Sherif et al - Robber's Cave Experiment

  • Created by: TessBlyth
  • Created on: 19-10-20 11:59


to see if prejudice could be caused by the formation of social groups, competition for resources and to see if prejudice could be reduced by introducing superordinate goals.

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  • Took place in a camp at Robber's Cave State Park, Oklahoma
  • Participants were 22 young males from Oklahoma, aged 11 and who did not know each other prior to the study. 
  • They were matched into two groups based on their IQ. teacher's ratings of their behaviour and sporting ability. 
  • Boys were kept unaware that they were participating in research.
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Stage 1: In-group formation:

the two groups were kept apart for a week to help them form relationships and establish group norms. They had to work together to achieve common goals.

Stage 2: Friction Phase:

In the second week, the two groups were made aware of each other's existence and a tournament was set up where the two groups had to compete in activities such as tug of war. Points were awarded and rewards were given to those with the most.

Stage 3: Integration Phase:

Superordinate goals were introduced to see if prejudice could be reduced between the two groups. These included fixing the water tank, fixing a broken-down truck and pooling resources together to watch a film. 

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Stage 1:

  • Boys had given their group names and a group leader and status positions were in place by end of week 1.

Stage 2:

  • Name calling when first met
  • Rattlers were excited and discussed issues such as protecting their flag and saying "they had better not swim in our swimming hole"
  • Eagles were less excited but made comment such as "we will beat them" and burnt the Rattlers flag.
  • Prejudice and discrimination was openly displayed.

Stage 3:

  • Initial hostility e.g. "ladies first" to out-group members
  • Prejudice and discrimination subsided due to working together on superordinate goals
  • Friendship groups changed between stages 2 and 3.
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Competition between the groups led to in-group solidarity and inter-group hostility. Contact between groups was not enough to reduce hostility. Instead, groups needed to share responsibility and agree how to solve a common problem for friction to be reduced. 

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