Robbers Cave Study into groups – Muzafer Sherif (July 29, 1906 – October 16, 1988), was a Turkish-American social psychologist. He carried out a study in the 1950s which was an intergroup study, looking at what causes groups to change their behaviours when they come into contact with each other. The study explores Sherif’s theory of Realistic Conflict, looking at what happens when groups are forced to compete or cooperate. Crucial to this theory is the idea that we divide people we meet into two groups – the “ingroup” members with whom we share values and goals and the “outgroup” members with whom we feel we are in competition.What – The field experiment involved two groups of twelve-year-old boys at Robber’s Cave State Park, Oklahoma, America. The twenty-two boys in the study did not know each other prior to this study and all were from white middle-class backgrounds.
They had similar backgrounds – Protestant and living in two-parent households. When the boys arrived at the camp they were split into two groups. Neither group knew of the other and the goal for the first week was for the groups to develop bonds and friendships by doing various activities together. One group adopted the name of “The Rattlers” and the other adopted the name of “The Eagles.” The second phase was where competition was introduced within the groups to create frustration and tension. This took place over 4-6 days. At first, the tension was seen through verbal expressions but as the competition progressed, this expression took a more direct route.
One group burned the other’s flag; the next day, the group ransacked the other team’s cabin in retaliation, overturned beds and stole private property. It was necessary for the researchers to physically separate both groups as they became so aggressive with each other. These boys were well educated and came from caring families.
This study clearly shows how conflict between groups can trigger prejudiced attitudes and inevitably cause tensions to rise between them. This experiment confirmed Sherif’s Realistic Conflict Theory.Results – although the results are biased as Sherif only used white male adolescents, his theory still stands correct.The Shock Box – One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. An experiment was conducted which focused on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. Milgram was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. What – Volunteers were recruited for a lab experiment investigating ‘learning’.
Participants were 40 males, aged between 20 and 50, whose jobs ranged from unskilled to professional. At the beginning of the experiment, they were introduced to another participant, who was a confederate of the experimenter (Milgram). The experiment took place in Yale Interaction Laboratory where two rooms were used – one for the teacher and experimenter with an electric shock generator and the other for the learner (with an electric chair). The ‘learner’ was strapped to a chair with electrodes. The ‘learner’ was asked to learn a list of word pairs.
The ‘teacher’ tested the ‘learner’ by naming a word and the ‘learner’ is asked to recall its pair from a list of four possible choices. The’ teacher’ was instructed to administer an electric shock each time the ‘learner’ made a mistake, with the level of shock increasing each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator and these were marked from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 volts (danger – severe shock).
The ‘learner’ gave mainly wrong answers, on purpose, and for each of these, the ‘teacher’ gave him an electric shock. When the ‘teacher’ refused to administer a shock, the experimenter was to give a series of orders/prods to ensure they continued. There were four orders and if one was not obeyed, then the experimenter read out the next one, and so on. · Prod 1: Please continue.· Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue.· Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.· Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue. Results – 65% of participants continued to the highest level of 450 volts.
All the participants continued to 300 volts. Milgram carried out 18 variations of his study. He altered the situation to see how this affected obedience. He concluded that ordinary people are likely to follow orders, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being, once they are given by someone in authority. This obedience to authority is ingrained in us all and is as a result of how each of us is brought up.
Harlow’s monkeys – Harry Frederick Harlow (October 31, 1905, to December 6, 1981) was an American psychologist. He conducted a number of experiments to investigate the factors influencing the development of attachment by infant rhesus monkeys to their mothers (1958). He was also interested in the role of breastfeeding in an infant-mother attachment.
Harlow’s research entered areas that were questionable at best, and often unethical. What – Harry Harlow did a number of studies on attachment in rhesus monkeys during the 1950’s and 1960’s. His experiments took several forms.
He wanted to find out whether the provision of food or contact is more important in the formation of infant-mother attachment. Harlow wanted to study the mechanisms by which new-born rhesus monkeys bond with their mothers. These infants were highly dependent on their mothers for comfort, protection, nutrition and socialization. What, exactly, though, was the basis of the bond? The behavioural theory of attachment would suggest that an infant would form an attachment with a carer that provides food. In contrast, Harlow’s explanation was that attachment develops as a result of the mother providing “tactile comfort,” suggesting that infants have an innate (biological) need to touch and cling to something for emotional comfort. Harlow’s Experiments – participants and procedure:· 8 infant rhesus monkeys were separated from their mothers at birth and individually reared in cages· Each cage contained two surrogate mothers.
· Surrogate mothers were made of wire mesh and roughly the same shape and size as real monkey mothers.· One surrogate mother left uncovered and one covered in terry-towelling cloth. · There was a feeding bottle attached to one of the surrogate mothers. This was in the same area where a breast would be for a ‘real’ mother. · Half of the animals were in cages with feeding bottle on the cloth surrogate and the other half were in cages with the feeding bottle on the wire surrogate.· Harlow created a stressful condition to test whether the monkeys had a preference for the cloth surrogate. This involved various frightening objects being placed repeatedly in the monkey’s cages.
Results – Harlow’s research into infant intimacy displayed the damaging effects of not receiving the correct paternal love as an infant. It was clear that the infant monkeys spent more time with the cloth surrogate than the wire surrogate regardless of which surrogate provided the nourishment. Harlow found that the majority of infant monkeys sought their first contact with the cloth surrogate. Harlow’s experiments have been called cruel, even brutal, but the outcome of his work affirmed that human beings live in a world that is more complex than that of simple physical needs, like hunger.
His work emphasized that we are essentially social beings, initially seeking the warmth and comfort of touch, that the first face we see is the one we find most beautiful, and that we need time to play and others of our species to play with in order develop psychologically as well as physically. Stanford prison – Dr Philip Zimbardo created an experiment to explore what happens when you put someone healthy, all-round good person, into a bad job or place. What – He put an ad in the city newspaper offering college students $15 per day for 2 weeks to participate in a ‘prison life’ experiment.
75 volunteers were selected and were psychologically tested, and 2 dozen were selected who were all normal and healthy. Randomly, half were assigned to be guards and the other to be prisoners. The guards came a day early to collect their clothes and set up the prison, but the prisoners were told to stay at home and were arrested the next day. They were taken to the basement of the police station, blindfolded and transported to Zimbardo’s prison. There they were stripped naked and deloused, a degradation ritual on day 2 the prisoners rebelled, and the guards decided to treat force with force. They tied prisoners up, they striped them naked, they put them in solitary confinements. Each day this violence towards prisoners got more extreme.
In the first 5 days, 6 prisoners had emotional breakdowns and had to be released. The rest of the prisoners became zombie-like creatures who were willing to do anything to keep the guards happy. They became mindlessly obedient. Results – Zimbardo did not expect the subjects to transform so quickly and so dramatically. All 24 went in as normal people but when their situation changed, their behaviour followed.
We can conclude from the aforementioned experiments that conformity is complex. It is far more than simply wearing the same clothes as your classmates, so you do not stand out. Conformity, this powerful social force, is certainly worthy of further research. We have a curiosity to find out more about it.