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Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment

(3) The most effective way of checking selectivity is the use of a combination of techniques.
This consists in introducing at a few choice points laboratory-type experiments and sociometric
questions. If the trends obtained through laboratory-type and sociometric checks are in line with
trends obtained through observations, then selectivity of observation need not worry us as far
as the relevant hypotheses and generalizations are concerned. The actual use of observational,
experimental and sociometric techniques in a combined way, whenever feasible without
cluttering the main flow of interaction, has been a major point of emphasis in our study. In our
previous work, the feasibility of using judgmental indices to tap norm formation and intra- and
intergroup attitudes was established in various studies. This series of experiments, whose logic
and techniques were made part-and-parcel of this large-scale experiment, are summarized in a
paper "Toward integrating field work and laboratory in small group research" (to appear in
Small Group Research Issue, American Sociological Review, December, 1954).
The present study has for its background the invaluable experience of the 1949 and 1953
experiments, both carried out under my direction. In 1949 the design (in three stages) went as
far as the end of Stage 2 of this 1954 study, namely in-groups were formed and intergroup
friction was produced experimentally. The 1949 study was jointly sponsored by the Attitude
Change Project of Yale University and the Department of Scientific Research of the American
Jewish Committee, to both of whom grateful acknowledgment is extended. Without the effective
help of Professor Carl I. Hovland this start could not have materialized. The second study was
attempted in 1953 in four successive stages. We succeeded in completing only two stages in
this attempt, which covered the experimental formation of in-groups. The experiment reported
here, as well as other units during the last two years, were carried out with a grant from the
Rockefeller Foundation to the University of Oklahoma, for which we are grateful.
It is a pleasure to note here the active participation of O. J. Harvey during the last four years in
the development of this program of research. Especially his doctoral thesis, entitled, "An
Experimental Investigation of Negative and Positive Relationships between Small Informal
Groups Through Judgmental Indices," constitutes a distinct contribution in demonstrating the
feasibility of using laboratory-type judgmental indices in the study of intergroup attitudes.
Without the untiring and selfless participation of O. J. Harvey, Jack White, William R. Hood, and
Carolyn Sherif the realization of this experiment and the writing of this report would have been
This program of research in group relations owes a special debt to the dedication of the
University of Oklahoma and its administrative agencies to making development of social
science one of its distinctive features. The close interest of President George L. Cross in social
science has been a constant source of encouragement and effective support. Professor Lloyd
E. Swearingen, Director of the Research Institute, has cleared our way for smooth sailing
whenever occasion arose. We have turned again and again to the encouragement and unfailing
support of Professor Laurence H. Snyder, Dean of the Graduate College.
chapter 1
Preface -- 1961
The report of this large-scale experiment dealing with factors conducive to conflict and
cooperation between groups was first released in August, 1954 and was sent in multilithed form
to colleagues active in small group research. Since then, it has appeared in condensed form in
books and journals and has been presented in lecture form at various universities and
professional associations.