This article published in  Scientific American, April 1014, examines a possible link between childhood play and career choices later in life:

Girls who played with dolls were then asked about future careers. Those who played with Barbie more likely to envision traditional pink-collar jobs than were girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head. Erika Beras reports.

The ubiquitous Barbie doll: she’s been everything from a football coach to a surgeon. But girls who play with Barbie may have their ambition stunted—that’s according to a study in the journal Sex Roles. [Aurora M. Sherman and Eileen L. Zurbriggen, “Boys Can Be Anything”: Effect of Barbie Play on Girls’ Career Cognitions]

Researchers had groups of girls play with one of three dolls. One was a Barbie doll dressed as a fashion model in a clingy dress. A second Barbie was a doctor in a white coat and jeans. The third doll was a Mrs. Potato Head.

After a few minutes of play the girls were asked if they could someday be any of eleven different occupations.

The girls who’d played with either of the Barbie dolls were more likely to pick traditional pink-collar jobs like teacher, librarian or flight attendant. But girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head envisioned themselves as also being firefighters, pilots or police officers.

The researchers say the limited occupational opportunity that Barbie seems to impart could be due to her unrealistic and overly sexualized image, rather than her outfits or careers. And the world is less limited when looked at through Mrs. Potato Head’s…eyes.

—Erika Beras

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