Cave Robbers Experiment-Muzafer Sherif


Taylor & Sasha

What was the purpose?

 Muzafer and his wife, Carolyn, conducted a study on the origin of prejudice.

 The experiment focused heavily on the concept of a ‘group’ and what a perception of belonging to a group can actually do to the relationships of members within it and their relationships with people outside their group.

Who was involved?

 Muzafer Sherif and Carolyn Sherifpsychologists that came up with the experiment.

 22 boys between the ages of 11 and 12.

 Researchers were disguised as camp leaders.

What happened in this experiment?

There were 3 phases of this experiment.

1. In-Group Formation

2. Friction Phase

3. Integration Phase.

Phase 1. (In-group Formation)

Twenty-two eleven year-old boys of middle-class socioeconomic standing, and who are not school or social failures and who have similar educational level.

These boys were taken into a summer camp in Robbers Cave

State Park in Oklahoma where they were divided into two groups of eleven.

The two groups created national flags creating a sense of belonging. They also bonded with each other and created group names.

The groups must not be aware of the existence of the other group

If the groups had met before, it would alter the results because they would likely be less hostile towards the other group later on in the experiment.

Phase 2. Friction Phase

During this phase, the two groups were allowed to find out about the existence of the other group.

Teams were forced to compete against each other in a number of camp activities. Such as, canoeing, camp fire building, and wood chopping, etc.

The winning team, scoring the highest overall number of points, won a trophy.

Greatly increased the antagonism between the two groups.

Later on, name calling and fighting started and the singing of offending songs were also observed.

After refusal of being in the same room, the researchers decided to end the second phase before further outbursts occurred.

Phase 3-

Integration Phase.

This stage constitutes the most crucial and significant aspect of the study.

The researchers forced groups together to cooperate and achieve a common goal.

Both groups were taken to a new location and were told to fix their drinking water supply which had been damaged by


The two teams worked together because a water supply shortage affected both groups immensely.

The second activity the boys were told to watch a movie together. They successfully agreed upon one, and later ate dinner together without dispute.

What was discovered?

During the first phase, the researchers discovered that when you place a group of strangers together, they take on specific roles within the group. Such as leaders, followers, etc. They bond together and become close friends (like a family).

Second Phase- because of the bonding in group one, they had a sense of pride towards that team. When forced to fight against each other they found themselves in a battle. Each group believed their group was superior in all aspects.

Third Phase- When two conflicting groups are brought together to achieve a goal that can only be accomplished by both groups working together. They work together flawlessly.

How did this change psychology?

 Realistic conflict theory - intergroup conflicts arise between groups as they compete over the same limited resources. Thought to cause discrimination and prejudices in society

 Sports Therapy