Barbie-Backed Neuroscience Research Says Dolls Promote Empathy

Barbie-Backed Neuroscience Research Says Dolls Promote Empathy

Barbie has launched a new campaign called “A Doll Can Help Change the World”, based on neuroscientific research from Cardiff University.

The research, sponsored by Barbie manufacturer Mattell, used neuroimaging brain activations during play with dolls using functional near-infrared spectroscopy technology.  According to their findings, “evidence shows that doll play activates brain regions which are associated with social information processing and empathy.”

Dr Sarah Gerson, senior lecturer at Cardiff University, said “this is a completely new finding. We use this area of the brain when we think about other people, especially when we think about another person’s thoughts or feelings. Dolls encourage them to create their own little imaginary worlds, as opposed to say, problem-solving or building games. They encourage children to think about other people and how they might interact with each other.”

The research was originally published in October 2020.

This is not the first time Mattel has focused on the developmental benefits of playing with dolls

In 2017, website Fatherly shared an article headlined ‘The Profound, Long-Lasting Benefits of Playing With Barbie’, sponsored by the brand.

The article makes the case that, “wrapping a doll in its “favourite” blanket or dressing a doll for work is both an act of imaginative play and a practise run at human kindness,” citing a number of articles about the role of play in childhood development.

The ‘A Doll Can Help Change The World’ campaign is an extension of the brand’s “You Can Be Anything” platform.

 

 

 

 




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