Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
Babies are drawn to adults who distribute desired items fairly and equally–as long as they perceive that the “fairness” will benefit them. These are the findings of a new study that examined how babies choose playmates based on whether the playmates share toys equally, or unequally based on race. More from the University of Washington:
The findings, published in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology, show that 15-month-old babies value a person’s fairness – whether or not an experimenter equally distributes toys – unless babies see that the experimenter unevenly distributed toys in a way that benefits a person of the same race as the infant.
“It’s surprising to see these pro-social traits of valuing fairness so early on, but at the same time, we’re also seeing that babies have self-motivated concerns too,” Sommerville said.
Forty white 15-month-old babies sat on their parents’ laps while watching two white experimenters divide toys between recipients. One experimenter divided the toys equally, and the other experimenter divided the toys unequally….
Later, when the babies had a chance to choose who to play with, 70 percent of the time infants preferred the experimenter who distributed the toys fairly. This suggests that when individuals are the same race as the infant, babies favor fair over unfair individuals as playmates….
Next, Sommerville and her team asked a more complex question. What would happen when individuals who were of the same race as the infant actually stood to benefit from inequity?
In a second experiment, 80 white 15-month-old infants saw a fair and an unfair experimenter distribute toys to a white and to an Asian recipient. Half the babies saw the unfair experimenter give more to the Asian recipient; and the other half of babies saw the experimenter give more to the white recipient.
When it came time to decide a playmate, infants seemed more tolerant of unfairness when the white recipient benefited from it. They picked the fair experimenter less often when the unfair experimenter gave more toys to the white recipient versus the Asian recipient.
“If all babies care about is fairness, then they would always pick the fair distributor, but we’re also seeing that they’re interested in consequences for their own group members,” Sommerville said.
The findings imply that infants can take into account both race and social history (how a person treats someone else) when deciding which person would make a better playmate.
“Babies are sensitive to how people of the same ethnicity as the infant, versus a different ethnicity, are treated – they weren’t just interested in who was being fair or unfair,” said Monica Burns, co-author of the study and a former UW psychology undergraduate student. She’s now a psychology graduate student at Harvard University.
Image: Infants playing, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Girls who play with Barbie dolls–as opposed to Mrs. Potato Head doll–may see fewer career options for themselves in the future, according to an experiment that has been published in the journal Sex Roles.
Thirty-seven girls from the US Pacific Northwest, aged between four to seven years old, were randomly assigned to play for five minutes with either a sexualized Doctor Barbie or Fashion Barbie doll, or with more a more neutral Mrs. Potato Head doll, according to a statement describing the study. The girls were then shown photographs of ten occupations and asked how many they themselves or boys could do in the future.
The girls who played with a Barbie doll – irrespective of whether it was dressed as a fashion model or a doctor – saw themselves in fewer occupations than are possible for boys. Those girls who played with Mrs. Potato Head reported nearly as many career options available for themselves as for boys.
“Perhaps Barbie can ‘Be Anything’ as the advertising for this doll suggests, but girls who play with her may not apply these possibilities to themselves,” said researcher Aurora Sherman of Oregon State University, who suggests that Barbie and similar dolls are part of the burden of early and inappropriate sexuality placed on girls. “Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations.”
Image: Girl, via Shutterstock
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Thursday, November 21st, 2013
More than 200,000 toy dolls shipped to the United States from China for the holiday gift-giving season were seized by U.S. authorities because the dolls were found to contain phthalates, a toxic chemical that has been linked to premature births, among other health risks. More from CNN.com:
The toys contained high levels of phthalates, which are chemical plasticizers used to make materials softer and more pliable, authorities said. Congress has banned the chemical in children’s toys.
The U.S. Commercial Targeting and Analysis Center began targeting the shipments in April because they threatened children’s safety, authorities said.
“Using advanced technology to track certain shipments before they reach our shores is helping CPSC better protect America’s consumers,” Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman Inez Tenenbaum said in a statement.
U.S. authorities didn’t identify the manufacturer of the toys Tuesday.
A total of 10 shipments valued at almost $500,000 were seized at the ports of Chicago; Dallas; Los Angeles; Norfolk, Virginia; Memphis, Tennessee; Newark, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; and Savannah, Georgia, authorities said.
Tenenbaum said her agency and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have been targeting dangerous imports at several major ports through the use of a risk management system. Those efforts resulted in the seizure of more than 1.1 million unsafe products last fiscal year, authorities said. At the same time, the system also allows “for faster processing of compliant products,” she said.
Image: Toy doll, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, September 10th, 2013
Toys ‘R’ Us stores in the United Kingdom have announced they will no longer stock toys according to gender, avoiding sections labeled “Boys” and “Girls.” The announcement is in response to an organization called “Let Toys Be Toys,” which advocates for gender-neutral toy marketing in order to encourage children to use their imaginations and find ways to enjoy all sorts of toys. More from The Huffington Post:
“We’re delighted to be working so closely with a major toy retailer and believe that there is much common ground here,” Megan Perryman, a Let Toys Be Toys campaigner, said in a press release. “Even in 2013, boys and girls are still growing up being told that certain toys are ‘for’ them, while others are not. This is not only confusing but extremely limiting, as it strongly shapes their ideas about who they are and who they can go on to become. We look forward to seeing Toys ‘R’ Us lead the way to a more inclusive future for boys and girls.”
Toys “R” Us has attempted to put aside stereotypes in the past. In 2012, the U.S.-based company’s Swedish branch gained attention when images in its Christmas catalog challenged traditional gender roles.
According to the Let Toys Be Toys release, other U.K. retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Boots, The Entertainer and TJ Maxx have agreed to remove “boy” and “girl” signs from their stores in response to the campaign.
Image: Stuffed toys, via Shutterstock
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Monday, February 4th, 2013
Andre Cassagnes, the French electrician who invented the famous Etch A Sketch toy more than 50 years ago, has died at age 86. His obituary from CNN.com:
Cassagnes created what would become the Etch A Sketch in his garage in 1950. The drawing toy was made up of a joystick, glass and aluminum powder.
Initially dubbed the Telecran, the toy was renamed L’Ecran Magique, or ‘The Magic Screen,’ and made its debut at a toy fair in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1959.
Fascinated by the invention, American Henry Winzeler, founder and president of The Ohio Art Company, licensed L’Ecran Magique for $25,000 and introduced it as Etch A Sketch in the United States in 1960.
Winzeler connected Cassagnes with Jerry Burger, an engineer at the company, so they could collaborate to improve the toy’s drawing capability.
Among the changes made to the Etch A Sketch in 1960 was replacing the joystick with two white knobs in the left and right corners of the screen. The idea was to make the toy look like the hot new adult toy of the time: a television.
It quickly became the most popular selling toy during the Christmas season that year, according to the manufacturer. Since then, the company has sold more than 150 million of them.
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