Aim: To study the origin of prejudice arising from the formation of social groups
Sherif carried out research into groups, leadership and the effect groups had on attitudes and behaviour. The Robbers Cave Study built upon his previous work. He thought that social behaviour could not be studied properly by looking at individuals in isolation. He recognised how social organisation differs between cultures and affects group practices, so he claimed that groups have to be understood as part of a social structure. The Robbers Cave Study used two groups of young boys to find: how the groups developed; if and how conflict between the groups arose; and how to reduce any such friction. Three terms defined according to Sherif are:
small group - individuals share a common goal that fosters interaction; individuals are affected differently by being in a group; an in-group develops with its own hierarchy and a set of norms is standardised norm - a product of group interaction that regulates member behaviour in terms of expected or ideal behaviour group - a social unit with a number of individuals who are interdependent and have a set of norms and values for self regulation; individuals have roles within the unit
22 young boys, aged 11, who did not know each other prior to the study. All from Protestant Oklahoma families to eliminate family problems and match the kids as much as possible. They were also matched based on a rating, including their IQ, from their teachers and were finally reassessed and matched , including issues such as sporting ability, before the experiment began. A nominal fee was charged for the children to attend the camp and they were not informed that they were being used for a piece of research in order to obtain “true” results
The experiment is called the Robbers Cave Study because it took place in a camp at Robbers Cave State Park, Oklahoma. The location was a 200-acre Boy Scouts of America camp completely surrounded by the State Park. The site was isolated and keeping the two groups apart (at first) was easy because of the layout of the site, as shown in the diagram
There was a wide range of data collection methods:
observer – participant observer allocated to each group for 12 hours a day sociometric analysis – issues such as friendship patterns were noted and studied experiment – boys had to collect beans and estimate how many each boy had collected tape recordings – words and phrases used to describe their own group were studied The observers were trained not to influence the boys’ decisions but to help them once a decision was reached
Three Stage Experiment
The two groups were formed and set up norms and hierarchies (to see how they became in-groups) The two groups were introduced and competition was set up, as a tournament (to test for friction, name-calling and hostility to the out-group) The two groups were set goals that they needed each other to achieve Stage 1: in-group formation
The two groups were kept apart for one week to help the formation of group norms and relations. They had to work as a group to achieve common goals that required cooperation. Data was gathered by observation, including rating of emerging relationships, sociometric measures and experimental judgements. Status positions and roles in the groups were studied. There is much detail about how hierarchies within each group developed. The measurements were thought to be both valid and reliable because different data collection methods produced similar results. For example, in the bean-collecting task, the boys tended to overestimate the number of beans their own group members had collected and underestimate the number collected by the other group (the number of beans was actually the same).
Stage 2: inter-group relations, the friction phase
After the first week, the two groups were told about one another and a tournament was set up with competitive...