Inside Robbers Cave

Radio Feb 2013

Imagine taking 22 boys into the wild and pitting them against one another in a series of war games. It might sound like ‘Lord of the Flies’ but in fact it’s one of social psychology’s more famous experiments.

In 1954 Turkish-American psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought two boys to the remote Robbers Cave state park in rural Oklahoma where they competed in a series of competitive contests aiming at fanning hostility and conflict.

What the boys didn’t know and were never told, was that their behaviour over the next three weeks would be studied, analysed, discussed and used in theories about war, inter racial conflict and prejudice for generations to come.

Sixty years later, Sherif’s experiment is still cited in psychology textbooks today.

But what about Sherif’s less well known, ‘failed’ versions of the experiment? And what of the boys? What did they make of that summer camp 60 years ago?

Gina Perry takes a road trip, interviews participants and uses archival recordings and interviews with the participants to take you to the heart of one of social psychology’s most famous experiments.

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