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Black is Beautiful

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Hraba, J. & Grant, G. (1970) Black is Beautiful: A Re-examination of Racial Preference and Identification Background This study by Hraba and Grant (1970) replicates a classic investigation by Clark and Clark. Clark and Clark (1947) developed a simple test using black and white dolls. They found that black children preferred white dolls when asked to choose which were nice, which they would like to play with and which were a nice colour. And chose black dolls when asked which dolls looked bad. Clark and Clark suggested that black children had negative attitudes towards themselves and their cultural background. Hraba and Grant were interested to find out if the childrens' preference for white dolls had changed considering the changes (particularly the civil rights movements of the 1960s which in part led to less segregation between black and white people) that had happened in the USA since the Clark and Clark study had been carried out. Aim The aim of the study was to replicate Clark & Clark's study to re-examine the racial preferences of black children in an interracial setting. Procedure/Method The study was a quasi (sometimes called natural) experiment. The independent variable was the race of the child being asked (white or black) and the dependent variable was the child's racial preference, racial awareness and racial self-identification. However it could also be argued that a further independent variable is the time in which the study was done as Hraba and Grant were comparing their results from 1969 with the results from Clark and Clark from 1939. ...read more.


The White children were significantly more ethnocentric (i.e. preferring dolls of the same colour) on items 1 and 2, there was no difference on item 3 and the Black children were significantly more ethnocentric on item 4. The earlier studies by the Clarks had found that Black children had preferred White dolls at all ages - although this preference did decreased with age. Hraba & Grant found that Black children of all ages preferred a Black doll and this preference increased with age. The Clarks had classified their subjects by skin colour into three categories: light (practically White), medium (light brown to dark brown), and dark (dark brown to black). Hraba & Grant therefore used the same criteria and found no trend whereas the earlier Clarks' study found that children of light skin colour showed the greatest preference for the White doll and the dark children the least. For items 5 to 8 (racial awareness and self identification) Hraba & Grant obtained similar results to those of Clark & Clarks. The children made very few errors. They also found that the race of the interviewer had no effect on the choices of either the Black or the White children. Finally they found that there was no relationship between race of friends for both Black and White children on their doll preference. Evaluation of Procedure The questionnaire used a 'forced choice technique' and this method does not give any indication of the strength of the attitude. ...read more.


Firstly it is likely that Black children in 1969 were more proud of their race than they were in 1939. Secondly it is possible that children in Lincoln, unlike those in the cities, might have chosen Black dolls in 1939. Obviously this explanation can not be examined further. Thirdly, the growth of organisations in the Black community might have enhanced Black pride. During the periods 1967-1969 a black pride campaign, sponsored by organisations which were black conscious was aimed at adolescents and young adults in Lincoln. Black children through their interactions with kin and friends may have modelled these attitudes. Fourthly, inter-racial contact such as in nursery or school might create Black pride. Evaluation of Explanations It is difficult to say which explanation is correct but what is important is that we see psychological studies in an historical context. Clark and Clark's study was carried out towards the end of the 1930s when most states had policies on segregation, and Black people were excluded from White areas and denied access to education, housing, welfare, politics and jobs. Hraba and Grant's study was carried out in 1969. The 1960's saw the growth of the civil rights movement and the growth of the Black religious and political organisations and figures. These changes led to some improvement in the opportunities and expectations for Black people in the USA. Since that time, Black people have made many advances within US society and now occupy an important place in the democratic structure. Despite this, the majority of Black people are still economically disadvantaged and the object of considerable racism. ...read more.

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