£500,000 Grant Awarded to Study UK Children As They Play With G.I. Joe, Action Man & HMAF “Dolls”


Three of the UK’s HMAF action figures. (Photo: Mail Online)

Members of the UK “Economic and Social Research Council” (ESRC) have elected to spend almost a million dollars to study children playing with—as they called them—“dolls.” According to an article published in the UK’s Daily Mail Online, British scientists said that they hope to discover:

“…whether children’s opinions on war and the armed forces are affected by playing with dolls wearing military clothing.”

£500,000 of British taxpayer money will be spent to determine whether dressing Action Man in his camos or other outfits somehow affects a child’s attitude and opinion about war and “Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.” The Mail Online article continues:

“Researchers from the Universities of Portsmouth, Exeter, and Royal Holloway University of London will spend THREE YEARS looking into whether dolls like Action Man help children ‘understand the military.’ They also aim to determine how action figures ‘shape young people’s views on conflict and the armed forces.’

The study will focus on top-selling ‘Her Majesty’s Armed Forces’ (HMAF) dolls. Licensed by the Ministry of Defence. HMAF dolls are based on current British armed forces and come with an assault rifle, radio, flak-jacket, body armour, helmet and goggles.”

Klaus Dodds , professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London. (Photo:

Klaus Dodds , professor of geopolitics at Royal Holloway, University of London. (Photo: U of L)

Three YEARS watching kids play with Action Man and HMAF “dolls.” And getting PAID to do it. Not a bad gig! We’re not too familiar with those HMAF figures they mention, and since this article isn’t a “product review,” we’ll just stick with the matters at hand: 1) What the UK scientists hope to accomplish with their study, and 2) How they’ll be spending all those wonderful taxpayer “pounds.” According to Prof. Klaus Dodds:

We will be examining how such toys help shape British attitudes to our armed forces and what ideas children are incorporating from outside sources, such as TV news footage.

Dr. Tara Woodyer

Dr. Tara Woodyer (Photo: U of P)

So…they’re also going to be watching kids…watching the news. Sure, why not? The study’s principal (and very fortunate) investigator, Dr Tara Woodyer, argued for the need of this vital research by explaining:

“Play has frequently been overlooked as irrelevant to how people come to understand the world. Yet it is precisely this apparent banality, the taken for granted nature of play, that allows its role to go unchallenged. Toys, and how children play with them, are not just a response to the world, they help shape our culture. The role of action figure dolls has been unduly neglected, especially given the enormous academic attention focused on their female equivalent—Barbie.

Bottom Line: Here at The Joe Report, we wholeheartedly support the advancement of academic research in a wide variety of topics and fields and wish professors around the world all the best of luck in their pursuit of all possible funding and every available grant opportunity. And you couldn’t find a more supportive group of people or advocates for GIjOE and Action Man-related activities than the worldwide community of collectors that make up 1:6 scale fandom and the readership of The Joe Report. AND… we understand that funding for academic research grants can come from a variety of sources (universities, corporations, private donations, AND public groups). Not living in the UK, we do have to wonder: How do Britains feel about all this? Fortunately, we do have “boots on the ground” in the UK, and according to an initial report from TJR Field Reporter, Alan Dawson:

UK resident and Action Man expert, Alan Dawson (Photo: Mark Otnes)

“They make a good case for why they’re studying it. And it does at least seem that they’ve framed the research sensibly, not trying to prove ‘Action Man makes kids psychotic killers.’ I bet Barbie has had much more spent on research into her ‘effects’ on girls. I can think of worse things to waste it (the ESRC grant money) on.”

If you have an opinion you’d like to share, please leave your comment HERE. Meanwhile, our sincerest congratulations to Dr. Woodyer and all her colleagues on being awarded this VERY large grant. We hope the study “pays off,” and that you learn a lot about our children AND our 12-inch heroes! (Editor’s Note): According to the article, for those who will be eagerly awaiting the study’s results:

Researchers are expected to report their findings in 2016, shortly after the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan.”


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