Gina Perry, author of Beyond the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments, has a new project that looks at the Sherif’s Robber’s Cave experiment. Perry has just produced an episode for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Radio National’s show Hindsight on this famous psychological study of group relations. The program features interviews with some of the boys who participated in the experiment and audio recorded as part of the study, as well as interviews with historians of psychology David Baker, of the Center for the History of Psychology, and Hank Stam, of the University of Calgary. As described on the program’s website,
In 1954 at a small national park in rural Oklahoma, Turkish-American psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought two groups of 11-year-old boys to a summer camp. The boys, from Oklahoma city, arrived at the camp excited at the prospect of three weeks outdoors. What they didn’t know and what they were never told was that their behaviour over the next three weeks would be studied, analysed, discussed and used in theories about war, interracial conflict and prejudice for generations to come.
Almost 60 years since it was conducted, it’s still cited in psychology textbooks today. But what’s less well known is that the Robbers Cave was Sherif’s third attempt to generate peace between warring groups. The earlier studies were the 1949 ‘Happy Valley Camp’ study in Connecticut, and the second was his 1953 ‘Camp Talualac’ study.
‘Inside the Robbers Cave’ tells the story of two of the three studies. Producer Gina Perry’s research unearths a tale of drama, failure, mutiny and intrigue that has been overlooked in official accounts of Sherif’s research.
The program features original archival audio from recordings made during 1953 and 1954.
The program Inside Robbers Cave can be heard online here. Perry also discusses her research for the project on her blog here.