Blue/Brown Eye Experiment

Shane, Kayla, Raymond, Steffen, Austin

What are Ethics?

Ethics are a set of senses that determine right and wrong and ultimately guide decisions made.

What Ethic Procedures do we Study in Psychology?

  • Rights and well being of participants must be weighted against the study’s value to science.

  • Participants must be allowed to make an informed decision about precipitation.

  • Deception must be justified.

  • Participants may withdraw from the study at any time.

  • Participants must be protected from risks or told explicitly of risk.

  • Investigator must debrief participants, telling the true nature of the study and expectation of results.

  • Data must remain confidential.

The Experiment

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience

Background Information

Historical Context

Right before this experiment took place, Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. The black community was frantic and had lost their leader.

Why the Experiment Happened

Elliot wanted students to understand what it was like to be treated differently.

Significance of Experiment

This experiment showed kids what it was like to be treated differently based on something they cannot control. It also showed the nation how unfair African Americans were being treated.

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What was the Blue/Brown Eye Experiment?

Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher, separated her students based on their eye color and treated one group better than the other.

The superior group was given extra privileges, special gym access, and more recess time. The inferior group were not allowed the same privileges and often times scolded for their actions. Kids with the superior eye color were encouraged to play with each other while the kids with the inferior eye color sat in the back of the room.

During this study, blue eyed kids were superior for the first day and the brown eyed kids were superior for the second. Elliott lied, stating that melanin, which is responsible for making children a certain eye color, was also linked to their higher intelligence and learning ability.

Positive Outcomes:

  • This shed light on discrimination and pointing out flawed logic in racism.

Negative Outcomes:

  • The kids with different colored eyes were treated poorly. Those who felt superior made sure to put down those with different colored eyes, leading to isolation and poor grades.

Was this experiment carried out ethically?

This experiment was not carried out ethically. Elliot could have explained the problem to the children present in their society instead of putting them through a simulation to prove her point.

  • Participants were not allowed to make an informed decision about participation.
  • Participants were not protected from risks or told explicitly of risk.

How did the ideas presented in the experiment changed the field of psychology?

This experiment has shown that if someone or a group of people are given sense of superiority they will take advantage of it. Much like the results of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the group of guards became hostile and abusive. Like the guards, the “superior” children became mean- spirited and put down the brown eyed children. Once the “inferior” children became the “superior” children they were not as harsh as the original “superior” group, probably because they didn’t want to put the same pain as the blue eyed children put on them.