Realistic Conflict Theory Of Sherif's Robber Cave Experiment

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Sherif’s Robber Cave Experiment Muzafer Sherif is a well known social psychologist whom made valuable contributions to the psychological field in the understanding of groups and its members, with his main contribution being that of research which supports Realistic Conflict Theory. Realistic Conflict Theory describes and accounts for negative prejudices, group conflict and stereotypes as a result of competition between groups for desired and limited resources. This theory was validated by Sherif in his famous 1950’s experiment, “The Robbers Cave” (Baron & Branscombe, 2013). Sherif argued that intergroup conflict, or, conflict between two groups, can occur when two or more groups find themselves in competition for limited and desired resources (Sherif, Harvey, White, Hood & Sherif, 1988). The experiment itself was a field experiment consisting of two groups of 11 twelve-year-old boys at Robber’s Cave State Park in the United States. The twenty-two boys were all unknown to each other and all of whom were from white, middle class backgrounds with the same cultural and religious backgrounds. Both groups were randomly assigned and made unaware of each other’s existence until later into the experiment. During the first stage of the experiment, otherwise known as the “In-group Formation” these two groups were kept separate from one another and were encouraged to develop a sense of unity and cohesion with examples such as each group identifying their own swimming area, hideouts
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