A classic experiment known as ‘Robbers’ Cave Experiment’ was conducted in the 1950s by Mazafer Sherif to understand the reason of the cooperation and conflict between different social groups. In the experiment, 22 eleven year old boys were randomly divided into two groups of eleven each. They were taken to Robbers’ Cave State Park in Oklahoma for a summer camp. The groups were named Eagles and Rattlers. These two groups spent a week apart, not knowing the existence of the other group. During this one- week period, each group had lots of fun as they played together. Gradually, the group members developed intimacy and bonding with each other.
After a week, these two groups were finally integrated. The researchers found to their surprise that each group had developed an independent identity within this short period, and were verbally abusing the other group and calling them names. When the researchers resorted to competition between the two groups, the enmity increased many-fold. They even refused to eat in the same room.
Thereafter, in the next phase of the experiment, Sheriff designed activities in which both groups had to play together, solve a problem together and shoot firecrackers. Gradually the two groups reconciled. Finally, they became friends and the boys decided to ride the same bus home.
The experiment established the role of the conditioning of mind when we live together for a long time.
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