Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Dr. James Tsao, Advertising Department Chair
Dr. Makana Chock, Assistant Professor
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Communication | Public Relations and Advertising
As a controversial, yet influential icon in American society, Barbie doll sends a variety of mixed messages to young girls. She is an icon of feminine perfection. She represents ambitious, working women. She presents reality with a completely unrealistic body type. This study determines the potential effects of Barbie doll on individual knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.
Data was collected through one-on-one interviews with young girls and their parents. Each responded to a series of questions regarding their perceptions and feelings towards the doll. They also reacted to several commercials, each depicting the mixed message that the doll sends. Finally, the respondents created collages representing the real world and Barbie’s world. The data was analyzed and organized according to the themes that emerged.
Research themes brought new topics to light that predict the effects of Barbie doll. Effects on knowledge tended to indicate that individuals have come to view Barbie primarily in terms of appearance. Behavioral effects tended to be primarily positive, however, there was concern over the lack of parental influence in terms of behavior. The attitudinal effects were the most negative, but the effect was not as severe as previously thought. The combination of these potential effects, as well as new themes that emerged from the research add to the discussion about Barbie’s role in our society.
This study complicates the conversation about Barbie and has implications for how the doll is marketed. In order to maintain ethical boundaries in the advertising industry, it is important for advertisers to consider the effects of their actions. Since Barbie is a form of mediated content, everything about the doll sends a message to her target. The results of this research should encourage marketers to consider the doll’s role in young girls’ lives. This research suggests that transforming Barbie’s existing negative messages into positive messages can change her role into an encouraging and inspiring model.
Gapinske, Lisa, "From Barbie With Love: Implications of the Mixed Messages From America’s Plastic Sweetheart" (2012). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 164.
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