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Robbers Cave Experiment

Robbers Cave Experiment is a psychological experiment on social groups carried out in 1954 by Muzafer Sherif [1]. 20 adolescent boys were driven to a state park, divided into 2 groups, and observed by scientist for three weeks. In addition to merely observing group dynamics, the experimenters started manipulating the groups:

  1. They stimulated mutual resentments by team sport competitions, and observed hatred and retaliation to evolve.
  2. They stimulated mutual help by presenting challenges that only both group together can solve, and observed cooperation and understanding to evolve

Fine writes in a book review that was published 2004 [2]:

"

... the idea of the group has decayed since its prominence in the heyday of group dynamics research during the 1950s.

"

From the fauceir analysis point of view two questions arise:

  1. Why did group psychology almost vanished from psychological science.
  2. Why it appeared in the 1950s?

The latter can be probably answered easily. After world war two and especially after the holocaust, people looked for answers why a society so sophisticated as Germany developed into such a monster.

If so the answer of the first question may be that group psychology provided some answers which were both not sufficient and startling. The scientific community, in a way that also can be readily explained by social identity and group dynamics, decided to abandon this subject. They probably feared consequences:

  1. to provide even better tools to manipulate social groups into monsters.
  2. to detect ones own incapabilities and insufficiencies to judge rationally
  3. to get grants cut for challenging dominating ideologies

Tags: Adaptation Anthropology Psychology Society Sociology


Categories: Psychology Sociology

 
   

(c) Mato Nagel, Weißwasser 2004-2013, Disclaimer