Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 3:

Okay today we will be looking at the Robbers Cave Experiment conducted in 1954 by Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif. In this study the researchers were looking at prejudice in social groups. This study was conducted in a 200 acres summer camp surrounded by the Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. In this study 24 twelve-year-old boys with similar backgrounds. There were two buses with twelve boys in each and they were taken to two separate areas in the camp. There were 3 phases: In-group formation, Friction phase, and an integration phase.

None of the boys knew each other previously yet hostilities towards the other group were observed within days of first contact. The friction phase commenced but ended quickly because the boys became too hostile with each other and so the researchers believed they were unsafe to continue so phase three commenced. After phase three the groups worked together and wanted to be friends to the extent that they all insisted on riding home together on the same bus.

If any of you have seen "Lord of the Flies" you have seen this experiment in movie form. It is the idea that in-group hierarchy takes place as well as out-of-group hierarchy. In realistic conflict theory this means that inter-group conflict arises between groups as they compete over the same limited resources. They suggest that this could be a possible cause of prejudice and discrimination.

So this is a little broader than just our characters but also includes the societies that our characters live in. What is the hierarchy of our societies? Where do our characters fit into this hierarchy? How does it affect them? Does our character fit into the mold or are they breaking the mold? If they are breaking it why, what is their motivation?
I hope you are all enjoying these fascinating experiments as much as I am :) Yes I know they are unethical but still fascinating.


  1. Oh, so good. It's true that we all play a part in the hierarchy of society. It makes sense that we must analyze which roles our characters play, and if we can, subtly introduce conflict because of their positions. The Lord of the Flies is one of my top five books. Great comparison.

  2. love the lord of the flies...def some interesting interplay through this me there is tension in one that fights agaist that heirarchy that creates some interesting textures to a character...

  3. I came across this behaviour at school, There were "Four House's" each had a different colour and we were put into different groups, If we did a good piece of work or behaved well we would get a good point and likewise a bad point if the other way around . Each month the school assembled to see which "House" did the best. I thought it odd as each child was as good or bad as each other yet we were "graded".
    I believe this goes on into adult life , it's sad that this starts when so young.


  4. How interesting. This goes perfectly with a writing project that I've worked on in the past. I think another good example of this is James Dashner's books Maze Runner and Scorch Trials. The gladers in the book go through these cycles and I never thought about it before.

  5. How crazy! There are def. hierarchies. This was always evident when new kids would move in. There were some that jumped right in to the popular group and there were those who didn't. Everyone knew their place.

  6. Breaking the mold is something important to most of my characters. Few of my main protagonists support or truly believe in the hierarchies of their societies.

    Great post!

  7. another point to make, or question that should arise, here is, who participates in "group think" and who does not.


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