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In this documentary, Jane Elliott, a third grade teacher divided her class into two groups based on their eye color; one group had blue eyes and the other had brown eyes. On the first day of the experiment, Elliott told the children who had blue eyes that they were superior to the children with brown eyes; that they were better, nicer and smarter. Throughout that day, she praised and encouraged them and gave them various privileges like being first in line and having an extended amount of time for recess. The brown eyed children were forced to wear collars, as a means of identifying them as the inferior group, and they were criticized and told that they had to be separated from the blue eyed group during recess. On the second day, the superiority was reversed.
Illusory correlation refers to when people see a relationship between two variables, even when there is none. This occurred quite a lot throughout this documentary. On the first day, when the blue eyed group was superior to the brown eyed group, both Elliott and the students made illusory correlations between brown eyed people and different variables. For example, Elliott made connection between being slow, referring to being prepared to start the lesson, and having brown eyes. More of these correlations were made between blue eyed people when they were inferior. The superior group, the brown eyes, made correlation between having blue eyes and being forgetful, violent and wasteful.
Social identity theory is a concept that is based on the assumption that people strive to improve their self-image by trying to enhance their self-esteem based on personal or social identities. This theory is proven to be true throughout the experiment. An example of social identity theory is when the kids were taking their recess; one of the boys in the blue eyed group tried to improve his self-esteem by calling one of his classmates an offensive name; ‘brown eyes.’
Stereotype threat is the effect of stereotypes on an individual’s performance. The experiment showed the different effects that stereotypes had on the children’s performance depending on the status of their group; whether they were superior or inferior. In a phonics card exercise, we are able to see the effect that stereotypes have on the children’s performance. On the first day, it took the brown eyed people 5 and a half minutes to go through the cards. On the second day, however, they were able to finish the same cards in a fraction of the time, it took them only 2 and a half minutes. This improvement is based purely on the change in stereotype.
In-group and out-group favouritism involves an “us versus them” mentality which is plainly displayed throughout the experiment. Elliott, for example, displayed in group favouritism when she chose the blue eyed children to be the superior group—purely because she had blue eyes herself. Whichever group was superior exhibited these two terms. Whichever group was superior, they perceived their group to be good and smart while they thought that the out group was bad and unintelligent.
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