The Robbers Cave study was a famous psychology experiment conducted by Muzafer Sherif and his colleagues in the 1950s. It investigated how conflict and cooperation develop between groups of boys at a summer camp.

  • The study involved 22 boys who were randomly divided into two groups: the Eagles and the Rattlers. They were unaware of the other group’s existence at first.
  • The researchers observed how the groups formed their own identities, norms, and hierarchies through various activities.
  • The researchers then introduced a series of competitive tasks between the groups, such as baseball and tug-of-war, with prizes for the winners. This led to hostility, aggression, and prejudice between the groups.
  • The researchers then tried to reduce the conflict by introducing cooperative tasks that required the groups to work together for a common goal, such as fixing a water tank or pulling a truck. This led to increased positive contact, communication, and friendship between the groups.
  • The study demonstrated the role of realistic conflict theory, which states that intergroup conflict arises when groups compete for limited resources. It also supported the contact hypothesis, which states that intergroup contact can reduce prejudice under certain conditions, such as equal status, common goals, and intergroup cooperation.

superordinate goals are goals that transcend interests of a single group and that which can be attained only if the groups work together