Robbers Cave Experiment

Topics: Muzafer Sherif, Realistic conflict theory, Theory Pages: 6 (956 words) Published: April 12, 2015

Robbers Cave Experiment
Jamie Allen
Drake University


Robbers Cave experiment was completed by Muzafer Sherif in order to question whether groups are able to work together for a common goal for the whole group. Muzafer showed us through 3 stages a) In group formation b) Friction phase c) integration stage. This experiment was made up of 22 Caucasian middle class boys who shared similar backgrounds coming from a two parent home and protestant background. The boys were complete strangers to one another. Through the experiments exercised you will see the outcome of different variables added to covey the studies purpose.

Theory Experiment
The Robbers Cave experiment focused on a group of boys, how the groups are formed, and the hierarchies created within the group. Robbers cave also focused on what happens when the group comes into contact with other groups. The experiment added competition within in the group to discover a level of hierarchies in the group. Also the group conveyed a level of comradely within the group. The experiment divided the boys into 2 groups, in the beginning neither group knew the other group existed. The theory introduced the ideal of how groups deal with integration of another group with common goals.

The In- group formation phase was used for the group to begin the bonding stage. The bonding between the boy’s help create an interrelation to one another. The group was also asked to label their group. Labeling helped the boy’s create an identity to help identify themselves with the group. The second phase is described as the Friction phase, at this point each group was able to acknowledge each group existed. During this time each group would engage in a series of competition that created a friction. There were prizes given to the group with the highest scores. This also led to the hierarches between the groups. The competition lasted for several days to build up a degree of frustration amongst the two groups. Due to the friction caused by the competitive sports this created the antagonizing atmosphere between the two groups. (Green) Entering into the third phase of the study the boys were all taken to a common area they would share together. The 3rd phase Integration was designed to create cooperation amongst the two groups (Green). There was a series of scenarios designed for the groups to accomplish together. The first experiment was for the group to figure out a way to fix the water supply problem that was vandalized. The group together was able to fix the problem. This also helped create interdependence on each other as a whole. The second experiment was for the boys to agree on a movie that they would watch during dinner. The boys were able to decide on a movie and were able to eat in the same common area. The theory was able to explain the concept of what will happen between groups when certain variables take place. It also was able to show that when things of common interest are at the fore front of issues that can affect all parties, they were able to come to a solution. The Robbers cave also exposed the simplicity of how groups interact within a group and when another is introduced. This is similar to the way cultures engage with one another. Looking at real life situations Robbers Cave can be used as a platform for understanding group relations towards each other. Using the example of a practicing therapist, who is leading a group of high school teenagers during a group therapy session. Robbers cave can be used for the therapist to see how groups can are formed within a group. The leading example would be some of the group’s members are teasing a few of the other group members because of their social economic back grounds. The therapist would begin to identify the variable that divides the group. Although Robbers cave participants came from similar back grounds, the group of teenagers also has similar...

References: [3] (Jun 25, 2010). Sherif’s Robbers Cave Experiment. Retrieved Mar 10, 2014 from [4]
Green, C. D. (n.d.). Intergroup conflict and cooperation: The robbers cave experiment. Retrieved from
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