The Jane Elliott Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment, conducted by educator and activist Jane Elliott in 1968, is a powerful demonstration of the effects of discrimination and prejudice on individuals’ behavior and attitudes.

Aim: The Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment aimed to illustrate the impact of racial discrimination and segregation by dividing participants based on the color of their eyes and subjecting one group to discrimination while privileging the other.

Method: Elliott conducted the experiment with her third-grade class in Riceville, Iowa, the day after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. She divided the class into two groups based on eye color, with one group labeled “superior” (blue-eyed) and the other “inferior” (brown-eyed). Throughout the day, Elliott subjected the “inferior” group to discrimination, including segregating them, limiting their privileges, and making derogatory remarks. She then reversed the roles on the second day, with the “brown-eyed” group becoming the privileged group.

Results: The experiment had a profound emotional impact on the participants, with those in the discriminated group experiencing feelings of inferiority, frustration, and resentment, while those in the privileged group displayed arrogance and superiority. The experiment effectively demonstrated how arbitrary distinctions, such as eye color, could lead to discrimination and prejudice.

Legacy: The Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes Experiment garnered widespread attention and sparked conversations about racism, discrimination, and privilege. It has been used as a teaching tool to educate people about the harmful effects of prejudice and the importance of empathy and understanding.

Criticisms: While the experiment effectively demonstrated the psychological effects of discrimination, some critics have raised ethical concerns about subjecting children to distressing experiences for the sake of research. Additionally, some argue that the experiment’s focus on eye color as a proxy for race oversimplifies the complexities of racism and overlooks other forms of discrimination based on factors such as ethnicity, nationality, or socioeconomic status.