Town Square

The famous “Doll Test” and understanding racial identity

The “Doll Test” was a psychological study conducted to test the racial perceptions of young children that proved to be crucial for understanding segregation’s effect on black children.



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Town Square with Ernie Manouse airs at 3 p.m. CT. Tune in on 88.7FM, listen online or subscribe to the podcast. Join the discussion at 888-486-9677, or @townsquaretalk.

In the 1940's, psychologists Kenneth and Mamie Clark conducted a series of experiments where they had identical dolls, different only in color, and asked black children which color of doll they preferred. They found that two-thirds of the children preferred the white doll to one of their own race.

The Clarks concluded that the racism found in American institutions affects the sense of self in African American children. Their findings proved to be instrumental in the famous Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision to remove racial segregation in American schools.

The story of the doll test and the Clarks is detailed in the new book “What the Children Told Us“. We talk with the author who gives us more insight on this time in history and what other doll tests have shown in later years.


Tim Spofford

  • Author, "What The Children Told Us"

Richelle Whittaker

  • Educational Psychologist
  • Founder, Providential Counseling and Consulting Services
  • Founder, Next Steps Educational Counseling

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