The Oklahoma focused This Land Press has published a online piece about the Robbers Cave experiment. “A Week with the Boys” details the work of social psychologists, and husband and wife, Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif who studied in-group formation and behavior in a group of boys in the 1950s. As the article describes,
With grant funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Sherifs had reserved an isolated Boy Scout campground….It was an ideal location for the Sherifs’ research. They could study small groups in situations that were carefully manipulated, yet more realistic than a psychology lab. The eleven and twelve-year-old boys picked for the camp were carefully selected to have similar race, religion, class, and family backgrounds, so there would be no major reasons for conflict besides those introduced by the experimenters. They brought only one boy from each school so that none would know any of the others beforehand. With a homogenous group of young boys in an isolated environment, they hoped to exclude the variables of race, class, and history to uncover a more pure example of human conflict. The psychologists went to great lengths to keep the boys from knowing they were in an experiment. (Research ethics were less strict at the time.) The Sherifs and their assistants posed as ordinary camp staff, and they took down notes only when the children were not present. Hidden tape recorders were scattered throughout the campgrounds, and when the kids first arrived, staff members acted like shutter bugs, conspicuously taking pictures of everything they saw, so this would not attract attention later. Muzafer himself played the role of the camp janitor.
You can read the full piece online here.
via the Center for the History of Psychology Facebook page.