A study performed by researchers from the University of Texas and Pennsylvania State University sought to test the effects that race has on children’s perceptions on occupations. The study, conducted by Dr. Rebecca S. Bigler, Dr. Lynn S. Liben, and Cara J. Averhart used ninety-two African American children as subjects from the Midwest, with about half the subjects being from a lower socio-economic level. Children were interviewed regarding their perceptions of 39 professions. 27 occupations were well-known, such as Janitor or Airline pilot, a further 12 professions involved made-up jobs. The children were shown pictures of the new jobs being performed, and the employees shown were either a) all black, b) all white, c) even split black and white.
The purpose of this study is difficult to divine from the article. It can only be assumed that the researchers sought to prove a point about race and that the study sought to prove that self-perceptions of African-Americans was negative. The researchers believe that African-American children may seek out lower-status jobs in the future in order to not radically alter what they perceive as the social order. This will create a viscous race to the bottom by young blacks and result in the persistence of lower socio-economic status by the study participants.
The article does not explicitly state a hypothesis, and the study is either too poorly described or poorly put together making guessing at a hypothesis difficult. The independent variables do not really test anything in particular and are likely too simplistic to determine anything with scientific certainty. A possible working hypothesis might be that African-American youths will view jobs performed by other African-Americans as less desirable than jobs performed by European-Americans.
This basic research study does not have any immediately appreciable practical applications. The only use of this research is to increase the general knowledge regarding psychology and race. The research type employed appears to be quasi-experimental. It is a qualitative observational study masquerading as hard science by using independent variables with no foundation (the races depicted in the picture of each profession) and using subjective dependent variables (the perception of race by the children). We have no idea how these were operationalized from the article and ultimately this calls into question the value of the methods all together.
The ethical considerations primarily revolve around the use of children in the study, a vulnerable population. We are never told of the ethical considerations the study authors had. We can only assume that both the parents and the children themselves were adequately informed of what they were undertaking. Being observational in nature, the study required perhaps a lower level of vigilance than if it was an experimental study. Experimental studies can possibly bring harms to children, and it is necessary to do everything possible to insure that as little harm as possible comes to this vulnerable population.
Some simple improvements that could be made to make this research better involve changing the study sample and altering the methodology employed. Study sample should be randomized as much as possible in order for it to be generalizable to the population at large. The use of non-existent jobs with simple black/white racial paradigms does not reflect the real world and should be changed. Various racial groups should be used both as study participants, interviewers and in images shown to the students. Also it would be interesting to see what would happen to students perception if they were shown( blacks performing high status jobs, and whites were performing low status jobs.
In sum, from the article reviewed the entire research is suspect. The population sample is very shallow and would be impossible to make generalizations from. The ethical issues surrounding working with children are not accounted for. Without seeing the actual questions or photos the interviewers used when they were conducting their “experiment,” we ultimately have no idea if they biased the results of the study. The conclusions reported in the article seem specious and racially charged and without deeper investigation, would warrant being thrown in the garbage.
Race Has Powerful Effects on Children's Perceptions of Occupations, Study Find.
American Psychological Association, 25 May. 2003. Web. 7 Aug. 2013.