Barbie might be trying to show a brainier side, but little girls who play with the iconic dolls are learning more than anatomic impossibility: They're also lowering their career aspirations, reports Fast Company. A new study—conducted on an admittedly small scale of 37 4- to 7-year-olds who spent a few minutes playing with Doctor Barbie, Fashion Barbie, or Mrs. Potato Head—finds that when shown photos of 10 professions, only those who played with the dowdy potato emerged believing they could follow just as many career paths as boys. Those who played with either type of Barbie saw diminished career options for themselves.
"Something about the type of doll, not characteristics of the participants, causes the difference in career aspirations," says study co-author Aurora Sherman. The authors, who admit deeper study is needed, theorize that girls are forming their ideas about gender roles from Barbie's sexual-yet-anatomically-impossible nature. For writer Carey Dunne, if further research could "solidly prove that Barbie's influence is a negative one, maybe Mattel would at least consent to giving the poor doll enough room for a liver." But don't think that Barbie is going the way of a super-skinny dinosaur anytime soon: Huffington Post notes that the doll turned 55 yesterday. (Read more Barbie stories.)