questions. When talking to children of race be ready to ask them why they are curious and what made them want to ask about it? Depending upon age and their development stage the questions for your children may vary, for explain, “Four-year-olds can sometimes understand more scientific explanations, so you may be able to explain that different people have different level of hormones (such as melanin) that are responsible for color (What to Say When a Child Recognizes Different Skin Color).” It is important for adults first to understand race so children can too. With that information you can give them an honest answer. The children’s answer could have been different if they had primary caregivers explained to them of race. That both light and dark skin children are pretty and good. Neither are bad or ugly. The video is a reminder that children need to be reminded that no matter skin color or eye color they are good and pretty.

Works Cited

YouTube, 21 Mar. 2016,

A recent doll test which was giving to children Italy. The doll test was introduced in the 1940s and is still being conducted to children now. It rises the question of race and racism being taught to children. This text will be broken down to the concept of race, the children’s development, and the impact of the video.

YouTube, 15 Apr. 2012,

MSNBC coverage of the psychological test giving to children. A series of questions was asked of them and in which they chose from two dolls. Two baby dolls are giving to them that look alike expect for the color of skin and eye. The video will be used as evidence as to prove many children of different age and skin color are given this test and the outcome to their answer is the same from previous videos.

Children, Race and Racism: How Race Awareness Develops.,5434.1.

Explains how children look at race. Helps parents to understand the child’s development and what parents can say to children. The study shows what was asked of the children of race and the answers the children gave. Reliability came from the authors, “Louise Derman-Sparks is on the faculty at Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, Cal. Carol Tanakaa Higa is a teacher in the Los Angeles school system. Bill Sparks is also a teacher in the Los Angeles school system. All have been active in the struggle to eliminate racism.” Who have done studies of race with children and teach others to be anti-biased.

“Growth & Development.” KidsHealth, The Nemours Foundation,

Medical website from Nemours explaining the development and growth of children. Its divided into four categories for kids, teens, parents, and educators. The website discusses from learning and playing to sexual development. The website is for an education purpose. It will be used to further give credit.

Lott, Sonya. “What to Say When a Child Recognizes Different Skin Color.” Living The Bump,

21 Nov. 2017,

Website design to help primary caregivers to talk about race with there children and when to expect children to notice the differences of others.  Primary caregivers should talk about the differences and similarities with the children. Will be used in the paper to discuss the importance of talking to children about race. Sonya Lott has Ph.D. and works has a licensed psychologist in Pennsylvania.

“Race and Ethnicity.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

Explains the concept of race and how individuals and society look at race and ethnicity. Looks at the different aspect of race and how race is used to identify us. Will be used to explain what race is and how it has affects the nation. Written in Psychology Today a reliable magazine.


CULTURAL 2 IDENTITY & ATTITUDES.” UUA General Assembly 2012. UUA General Assembly 2012, 20 June 2012, Phoenix, Arizona.


“NAACP Legal Defense Fund : Defend, Educate, Empower.” Brown at 60: The Doll Test |