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Realistic Group Conflict Theory

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 15 Mar 2010, 15:45


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Muzafer Sherif

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 15 Mar 2010, 15:43

The study of Social Psychology emerged between 1908 and 1924. Muzafer Sherif, one of the founders of social psychology, stands out as one of the main forces behind its growth in the in the 30's (Baron, Byrne 1997). His work with group processes and inner group conflict following social norms still serves as a reference point to researchers studying groups today.

On July 29, 1906 in Odemis, Izmir, Turkey, Muzafer Serif Basoglu, who later changed his name to Muzafer Sherif, was born the second child of five to a fairly wealthy family. He obtained a B.A. at the American International College in Izmir in 1927 and recieved his first MA in 1929 at the University of Istanbul. Then, he came to America where he earned his second masters at Harvard University in 1932. Sherif then spent some time in Berlin listening to lectures under Kohler. In 1935 he submitted his thesis Some Social Factors In Perception earning his Ph.D. under Gardner Murphy at Columbia University. In 1936, he released his first publication, a treatise on The psychology of Social Norms (Kinsman, 1975; Harvey,1989).

After obtaining his Ph.D. he went to teach at Ankara University in Turkey where, with the help of students, he translated some important psychology works into the Turkish Language. His outspoken opposition to the Nazi Movement landed him in a Turkish prison. Four months later, at the insistence of his graduate students in America, the U. S. Department of State arranged for his release and return to America in 1944. Once in America, he stayed a few days as a guest in the Blair House in Washington D.C. before moving on to Princeton as a Fellow of the U.S. State Department. Sherif met and married Carolyn Wood in 1945 (Kinsman, 1975; Harvey,1989).

Throughout his career at various colleges and organizations, he worked in a variety of roles: assistant professor of psychology, professor of psychology, U.S. Department of State Fellow, resident fellow in psychology, professor of sociology, research professor of psychology, director of institute of Group relations, consulting Professor in department of psychiatry, distinguished visiting professor, and professor emeritus. Sherif focused his studies mainly on understanding group processes and succeeded in making significant contributions to the field of social psychology. Active in the fields of psychology and sociology, Sherif belonged to many organizations: fellow and council member of American Psychological Association, American Sociological Association, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues, American Orthopsychiatric Association, American Association of University Professors, and Sigma Xi. During his career, he recieved several awards including the Rockefeller Fellow in 1935-36, the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award from the Society for Psychological study of Social Issues and Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1967, the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from APA in 1968, and the Distinguished Senior Social Psychologist Award from the Society for the Study of Experimental Social Psychology in 1978. He was the first ever to receive the Cooley-Mead Reward for Contributions to Social Psychology from the American Sociological Society (Kinsman, 1975; Harvey, 1989).

His publications exceed 24 books and 60 articles. Much of his research was jointly conducted with his wife, Carolyn (Thorne, Henley, 1997; Koslin, Sills [ed], 1979). Five months before his death, Sherif visited his the Jefferson Memorial. Sherif considered Jefferson his hero. Sherif died on October 16, 1988 of a heart attack while in Fairbanks, Alaska at the age of 82 (Trosky, 1989; Harvey, 1989).

Theory
REALISTIC CONFLICT THEORY: Sherif's view of science derived from early works, such as Einstein's and Infeld's The Evolution of Physics published in 1942. Sherif held that his concern focused on the how rather than the what in regards to cognition. Although probabilistic thinking influenced Sherif, he seldom found opportunities to apply statistical tests to his data because the data tended to be overwhelmingly conclusive even without statistical evaluation (Koslin, Sills [ed], 1979).

The research of Sherif built a base for most of the understanding we have today about the nature of groups and its members. One famous theory, developed by Sherif in 1961, became known as the Realistic Conflict Theory which accounts for inner group conflict, negative prejudices, and stereotypes as a result of actual competition between groups for desired resources. Sherif validated his theory in one his most famous experiments, "The Robber's Cave (Cialdini, Kenrick, Neuberg,1999)."

In this experiment, 22 white, fifth grade, 11 year old boys with average-to- good school performance and above average intelligence with a protestent, two parent background were sent to a special remote summer camp in Oklahoma, Robbers Cave State Park. The remoteness of the part ensured that the study remained free from external influences and that the true nature of conflict and prejudice could be studied. None of the boys knew each other prior to the study. The researchers divided the boys into two different groups and assigned them cabins far apart from each other. During this first phase, the groups did not know of the other group's existence. The boys developed an attachment to their groups throughout the first week of the camp by doing various activities together; hiking, swimming, etc. The boys chose names for their groups, The Eagles and The Rattlers, and stenciled them onto shirts and flags (Baron, Byrne 1997; Cialdini, Kenrick, Neuberg,1999 ).

At this point, the next portion of the study began. Researchers set up a four day series of competitions between the groups and promised trophies, medals, and camping knives to the winners. As the competition went on , prejudice began to become apparent between the two groups. At first, this prejudice was only verbally expressed, such as through taunting or name calling. As the competition wore on, this expression took a more direct route. The Eagles burned the The Rattler's flag. Then the next day, the Ratler's ransacked The Eagle's cabin, overturned beds, and stole private property. The groups became so aggressive with each other that the researchers physically separated them (Baron, Byrne 1997; Cialdini, Kenrick, Neuberg,1999).

During a following two day cooling off period, the boys listed characteristics of the two groups. The boys tended to characterize their group in highly favorable terms and the other group in very unfavorable terms. Sherif then attempted to reduce the prejudice between the two groups. Simply increasing the contact of the two groups only made the situation worse. Forcing the groups to work together to reach subordinate goals, or common goals, eased the prejudice and tension among the groups (Baron, Byrne 1997; Cialdini, Kenrick, Neuberg,1999). This experiment confirmed Sherif's realistic conflict theory.

Time Line
1906- Sherif born in Turkey
1927- earns B.A. at the American International College
1929- earns first M.A. at the University of Instanbul
1932- earns second M.A. at Harvard University
1935- earns Ph.D. at Columbia University, earned the Rockerfellow Fellow Award, publishes A Study of Some Social Factors in Perception
1936- publishes The Psychology of Social Norms
1937- Assistant professor of psychology at the Gaza Institute in Turkey
1939- Assistant Professor of Psychology
1944- Spends time in Jail in Turkey for outspoken opposition to the Nazi Movement, becomes professor of Psychology
1945- marries Carolyn Wood, becomes U.S. Department of State Fellow
1947- becomes resident fellow in psychology at Yale, publishes The Psychology of Ego- involvements
1948- publishes An outline of Social Psychology
1949- becomes professor at University of Oklahoma
1951- edits Social Psychology at the Crossroads
1953- edits Group Relations at the Crossroads, publishes Groups in Harmony and Tension
1954- becomes consulting professor in the school of Psychiatry
1955- promoted to director of Institute of Intergroup relations
1957- edits Emerging Problems in Social Psychology
1958- becomes visiting professor to University of Texas
1960- promoted to professor of research, and the Ford Visiting Professor at the University of Washington
1961- publishes Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robber's Cave Experiment and publishes Social Judgment: Assimilation and Contrast Effects in Communication and Attitude Change
1962- edits Intergroup Relations, and Leadership
1963- fellow and council member of APA
1964- publishes Reference groups: An Exploration of Conformity and Deviance of Adolescence and publishes Attitudes and Attitude Change
1965- earns the title of distinguished visiting professor at Pennsylvania State University, publishes Problems of Youth: Transition to Adulthood in A Changing World
1966- becomes professor of sociology, publishes In Common Prediciment
1967- earns the Kurt Lewin Memorial Award, publishes Social Interaction, Process and Products
1968- publishes Reference Scale and Placement of Items with the Own Categories Technique
1969- published Interdisciplinary Relationships in the Social Sciences
1969- publishes Social Psychology
1970- publishes On the Relevence of Social Psychology
1972- title of professor emeritus
1976- publishes Norm Change over Subject Generations as a Function of Arbitrariness of Prescribed Norms
1977- publishes Crisis in Social Psychology: Some Remarks Toward Breaking Through the Crisis
1978- Sherif dies of Heart attack

Bibliography
Baron, R., Byrne, D., (1997). Social Psychology, Eight Edition. Massachusettes: Allyn and Bacon.
Kinsman, C. (ed), (1975). Contemporary Authors-Permeanent Series, v1, p 574. Gale Research Inc.
Koslin, B., Sills, D. (ed), (1979). International Encycloperdia of the Social Sciences, Biographical Supplement, v18, pp 717-719. The Free Press.
Trosky, S. (ed), (1989). Contempoary Authors, v126. Gale Research Inc.
Harvey, OJ., (1989). Muzafer Sherif. American Psychologist, v44, pp 1325-1326.
Cialdini, R., Kenrick, D., Neuberg, S., (1999). Social Psychology Unraveling the Mystery, pp 403-404. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

http://fates.cns.muskingum.edu/~psych/psycweb/history/sherif.htm

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Muzafer Sherif

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 15 Mar 2010, 15:42

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Muzafer Sherif (July 29, 1906, in Odemis, İzmir, Turkey – October 16, 1988, in Fairbanks, Alaska) was one of the founders of social psychology. He helped develop social judgment theory and realistic conflict theory.

An extraordinary social psychologist, Sherif was a founder of modern social psychology, who developed several unique and powerful techniques for understanding social processes, particularly social norms and social conflict. Many of his original contributions to social psychology have been absorbed into the field so fully that his role in the development and discovery has disappeared. Other reformulations of social psychology have taken his contributions for granted, and re-presented his ideas as new.

Sherif received a B.A. at the Izmir International College in Turkey, and later an M.A. at the University of Istanbul. Sherif came to America, earning an M.A. from Harvard University. He enrolled at Columbia University, and in 1935 earned a Ph.D. with Gardner Murphy. His dissertation was titled "Some Social Factors In Perception" and the ideas and research were the basis for his first classic book "The Psychology of Social Norms."

The topic of his dissertation was social influence in perception, and the experiments have come to be known as the "autokinetic effect" experiments. In an otherwise totally dark room, a small dot of light is shown on a wall, and after a few moments, the dot appears to move. This effect is entirely inside-the-head, and results from the complete lack of "frame of reference" for the movement. Three participants enter the dark room, and watch the light. It appears to move, and the participants are asked to estimate how far the dot of light moves. These estimates are made out loud, and with repeated trials, each group of three converges on an estimate. Some groups converged on a high estimate, some low, and some in-between. The critical finding is that groups found their own level, their own "social norm" of perception. This occurred naturally, without discussion or prompting.

When invited back individually a week later and tested alone in the dark room, participants replicated their original groups' estimates. This suggests that the influence of the group was informational rather than coercive; because they continued to perceive individually what they had as members of a group, Sherif concluded that they had internalized their original group's way of seeing the world. Because the phenomenon of the autokinetic effect is entirely a product of a person's own perceptual system, this study is evidence of how the social world pierces the person's skin, and affects the way the understand their own physical and psychological sensations.

Sherif is equally famous for the Robbers Cave Experiments. This series of experiments, begun in Connecticut and concluded in Oklahoma, took boys from intact middle-class families, who were carefully screened to be psychologically normal, delivered them to a summer camp setting (with researchers doubling as counselors) and created social groups that came into conflict with each other. These studies had three phases: (1) Group formation, in which the members of groups got to know each others, social norms developed, leadership and structure emerged, (2) Group conflict, in which the now-formed groups came into contact with each other, competing in games and challenges, and competing for control of territory, and (3) Conflict resolution, where Sherif and colleagues tried various means of reducing the animosity and low-level violence between the groups. It is in the Robbers Cave experiments that Sherif showed that superordinate goals (goals so large that it requires more than one group to achieve the goal) reduced conflict significantly more effectively than other strategies (e.g., communication, contact).

Sherif's academic appointments included Yale University, the University of Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania State University.

Muzafer Sherif married Carolyn Sherif (née Wood), and they collaborated profitably on subsequent projects for many years, on scholarly books (e.g., Sherif & Sherif, 1953) and a still-useful textbook (Sherif & Sherif, 1969).

Sherif died of a heart attack at the age of 82.
[edit] Bibliography

* Batur, S., & Aslıtürk, E. (Eds.) (2007): Muzaffer Şerif'e Armağan: Muzaffer Şerif'ten Muzafer Sherif'e. Istanbul: İletişim. ISBN 9750505331 (Turkish)
* Sherif, M. (1935). A study of some social factors in perception. Archives of Psychology, 27(187) .
* Sherif, M., & Sherif, C. W. (1977): Experimentelle Untersuchungen zum Verhalten in Gruppen. In Koch, J.-J. (Ed.), Sozialer Einfluss und Konformität. (S. 167 – 192). Weinheim und Basel: Beltz Verlag
* Sherif, M., & Sherif, C. W. (1969): Social Psychology (Int. Rev. Ed.). New York: Harper & Row.
* Sherif, M., Harvey, O. J., White, B. J., Hood, W. R., & Sherif, C. W. (1961): Intergroup conflict and cooperation: the Robbers Cave experiment. Norman: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange.
* Sherif, M., White, B. J., & Harvey, O.J. (1955). Status in experimentally produced groups. American Journal of Sociology. 60, S. 370 – 379.
* Sherif, M., & Sherif, C. W. (1953): Groups in harmony and tension. New York: Harper & Row.
* Sherif, M., & Cantril, H. (1946) : The Psychology of Ego-Involvements. New York: Wiley & Sons.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muzafer_Sherif

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The Robbers Cave Experiment Muzafer Sherif et al (1954)

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 15 Mar 2010, 15:39

The Robbers Cave Experiment
Muzafer Sherif et al (1954)
The Robbers Cave experiment on intergroup conflict and co-operation was carried out by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif and others as a part of research program at the University of Oklahoma. This large-scale Intergroup Relations Project was established as an interdisciplinary "psychological" and "sociological" approach to the testing of a number of hypotheses about intergroup relations.

The hypotheses tested were:

(1) When individuals having no established relationships are brought together to interact in group activities with common goals, they produce a group structure with hierarchical statuses and roles within it.

(2) If two in-groups thus formed are brought into functional relationship under conditions of competition and group frustration, attitudes and appropriate hostile actions in relation to the out-group and its members will arise and will be standardized and shared in varying degrees by group members.

The experiment plan called for the selection of 24 boys of about 12 years of age from similar, settled, lower middle-class Protestant backgrounds. These boys moreover were to be well-adjusted psychologically, of normal physical development and in the same year of schooling.

In the event 22 such young persons were selected and were divided by the researchers into two groups with efforts being made to balance the physical, mental and social talents of the groups. They were then, as individual groups, picked up by bus on successive days in the summer of 1954 and transported to a 200 acre Boy Scouts of America camp which was completely surrounded by Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.

At the camp the groups were kept separate from each other and were encouraged to bond as individual groups through the pursuit of goals which had a common appeal value and the achievement of which required co-operative discussion, planning and execution. As expected, in line with the findings of earlier studies, over an initial five or six day "first stage" the two groups of boys tended to individually generate their own acceptance of common membership and their own status hierarchies. One group took spontaneously took unto itself the name of "The Rattlers" and the other similarly adopted the name of "The Eagles."

As each group became distantly aware of the presence of the other group they seemed to become re-inforced in their own sense of being a group and defensive about which of the camp facilities, that they themselves enjoyed, that the others might be "abusing." Both groups tended to insistently ask the camp staff (i.e. the researchers) to arrange some sort of competition against the other. Performance in all activities which might now become competitive (tent pitching, baseball, etc.) was entered into with more zest and also with more efficiency. Efforts to help "all of us" to swim occurred after this and it is possible that even this strictly in-group activity was influenced by the presence of an out-group and a desire to excel it in all ways.

The researches now arranged for their Stage Two where friction between the groups was to be facilitated over 4-6 days. In this phase it was intended to bring the two groups into competition in conditions which would imply some frustration in group relations one against the other. A series of competitive activities was arranged with a trophy (on the basis of accumulated team score) and also individual prizes - that would gladden the heart of most twelve year old boys - (a medal and a multi-bladed pocket knife) - which were to be presented to each of the "winning" group with no consolation prizes being allowed to the "losers."

The Rattlers' reaction to the informal announcement of the series of contests was full confidence in their victory. They spent the day talking about the contests and making improvements on the ball field, which they appropriated as their own to such an extent that they spoke of putting a "Keep Off" sign there. They ended by putting their Rattler flag on the backstop. At this time, several Rattlers made threatening remarks about what they would do if anybody bothered their flag.

The two competing groups were brought together for the first time in the mess hall there was considerable name-calling, razzing back and forth, and singing of derogatory songs by each group in turn. Before supper that evening, some Eagles expressed a desire not to eat with the Rattlers.

Following on from this the groups showed disrespect for each others flags (i.e. each group actually felt moved to burn the others flag) and they also raided each others cabins. After the Eagles, with the discreet connivance of the researchers, won the contest the Rattlers raided again and removed any medals or pocket-knives they could lay their hands on. In the disputations following on from this the Rattlers and the Eagles almost came to blows. The invectives and names which had previously been routinely hurled back and forth ("stinkers, " "braggers, " "sissies, " and many considerably worse) now intensified. Derogation of the out-group was expressed in word and deed (e. g., holding noses when in their vicinity). Now both groups objected even to eating in the same mess hall at the same time.

The researchers now embarked upon Stage Three which they hoped would be an Integration Phase which was intended to dissipate the present contrived state of friction and which was intended to last some 6-7 days.

There were to be a number of improvised, and hopefully reconciliatory, get-to-know-you opportunities such as a bean-collecting contest, or the showing of a film, or the shooting of Firecrackers in association with the fourth of July. In the event this series of reconciliatory opportunities did not lead to any appreciable lessening of tensons between the Eables and the Rattlers. Several such get-to-know-you opportunities had actually ended in food fights.

The researchers concluded that such contrived contact opportunities were not going to promptly secure any meaningful lessening of tensions between the groups. They now arranged for the introduction of a number of scenarios presenting superordinate goals which could not be easily ignored by members of the two antagonistic groups, but the attainment of which is beyond the resources and efforts of one group alone. These scenarios were played out at a new location in the belief that this would tend to inhibit recall of grieviances that had been experienced at Robbers Cave.

The Drinking Water Problem: The first superordinate goal to be introduced pertained to drinking-water at a time when both groups faced the prospect of thirst and became progressively thirstier with the successive steps of activities directed toward solution of the problem.

All of the drinking water in the camp, which is distributed to various parts of the camp (kitchen, latrines, drinking fountains located near cabins and other convenient spots), came from a reservoir on the mountain north of the camp. The water supply had failed and the Camp staff blamed this on "vandals." Upon investigations of the extensive water lines by the Eagles and the Rattlers as separate groups the discovery of a practically full tank turned the attention of both groups to an outlet faucet which was found to have a sack stuffed into it. Almost all the boys gathered around the faucet to try to clear it. Suggestions from members of both groups concerning effective ways to do it were thrown in from all sides simultaneously with actual efforts at the work itself. The work on the faucet lasted over 45 minutes, during the first 30 minutes being the focus of interest for most members of both groups. During this first period, there were continually from 15 to 19 boys standing in a tight bunch watching the work. A few drops of water aroused enthusiasm, but completion of the task was not in view. Interest started lagging toward the end.

When the water finally came through, there was common rejoicing. The Rattlers did not object to having the Eagles get ahead of them when they all got a drink, since the Eagles did not have canteens with them and were thirstier. No protests or "Ladies first" type of remarks were made.

The Problem of Securing a Movie: The next superordinate goal to be introduced was a feature-length movie which has been a favorite for boys of this age level. Two films had been chosen after consulting experts on films and brought to camp along with other stimulus materials. In the afternoon, the boys were called together and the staff suggested the possibility of securing either "Treasure Island" or "Kidnapped": Both groups yelled approval of these films. After some discussion, one Rattler said, "Everyone that wants Treasure Island raise their hands." The majority of members in both groups gave enthusiastic approval to "Treasure Island" even though a few dissensions were expressed to this choice.

Then the staff announced that securing the film would cost $15 and the camp could not pay the whole sum.

After much discussion it was suggested that both groups would pay $3.50 and the camp would pay the balance. This was accepted even though a couple of homesick Eagles had gone home. The contribution per person was unequal but as groups Eagles and Rattlers paid equally.

At supper there were no objections to eating together. Some scuffling and play at sticking chewing gum around occurred between members of the two groups, but it involved fewer boys on both sides than were usually involved in such encounters.

Other superordinate goals included the joint use of a tug-of-war-rope on a partly cut-through dangerous tree and on an apparently stuck-in-a-rut truck that was carrying food for both groups.

In the event the joint pursuit of such superordinate goals, the interactions inevitable in that pursuit, and the joint sharing in their achievement all contributed to the lessening of tensions. At breakfast and lunch the last day of camp, the seating arrangements were considerably mixed up insofar as group membership was concerned.

The majority of the boys agreed by the last day that it would be a good thing to return to Oklahoma City all together on one bus. When they asked if this might be done and received an affirmative answer from the staff, some of them actually cheered. When the bus pulled out, the seating arrangement did not follow group lines.

Just before the bus pulled into the town where a refreshment stop was planned, a "Rattler" inquired if they still had the five dollar reward they had won in the bean toss contest. This inquiry was repeated by others when the boys were at the refreshment stand, and the "Rattler leader" suggested that their five dollars be spent on malts for all the boys in both groups. Several Rattlers nearby agreed; the others approved the idea when asked. This meant that malted milks for all the boys would be paid for with the five dollars contributed by the Rattlers, but that each boy would have to pay for sandwiches and other treats himself.

http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/sherif_robbers_cave_experiment.html

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Not Your Average Summer Camp

Post by ThreeperMan on Mon 15 Mar 2010, 15:37

Not Your Average Summer Camp
Written by Marisa Brook on 03 July 2006

In the summer of 1954, twenty-two fifth-grade boys were taken out to a campground at Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. Admittance had been quite selective. None of the boys knew each other. They were taken to the park in two separate groups of eleven. Ostensibly it was an unremarkable summer camp.

In fact, what the boys were heading to wasn’t that at all. They did have a very normal camp experience, certainly, but what they had really done for two and a half weeks was unwittingly take part in an elaborate and fascinating psychological experiment. Their parents had okayed it: the twenty-two boys of Robbers Cave were actually the basis of social psychologist Muzafer Sherif’s landmark study of group conflict.

There were two parts to Sherif’s hypothesis:
(1) When individuals having no established relationships are brought together to interact in group activities with common goals, they produce a group structure with hierarchical statuses and roles within it.

(2) If two in-groups thus formed are brought into a functional relationship under conditions of competition and group frustration, attitudes and appropriate hostile actions in relation to the out-group and its members will arise and will be standardized and shared in varying degrees by group members.

After conceiving of the experiment and working out the logistics of its program and setting– a Boy Scouts’ campground– Sherif and his colleagues had chosen their campers carefully. To decrease the potential impact of variables (other factors that could prompt hostility), Sherif and his colleagues had looked for boys of similar age and intelligence, all Caucasian and Protestant, all middle-class, none from insecure homes and none known to be troublemakers. They had aimed for a balance of different kinds of mental and physical strengths. It was also very deliberate that the boys had never met before; this was in accordance with the first part of Sherif’s hypothesis. Any preformed alliances would throw off the study.

The aim was to establish immediately a sense of group unity within each group of eleven boys. Taking the two groups to Robbers Cave separately was a major part of this; it also kept the other side wholly unknown. None of the boys were even aware yet that there was a second group. That would only be revealed once a strong sense of group identity had been forged.

Once at the park, the activities continued to encourage the groups to work together. These were typical aspects of camp: preparing food, putting up the tents, etc. They also played sports, went swimming, and performed for each other. This was all very successful – in fact, as the boys bonded each of the two groups chose to give itself a name, which was not an intentional part of the experiment. One became the Eagles, the other the Rattlers. Precisely as Sherif had hypothesized, there came to be a social order very quickly in each group. Clear leaders emerged from both. And, as the boys became vaguely aware that theirs was not the only group, they actually asked to be put into competition with them.

This, of course, was exactly what the psychologists had planned to happen. The two groups were brought together. They would be pitted against each other in a lengthy tournament of sports and other challenges; the winner would be awarded a medal and a pocketknife. The psychologists’ aim was to prompt each team to see the other as an ‘enemy’ of sorts, and test the second part of the hypothesis.

Again, the predictions were confirmed; this is exactly what happened. The boys began calling the other team names almost immediately, while glorifying the members of their own ’side’. They threatened to fight members of the opposing team. The Eagles snuck into the Rattlers’ camp, stole their flag, and burned it. The Rattlers returned the gesture. As this happened, the more aggressive boys became the more popular within their groups. After the Eagles won the competition, the Rattlers invaded their tents and took whatever knives and medals they could find. Although the park had been named for the suspicion that Wild West outlaws Jesse James and Belle Star had once hidden there, “Robbers Cave” was beginning to seem an apt name for the camp.

Then came the most interesting twist: the noncompetitive activities. Both groups were again brought together, just for meals and other such basic settings. The hostility did not die down; the groups remained locked in animosity. So the psychologists tried something a bit more assertive: forcing the boys to all work together in a cooperative effort, to achieve what are called superordinate goals.

They did this in several stages. First, the water supply to the camp was cut off (thereby necessitating as much help to check the pipes as necessary). Then, they were offered a movie that they were told the camp wasn’t quite able to pay for (and each team paid equally). Finally, a broken-down truck was deliberately left on the premises of the camp; nearby one of the organizers had left a tug-of-war rope to see whether any of the boys would suggest using it. Sure enough, one of them did – and all the boys, Eagle and Rattler alike, pulled on the rope together to help get the truck started again.

The changes after this point were striking indeed. The exchange of insults abruptly ended, for the most part. Neither side seemed to bear much of a grudge for the earlier thefts and enmity. Several pairs of boys from opposite teams made friends. But it didn’t stop there; at the end of the two and a half weeks, the campers insisted that the camp leaders allow them all to travel home on the same bus, instead of the divided way in which they had arrived. On this bus, they did not sit according to their earlier groups. Furthermore, at one point the bus stopped at a café. The Rattlers, who had won money in a contest during the ‘competitive’ stage, spent their money not only on themselves but on the Eagles as well.

Overall, the experiment was seen as a success. Not only had both aspects of Sherif’s hypothesis been verified, but several further conclusions had been reached. One was the observation that removing the boys from the competitive settings was not enough to reverse intergroup hostility. Another was that major differences in background are not necessary for conflict to emerge.

The Robbers Cave experiment has been somewhat criticized more recently. Some psychologists point out that such conflicts between groups depends on a high degree of group identity and loyalty. Others argue that if the two groups had failed to achieve the superordinate goals, the groups would have blamed each other, thus exacerbating the conflict instead of relieving it. Still more say that the experiment has little real-world applicability due to there being so many more variables involved in real conflicts – on the worldwide scale, for example. However, through their intricate planning, Sherif and his colleagues had laid the groundwork for what would come to be known as the realistic group conflict theory, which has come to be invaluable in psychology, sociology, and economics. Also, as a nice side-effect, they had given twenty-two boys from Oklahoma City quite a few new friends.

http://www.damninteresting.com/not-your-average-summer-camp

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