A recent episode of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Science Friction series explores psychologists Muzafer and Carolyn Wood Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment and earlier iterations of this now infamous study. Notably, the episode features interviews with several participants from the experiments. Listen to the full “Lost Boys” episode here.
A new book from Gina Perry on the classic Robbers Cave study is forthcoming from Scribe. The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment is described as follows:
In 1954, a group of boys attended a remote summer camp where they were split into two groups, and encouraged to bully, harass, and demonise each other. The results would make history as one of social psychology’s classic — and most controversial — studies: the Robbers Cave experiment.
Conducted at the height of the Cold War, the experiment officially had a happy ending: the boys reconciled, and psychologist Muzafer Sherif demonstrated that while hatred and violence are powerful forces, so too are cooperation and harmony. Today it is proffered as proof that under the right conditions warring groups can make peace. Yet the true story of the experiments is far more complex, and more chilling.
In The Lost Boys, Gina Perry explores the experiment and its consequences, tracing the story of Sherif, a troubled outsider who struggled to craft an experiment that would vanquish his personal demons. Drawing on archival material and new interviews, Perry pieces together a story of drama, mutiny, and intrigue that has never been told before.
In the summer of 1954, a bus pulled into Robbers Cave State Park in the mountains of rural Oklahoma. The dozen 11-year-old boys on board, all of them strangers to each other, craned to catch a glimpse through the dusty windows of what for most of them was their first summer camp. For a week they explored the park, swam in a creek, and hiked in and around mountain caves. They didn’t know that a couple of days later, a second group arrived, also believing they had the park to themselves.
Social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his team, disguised as camp counsellors, watched each group bond and form its own identity. The two groups named themselves the Rattlers and the Eagles, each with flag, anthem, dress code, leaders and followers, as well as shared rules and standards. “They staked out their territory,” Sherif’s research assistant, O.J. Harvey, told me. “Everything was ‘our’ – ‘our hideout’, ‘our creek’.”
The full article can be found (behind a pay-wall) here.
The Cummings Center for the History of Psychology has released the third episode of its 5 Minute History Lesson series. This latest episode explores the Robbers Cave experiment undertaken by Muzafer and Carolyn Wood Sherif. The full episode is embedded above and available on the Cummings Center’s YouTube channel, along with other episodes in the series.
The November 2014 issue of the British Psychological Society‘s The Psychologist magazine celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Robbers Cave study. A number of articles in the issue explore the legacy of the Robbers Cave study and the life and work of Muzafer Sherif more generally. Full details are available on The Psychologist‘s website. (For more on Robbers Cave see our previous posts on the study.)
Updated: Full articles in the issue can be read online, just create an account and sign-in on the BPS The Psychologist site.