Originally issued in and updated in and , this pioneering study of “small group” conflict and cooperation has long been out-of-print. It is now. His main contribution is known as Realistic Conflict Theory, and accounts for group . Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The Robbers Cave experiment (Vol. Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment by Muzafer Sherif, O.J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, and Carolyn W. Sherif.

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The Rattlers’ reaction to the informal announcement of a series of contests was absolute confidence in their victory! Observed behavior can interhroup adequately understood and evaluated only when studied within its appropriate frame of reference or system of relations. The experimental situation chosen for the study of norm formation was the autokinetic situation the apparent movement of a point of light in a light-proof room lacking visible anchorages.

It was postulated that since estimates of future performance are one special case of judgmental activity in which motivational factors are operative, the nature of relations between individuals positive or negative will be a factor in determining variations in the direction of these estimates. At this point, longitudinal research will bring more concreteness to the process of norm formation.

The dimension chosen was the extent of movement. It is possible, however, that this convergence may be due to immediate social pressure to adjust to the judgments spoken aloud by the other participants in the situation.

During this time, the boys bonded with the other boys in their group. Judgmental indices reflecting developing in-group and intergroup relations are to tge obtained through laboratory-type techniques at choice points in a way that does not clutter the flow of interaction process.

Harvey investigated relations between existing informally organized groups and their effects on in-group functioning and on evaluations of the in-group and out-group. As sociologists will readily recognize, testing of these hypotheses is not so much concerned with the expefiment of new facts as getting a clearer picture of the formative process under experimentally controlled conditions.

It is possible, therefore, fxperiment set up situations in which the appraisal or evaluation of a social situation will be reflected in the judgments and perceptions of the individual. These are among the considerations which led us to an intensive study of ego-involvements, and to experimental units tapping ego-involvements in interpersonal relations and among members occupying differing positions in the status hierarchy of a group.

The experimenters took two groups of and year-old boys the kids gave themselves the group names the “Rattlers” and the “Eagles” to what they thought was a summer camp. For example, one group was delayed getting to a picnic and when they arrived the other group had eaten their food. Performance in bowling became a sign of distinction in the group.


The external factors are stimulus situations outside of the individual objects, persons, groups, events, etc.

This approach, which considers the behavior of individuals as an outcome of interaction processes into which factors [p.

The influences responsible for the increased preoccupation with small groups spring both from developments within various academic disciplines and from agencies instituted for devising practical solutions for immediate application.

Interaction is not made a separate item in these minimum features because interaction is the sine qua non of any kind of social relationships, whether interpersonal or group. In order to do so, the stimulus situation had to be made as unstructured as possible so that the developing status relations would be the weighty factor in determining the direction of judgmental variations.

The Robbers Cave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation

After the group range and norm are established, an individual participant facing the same situation alone makes his judgments preponderantly in terms of the range and norm that he brings from the group situation. The groups became so aggressive with each other that the researchers had to physically separate them. All activities introduced embodied a common goal with appeal value to allthe attainment of which necessitated cooperative participation within the group.

In the recurrent findings reported in this line of research, which was carried out over a period of a good many years, one cannot help finding crucial leads for a realistic approach to experimentation in this area. Since Lewin’s experiments in the ‘s comparing lecture and group discussion methods in changing attitudes, various studies have shown that in the American setting skillfully conducted group discussion in which members participate is more effective than lecture presentation of the same material.

In line with methodological concerns mentioned earlier in the chapter, the experimental situation was introduced to each group by a member of the staff with the proposal that they might like to get a little practice for the softball game scheduled later that day. Facts obtained concerning the group setting are in terms of concepts and units at the social or cultural level of analysis.

Allport’s experiments which started around are illustrative of this point. They were then, as individual groups, picked up by bus on successive days in the summer of and transported to a acre Boy Scouts of America camp in the Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. Judgments and perceptions are not merely intellectual and discrete psychological events.

The boys tended to characterize their own in-group in very favorable terms, and the other out-group in very unfavorable terms. When individuals face such an unstructured stimulus situation they show marked variations in reaction. A few years later Kurt Lewin and his associates demonstrated the weighty determination of individual behavior by the properties of group atmosphere.

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The actual presence of another person who makes judgments within a range prescribed by the experimenter is not essential. If, on the other hand, the external field is vague, unstructured, in short, allows for alternatives — to that extent the relative weight of internal factors motives, attitudes and social [p.

This finding has important theoretical implications. If we are working on a sociological or cultural level, our concepts are in terms of social organization, institutions, value systems, language, kinship systems, art forms, technology, etc.

The Robbers Cave Experiment: Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation – Muzafer Sherif – Google Books

In line with the hypothesis, it was found that individuals tended to overestimate the performance of subjects with whom they had close positive ties and correspondingly to underestimate the future performance of those with whom they had an antagonistic relationship. For the first week stage 1the two groups of boys were separated and did not know about each other.

Another of the major instigators of the extraordinary volume of small group research stems from the practical concern of business and military agencies. These findings have been substantiated in a number of studies. During one period, a Street Corner clique that Whyte observed was engaged seriously in bowling. After thus delineating the problem, the next step was to devise an experimental situation which lacked objective anchorages or standards i. Social norms and the individual.

Of the two groups, skill seemed to be of relatively greater importance in the group which achieved less stability and solidarity. Checking and cross-checking findings obtained at one level against those obtained at another level on the same topic will make interdisciplinary cooperation the integrative meeting ground that it should [p. In a recent experiment Rohrer, Baron, Hoffman, and Swander found that social norms established in the autokinetic situation revealed a rather high degree of stability even after a lapse of one year.

Sherif summarized in M. Prior to the experiment, subjects were interviewed and given selected tests administered by a clinical psychologist. However, it required carrying through a stage of in-group formation, to a stage of experimentally produced intergroup tension, and finally to integration of in-groups.

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