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The Natural Hair Doll Experiment: Did Black Children Prefer Curly or Straight Hair Dolls?

Avatar • Apr 22, 2013

by Chime Edwards

A few years back I watched “A Girl Like Me” which is a documentary by Kiri Davis. Within the short film, Kiri did an experiment that some coined the “New Black Doll Test”. Like the original Black Doll test performed by Dr. Kenneth Clark, she asked a group of Black children which doll they preferred to play with between a White doll and a Black doll. The majority of the kids chose the White doll. I decided that I wanted to recreate the same experiment using 2 identical black dolls; one with natural hair and the other with straight hair to see which hair texture a group of Black children preferred.

I must admit the hardest part of this experiment was finding a natural-haired doll so I decided that I would transform a straight-haired doll to kinky-haired. It was fairly easy to do. First, I wrapped small sections of hair around pipe cleaners I found at Wal-Mart.

IMG_1874

Yeah, the doll was balding in the middle.  The doll had pig tails but I took them down and found no hair in the center. It was to be expected…they were cheapo! I got found them at Fred’s Discount Store. Anywho, next, I boiled hot water in a pan and dipped the doll’s head in.

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Ughhh…I have the veiniest hands in America. I then let the doll’s hair to air dry.

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Next, I took the pipe cleaners out.

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I then put the doll’s hair in pigtails.

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I later added Marley braid hair that I cut so it would be the same length as the straight-haired doll.

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I teased the hair to make it look more natural.

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The final result. For some reason the video didn’t pick up how the hair really looked.

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You guys can check out the results of the Natural Doll Experiment here:

Let’s encourage our children and one another to embrace kinky hair as well as straight hair. Beauty comes in different forms. There is so much pressure for Black women to fit into the European standard of beauty but the beauty that our African ancestors gave us is just fine if you ask me. Encourage, compliment and inspire one another to continue to embrace natural hair.

Were the results of the Natural Hair Doll experiment shocking or expected?

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umarie
7 years ago

for starters *first comment*
wow :/ even though i already was aware of such, it still shocking. im 16 and have never straightened me hair. my mother always taught us to love our hair as it is. i kinda blame the preference to straight hair over kinky since i see parents relaxing their kids hair at very young ages.Very few teens my age have natural hair either.
sad world we live in.

LaNeshe
7 years ago

It really just comes down to how parents are dealing with their children’s hair. Even if they don’t relax their child’s hair, but complain about the struggles of taming it, their child, and even male siblings will associate “smooth” hair with pretty and better hair.

Shanna
7 years ago
Reply to  LaNeshe

It goes beyond that. It is due to the society they are raised in as well. I remember being blown away when I asked some little girls who were raised in a loving afro centric home where all the women had gorgeous natural hair what type of hair they liked as well and they still said straight hair. Their parents also taught them self love. Even if the parents tell them how beautiful they are, if they are looking in magazines and on TV programs and they are not seeing people like them and other people are saying different, they… Read more »

cacey
cacey
6 years ago
Reply to  Shanna

this sounds like me. my parents instilled me with a healthy appreciation for my hair (i think, anyway lol), caring for it optimally by keeping it in braids/cornrows and by the time i was twelve i had a thick, full head of healthy 17 inch natural hair or so. but my ideal was still straight tresses, and the first thing i did as soon as my parents turned my haircare over to me was relax it, even though my grandma was natural and i’d never experienced anything negative on account of my natural hair. i guess i just saw straight… Read more »

RB
RB
7 years ago

Upsetting results : ( I still think we are moving in the right direction, though. We have generations of legacy to undo. I would love to see this experiment done 50 years from now with a generation of black kids who see the majority of women around them with natural hair. I think this is key. We give entirely too much responsibility to “the media”. The real life black women in children’s lives are their point of reference. Until black women by in large wear their hair natural (or at least weave/wigs that look what our natural hair looks like)… Read more »

silkynaps
silkynaps
7 years ago

Humans are narcissistic and, therefore, naturally inclined to be attracted to those whom are most like themselves. This is how a race proliferates. It takes a special brand of self-hate to denounce your race and/or physical characteristics that are inherent to it. It’s depressing that Blacks (and other brown folks for that matter) are being TAUGHT to hate ourselves at such a young age. Non-Blacks may have planted the seed, but it’s within the community that the crop called self-hate flourishes. That demonstration depresses me to no end because those children are systematically being taught to hate themselves by those in… Read more »

ericak
ericak
7 years ago
Reply to  silkynaps

I love what you said and I laughed a lil about the cashmere sweater you threw on the end.. 🙂

NikNak
NikNak
7 years ago
Reply to  silkynaps

well said.

tisha
tisha
7 years ago

This is such a difficult issue.I grew up in a household where my parents never compared my hair to other’s. They never uttered the word good hair, and I had never heard the word nappy until I was 8. My mom took good care of my hair and I was proud of it…for the most part. Still society sends sooo many subtle messages establishing a hierarchy in hair types that I did feel its influence.(teachers liking a student bettwr b/c of her hair ugh) I think that with this new wave from the natural hair movement, we can better combat… Read more »

Adura Ojo (naijalines)

Hair is a hot topic topic in the Nigerian online community right now. I’ve shared your video on my blog. Thank you for this post. There’s definitely a need to rethink our attitude regarding our own hair.

Deb
Deb
7 years ago

really? are you referring to nairaland? OMG I’d love to read those discussions.

Elica
Elica
7 years ago

I think it’s so sad that one of the little girls said that the straight-haired doll had nicer hair because ‘it’s not nappy’. She’s so young yet she’s already been taught that her own natural hair texture isn’t good enough and at some point will need to be fixed. The word ‘nappy’ shouldn’t even be in her vocabulary at such a young age! Parents and family members of young children need to realize that their comments have a MASSIVE influence on how a child views the world. How can a child love every aspect of themselves when adults (who should… Read more »

ericak
ericak
7 years ago
Reply to  Elica

I agree it is very sad. I have 2 sons but if I ever had a daughter she would never hear me utter the words “good hair” or “bad hair”. I would always let her know her hair was pretty. It starts in the home. Children don’t come out the womb with that mentality but it’s unfortunate so many of the black community still have this mentality and im not sure if its ever going to go away.

SpicySugar
SpicySugar
7 years ago
Reply to  ericak

I’m glad you feel that way about not bringing up daughters with the good hair bad hair notion. However I think our sons need to be taught the same in regards to seeing black beauty in all of it’s glory. I’m sure all of us have come across that one ignorant black male who hates afro textured hair. We can’t expect them to respect us if we leave it up to the media to teach them whats cute and what ain’t. (Please don’t take this personal, I just think it’s important that everyone thinks about this)

Deb
Deb
7 years ago

Really good call on keeping your own hair covered to avoid influencing their responses. It hurts to watch this. I don’t have daughters but do have nieces and make sure to tell them that I love their hair in different hairstyles. sadly, they LOVE Disney princesses who all have super long, straight hair. their mother is natural and even sports a gorgeous fro but its the outside influences you have to really build them up against. It’s just messed up for kids to already think so negatively about their God given hair. Things are better today than when most of us… Read more »

Iva
Iva
7 years ago

Okay.

I like HairCrush and I am familiar with the initial experiment.BUT unless the person replicating the experiment is a trained psychologist or sociologist it makes me uncomfortable.

I’m also uncomfortable with the fact that these kids faces are shown. I’m sure the parents agreed but will the kids be okay with this in 10 years?

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago
Reply to  Iva

@ Iva a trained monkey can see that, “Houston, we have a problem” and for sometime now…generations of wrong. I said to myself, “NOW, The responses will be different with black dolls”. I was wrong straight hair black or white is the better/prettier hair???? Really?! (tears). We need to start at birth that their hair good enough and they are loved as is!

#let’swakeupNOW

Iva
Iva
7 years ago
Reply to  TWA4now

I’m not questioning the results. I’m questioning the methodology. Look, this isn’t a junior high science fair project. She’s not building a volcano, she’s working with living breathing children. What’s her background? And there are very real issue that she is attempting to address but is she a trained scientist or sociologist? Has she conducted these type of experiments before? Does she know the background of these children? What is her relationship to the children? Is she leading them (subconsciously) to the results she wants? Those are all risks that scientists and sociologists are trained to avoid. Is she one? Just… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago
Reply to  Iva

This ISN’T the first time this has been done …trained professionals or not per say. She didn’t need FDA approval. We are not performing open heart surgery! There are deeper issues than questioning her credentials or is she trained? To ease your mind, please Google this same experiment by a “trained” professional…there are others who did the same experiment …college studies/students and got the SAME results no matter who did it that’s the sad point! #wehavetostopthis!

Iva
Iva
7 years ago
Reply to  TWA4now

I’m not going to belabor this but if she’s worked with the kids before that would be a problem, especially if they’ve seen her natural hair before, or see it regularly, and now all of a sudden its covered by a turban. Who knows what their little minds thought? “Her hair was pretty now it’s away therefore its bad.” Who knows? Well a psychologist or sociologist would. Even a student in that degree field. The point is, for me, I don’t get my science from people who play at on youtube even if (especially if) the results are what people… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago
Reply to  Iva

@ Iva do understand your concern. The experiment yielded the same sad results. The doll black or white with the straight hair was prettier…etc. THAT’s the POINT! We have to change! We have to tell our babies they are good enough and beautiful…even their hair! We have to stop this! If not year 2043 someone with a PHD OR NOT WILL DO THIS SAME EXPERIMENT AND YIELD THE SAME RESULTS:( #ENOUGHSAIDLETUSACTNOW!

AC
AC
7 years ago
Reply to  Iva

She has worked with the children before, she said that on her youtube, and her blog I believe.

AC
AC
7 years ago
Reply to  AC

I don’t understand the huge issue, you can use another experiment’s results by a trained scientist if that makes you feel better but the results are clear as day, a similar test was done on the Tyra show not too long ago and the results weren’t very different… hopefully Chime can “chime” in and answer all of your questions and I hope she is in the field of psychology so everyone’s mind will be at ease. lol

Iva
Iva
7 years ago
Reply to  AC

@AC It’s because the results are “clear as day” that I am questioning the methodology. Is she getting the results she wanted/expected/anticipated because that’s what the situation is or because it’s what she wanted/expected/anticipated? Listen, I live in a mid-East Coast metropolis where, no exaggeration, 2 out of 3 people are natural. I guarantee that in this town if you personally are not natural, someone in your family is. So I can bet/assume/presume that if I conducted the same “experiment” in this town among this set of people 66% of the kids would like the more authentically afro-textured hair doll.… Read more »

Madametj
Madametj
7 years ago
Reply to  Iva

Smh, so only scientists can conduct experiments now? What are we to do with our natural human curiosity? Twiddle our thumbs until a trained PhD comes along that wants to conduct the same exact experiment that we were interested in? And what if one never comes along? If everyone took on this attitude, nothing would ever EVER get done.

Madametj
Madametj
7 years ago
Reply to  Madametj

My previous comment was in response to Iva, not Chime’s experiment.

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago

I was disturbed and sadden by the children’s response. I thought for sure it would be different…we still have a long way to go :/ Relaxed or nature, we need to love ourselves as is yes workout and improve sure but not let society tell us what beauty is for us! slavery maybe over but it isn’t in our actions and mind-set. #myhairisgoodenough<3alongwaytogo

Lisa
Lisa
7 years ago

The results didn’t surprise me but it didn’t stop me from tearing up when I watched the video. I’ve mentioned on this site before how it hurt me when my daughter said that she can’t be a princess because she doesn’t have princess hair. I will only buy items with images close to her or none at all but I can’t change every show on television, every book sold at her school book fair, toys in the store or clothing with characters. I was a tomboy growing up so I was completely unaware of how many princess have long hair.… Read more »

fimifah
fimifah
7 years ago

I was actually somewhat surprised by the statistical outcome of the experiment. I realize that my viewpoint may be in the minority here, but I found the numbers somewhat reassuring. I knew that the majority of the children would be inclined to favour the doll with the straighter hair texture, but that amount was just less than two thirds of the group tested. That is a sizable majority, but I’m certain that if a similar experiment were performed twenty or even ten years ago it would have been far less than one third of the children favouring the doll with… Read more »

Rachelle
Rachelle
7 years ago

When I was little, I probably would have said the same thing. I remember it being horrible sitting there on the floor while my mom would rip a comb across my hair, and I wanted straight hair so bad (Sister Sister was on tv at the time lol). I don’t blame her for the way I saw my hair, curly and nappy, where all I could think about was pain. I’m sure with my brother and I being mixed and having different textured hair… aaaand especially with no Youtube then lol, it must have been hard. I LOVED this article,… Read more »

sam
sam
7 years ago

I find the results to be expected. I mean, there are grown women who are still referring to their natural hair as ‘ugly’ and/or nappy, as well as women who see other naturals with looser curl patterns and refer to that hair as pretty. it’s no wonder that these children would pick the doll with the straighter hair ‑they are going by what they’ve been taught by those closest to them! I can only hope and pray that these kids learn to view natural hair as being just as beautiful as they are perceiving straight hair to be

EG
EG
7 years ago
Reply to  sam

Thank you for stating the obvious. Given how even the title of the experiment is ‘curly’ instead of Kinky, I think it’s safe to say that ‘adult’ black women are no different.

gapch
gapch
7 years ago
Reply to  EG

the word kinky is no better than nappy

EG
EG
7 years ago
Reply to  gapch

Many of us are very happy to be nappy. I have kinks, not curls, and they are gorgeous!!!

Marcy
Marcy
7 years ago

I not not surprised at all, not because I think we teach kids to hate kinky/coily/curly hair but I know most parents still straighten for Easter or Xmas or special occasions so the kids associate getting pretty with something other than textured hair.

dh
dh
7 years ago

i think a key problem that is being overlooked, the prob is that the mothers of these children often have relaxed or chemically altered hair as a child ud idolize ur mom and other women around and close to you, most of whom will have str8 hair, if thats your 1st idol that creates ur perception of pretty or beauty. we need to lead by example we cant try to tell our children that their hair is nice and pretty while altering ours, like i kno st8ening hair is a choice and preference and i am not sayin black women… Read more »

manmohini
manmohini
7 years ago

This is sad but not surprising. I love curly hair–kinky, spiral, wavy–you name it. I have always worn my thick curls like a badge, and my 5‑year old son (who is mixed) has the most awesome corkscrews I’ve ever seen. Sadly, he has recently noticed that most of the boys in his class have straight hair (or it appears that way since it’s cut so short). This so called “European standard of beauty,” i.e., straight hair, is totally false. Even among white people, only 1/3 have naturally straight hair. Most white women have been brainwashed too that their hair is… Read more »

Carin
Carin
7 years ago
Reply to  manmohini

As a white woman with very thin, fine hair I totally get your comment — I can’t make my hair look like the people’s in magazines, but the irony is that even they spend ages with stylists to get their hair looking the way that it does. The obsession with “perfection” is universal and fuelled by media and companies selling products to make us look more like the ideal.

Fikicia
Fikicia
7 years ago

I want clarity. If I flat iron my hair, even if it’s not relaxed.…that’s not considered natural? And why, if that is the case?

gapch
gapch
7 years ago
Reply to  Fikicia

everyone has a different definition of the word natural

Elica
Elica
7 years ago
Reply to  Fikicia

In my opinion your hair is natural if you haven’t permanently altered the original curl pattern i.e.: relaxing, texturising etc. But there are some people who will say that you aren’t natural if you colour, flat iron, or wear weaves regularly.
The way I see it is that it’s your hair and as long as you’re happy with it, it doesn’t matter what labels people want to put on it 🙂

Ugonna Wosu
Ugonna Wosu
7 years ago

this video has two conclusions to be drawn. On the one hand, there is clearly still a lot of work to be done helping black people and black children in particular appreciate the beauty of natural hair, but does no one else notice that a pretty solid number of those kids DID choose the natural haired doll? I was comforted by those images, and I was comforted by the closing statistic that good 35% of those asked did choose the natural haired doll. That shows me that slowly we are opening kids’s minds up, or maybe they don’t have mothers… Read more »

Chewy_Chiwi
Chewy_Chiwi
7 years ago

Wow! Sad…just sad.

I already promised myself that I wasn’t going to bring a ralaxer kit anywhere near my children. So like someone said earlier, I will love to see this experiment in a few years from now. After I watched an episode of “Reed between the lines” and Miss Ross told her daughter about her hairstyle not defining her personality…it just confirmed it for me! Simply, learn to love yourself as is and strive to get better along your line of purpose. Life would just be soooo much easier with this ‘weight’ off your mind. It is well!

SHELIKES
SHELIKES
7 years ago

i find very interesting, the comment above stating that instead of using the word kinky to describe the hair, chime uses the word curly. chime has beautiful natural hair herself, but with a quick glance at her blog, its clear that she straightens, stretches, etc just like many naturals do to get hair to hang. flat long hair as see through as possible seems always to be the goal. showcasing the shrunk down natural unstretched state is an absolute no no. i am beginning to think that everybody has a different definition for natural in the first place, which makes it… Read more »

gapch
gapch
7 years ago
Reply to  SHELIKES

everyone definitely has a different definition of “natural” but everyone also has a different definition of curly. many people don’t use the word curly unless its very loose curls while many people such as myself consider tightly coiled or springy hair curly as well. there is not a universal acceptance of any of these words. additionally many people especially those of certain age find kinky to be just as offensive as nappy. im shocked that so many people find “kinky” acceptable. different connotations for different folks i guess. tightly coiled, extremely curly, coily, springy, shrunken in my opinion are a lot… Read more »

Tisha
Tisha
7 years ago
Reply to  gapch

Can you tell me the background behind the term “kinky” and why it’s offensive please? I suppose it has something to do with slavery..but I would really like to know.

MsKat
MsKat
7 years ago
Reply to  gapch

First a little bit of background on me‑I have what is currently termed as 3c fine curly thin hair. When I was a cosmetologist with predominantly black clientele, Some would come in saying they wanted their ‘nappy’ or ‘kinky’ hair done‑I would stop what I was doing and kindly explain to them that in my presence they were never to categorize their hair as such, because they are derogatory terms given to naturally textured hair by others, that those with a tightly curled texture had come to accept. I cannot stand when people categorize their hair in that manner. I… Read more »

AC
AC
7 years ago
Reply to  SHELIKES

Not to be rude but you’re wrong, yes she wears twist outs.. straightens? I’m not sure about that, i’ve never seen her do that so idk, but if you go through her youtube videos which appear to stretch back further than her blog you will find a video of her showing her hair dry without any product and it still hangs.. it’s still a fro but it hangs because it’s long and theres so much of it.

T.
T.
7 years ago
Reply to  SHELIKES

Just to say that Rastafarians and Maroons are not one and the same. There is some overlap between the two groups, but they’re not the same thing.

Lalilulelo
Lalilulelo
7 years ago

for faster results, hook children up to electrodes. Shock when they choose straight haired dolls. j/k.….kinda

Tabatha
Tabatha
7 years ago

I would have played with either one. The dolls we had that had straight hair we braided to make wavy any ways and so did our caucasian friends it made hair styles more fun. My parents made sure that they got us more dolls with dark skin then dolls with light skin.

Tisa
Tisa
7 years ago

This is interesting. I showed my 4 year old the picture of the two dolls side by side and she chose the straight haired doll. Why I find this interesting is because I have natural hair and she always says how pretty it is. I only buy black dolls with curly/kinky hair. My husband has gone natural ( no texturizer). Her hair along with her brothers hair is curly. I try to portray natural hair in the utmost positive. I even have natural hair girl pictures hanging on her wall. ( I’m not racist, I just want her to know… Read more »

Rae
Rae
7 years ago

This natural hair movement is good and all. But the comments and focus get to me. It is so unfortunate that BLACK PEOPLE CARE MORE ABOUT DIVERSITY IN THE MEDIA THAN IN THE CLASSROOM. It amazes me, how black people continue to overlook and be oblivious to black people and kids are at the bottom education wise, health wise, unemployment wise, ECT, EVERYTHING! Not only that but all of these statistics are increasing rapidly in this nation. Why so focused ON HAIR!!??!? As a 17 black girl who has been natural all her life, I wish that the natural movement… Read more »

Dananana
Dananana
7 years ago
Reply to  Rae

Dude, jump to conclusions much? This is a natural hair site, and thus we post about natural hair.

Just because we’re not discussing the other issues that plague Black society 24/7/365 doesn’t mean that we don’t care about them, or that we care about them less. It means that we stay on topic…for the most part 😉

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago
Reply to  Rae

@ Rae speak for yourself this is a hair blog so obviuously people will be talking about hair. i like most of the women on this blog have an education and worries about to manage to bring more people to education. the thruth is i’m not american but in the country where i live i already have a higher level education than many people. and no i don’t need anyone’s validation to advance in life. it’s that kind of mentality that holds us back. thinking about giving to black kids self confidence, letting them know that nothing is wrong with… Read more »

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago
Reply to  eve-audrey

sorry for the typos i hope my comment is still understandable i’m ending my day at uni and i’m a bit tired lol

MsKat
MsKat
7 years ago
Reply to  Rae

Please, please don’t take this as me being mean, but before you make an off topic post admonishing others who are posting opinions and facts that are on topic, please remember to proofread, especially if your off topic post refers to education, otherwise you lose credibility.

MsKat
MsKat
7 years ago
Reply to  Rae

Just because I don’t discuss those issues on this, a hair forum, doesn’t mean they do not matter to me, nor does it mean I do not discuss them in more appropriate places, such as education forums, or job inequality forums.

Asi Chii
Asi Chii
7 years ago

I’m a firm believer that as our kids see us embrace natural hair with grace (no groaning & complaining about difficult upkeep or product usage etc allowed) our kiddies will embrace natural hair as they get older. It’s a matter of conditioning the mind & staying educated.… On that note, that’s one of the reasons why I enjoy this blog!

trackback

[…] thread reminds me of the study of kids’ preferences for straight vs curly hair. Not specific to men but somewhat relevent. __________________ 3b (with 3c tendencies) on […]

Peenk
Peenk
7 years ago

Just because its not curly doesnt mean its not natural.

cacey
cacey
6 years ago

some people have pointed out chime’s use of the word “curly” to describe hair, but to some of us, as someone said before, curly and kinky are interchangeable. when i describe my hair or my son’s hair, even though our textures are different i describe both of our heads of hair as kinky or curly, whichever comes to my lips first. they are on and the same when i think about “black” hair. even though his hair is 4b/c and mine 3b/c, i’ll describe his hair as curly in the same breath as i’d describe mine as kinky, whichever came… Read more »

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