Tag Archives: Carolyn Sherif

Inside Robbers Cave on ABC Radio

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.

Robbers Cave Exp.: A Week with the Boys

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.