Classics in the History of Psychology

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Intergroup Conflict and Cooperation: The Robbers Cave Experiment

Muzafer Sherif, O. J. Harvey, B. Jack White, William R. Hood, Carolyn W. Sherif (1954/1961)

[p. 69] CHAPTER 4

Experimental Formation of In-groups
Revealed Through Appropriate Attitudes and Behavior

Overall Considerations Common to All Three Stages

Before summarizing Stage 1, a few considerations common to the procedures of all the three stages should be emphasized. One fact that will stand out in the rest of this report is that the stimulus conditions, the activities necessitated by them, and places in which they are carried out, are numerous and varied. It may be easy, therefore, to lose sight of the systematic rationale on which all three stages were based in the kaleidoscope of numerous and varied events.

The fundamental aim of the procedures in the experiment is to build up an interaction process which is perceived by the subjects as part and parcel of the circumstances in which they are living. The flow of interaction is followed from day to day in a longitudinal way. The interaction among subjects on a given day at a given stage of the experiment is not a discrete and unrelated event, but is built up on the basis of interactions on the previous days and is functionally related to future events. A serious concern over validity, viz., a concern that events occurring in this study have some point of contact with their counterparts in real life, forced the adoption of this fundamental approach upon us. Group behavior, in intra- and intergroup relations, is not a transitory affair. Group structure itself is anything but ahistorical. Therefore, step-by-step tracing of group structure and its norms is essential in pin-pointing the factors that enter into the shaping of group behavior now.

Groups in actual life do not ordinarily strive toward goals which are furnished by the instructions of an outsider. Group goals exist or arise because group members are situated in a certain place and time, under given circumstances, and because the pattern of interaction is what it is. All of these determinants have specific implications in relation to the state of motivation of group members.

Therefore, it is decidedly unrealistic in experiments on [p. 70] group relations for the investigator to introduce any old task and have groups work on it at intervals in an interrupted way under certain types of "leadership," and then to draw cut and dried conclusions concerning group behavior on that basis. There is abundant evidence in the sociological literature of small groups which one might do well to remember. In this literature, time and again, we find individuals in whom common motives or deprivations are generated (because they are where they are and are caught in the particular set of circumstances) forming groups, developing strong in-group attitudes, strong in-group solidarity and responsibility (at times, to the point of sacrifice of no mean proportions) without the benefit of this or that type of adult "leadership" from a personage who is not himself an integral part of the group. There are cases of groups formed in actual life, without the benefit of a benevolent, permissive expert, which have a strong structure, an intense sense of belongingness and solidarity. These properties may not develop in groups which are under the "leadership" of an outsider, no matter how skilled and expert he may be. For these reasons, in each of the three stages of this experiment, a series of goals and related tasks were introduced which were derived from explicit preferences of the subjects themselves. Verbal instructions as a method of introducing goals were avoided as much as possible, the aim being instead to create situations in which the subjects would immediately perceive a problem situation or a possibility for attaining some desired end.

Similar comment applies to procedures for the study of a group discussion and techniques of problem solving. Once the group members face a problem situation of strong appeal to them, they do not have to be told to gather around and discuss their common plight or desire. You cannot stop them from being preoccupied with the problem at hand nor from making it a focal concern - and discussion does not stop there. Discussion necessarily continues, or even takes place simultaneously with active search for ways and means of doing something about the problem. The procedures in every stage of this study, therefore, have involved choosing the terrain, time, stimulus conditions, equipment and words conducive to the arousal of a problem situation which implies common goals. This, we repeat, will lead to dissuasion, planning, searching for appropriate means and tools, and execution of planned lines of activity.

[p. 71] Individuals who are immersed in their plight or problems in earnest are prone to be irritated by cold-blooded nosiness in their affairs by outsiders, not to mention having to put up with doing this or that extraneous thing for the benefit of the tape recorder or the convenience of the experimenter. Therefore, in the study of group interaction, we insist on observation by persons who are part and parcel of the situation, and that they not be caught by the subjects in the act of observing. By following the participant observer technique, in which no word was written in the presence of the subjects, we may not have obtained all relevant events. However, in return, we gained free and unsuppressed recurrence of behavioral items which will stand out in a striking way for any observer.

In short, our fundamental approach has been carefully to introduce a number of problem situations appropriate to the characteristics of the stage in question, and to leave the ensuing activity in word (discussion) and deed to the subjects themselves as much as possible. We did not think that reliability would be insured through repetition of the same problem situations. This would have led to boredom and/or suspicion on the part of the subjects. Instead we followed the policy of introducing varied problem situations all of which had the common property of satisfying the main conditions for the stage in question. Pitching a tent to sleep in, preparing a meal when hungry (with ingredients in bulk form), building a rope bridge cannot be carried out by one person alone, but require cooperation of all group members. Therefore, these activities satisfy the main characteristics of conditions for Stage 1, even though these varied activities require greater or less exertion from different groups of muscles.

We feel that this brief mention of the procedural considerations common to all the three stages will be incomplete without calling attention to the very bounds within which the interaction was taking place and activities were being carried out. At all points of this report, it should be kept in mind that the subjects came from a given sociocultural setting which determined the overall properties of their interaction in in-group and intergroup relations (Chapter 2). The experimental conditions were effective within these bounds. Without keeping this in mind, it would be difficult, for example, to understand:

(a) why both groups were eager to challenge each other in [p. 72] a competitive activity the moment they learned of the presence of another group in the camp (end of Stage 1);

(b) why, after hurling unpleasant words at each other at the first competitive encounter, the winning team would give three cheers for the losers during the first days of Stage 2.

Even in in-group activities, the techniques and methods in problem solving may be greatly influenced by the particular structure and norms of the group in question and by properties and values of the sociocultural setting. Certainly these methods vary from culture to culture. Therefore, no special emphasis has been placed on whether a group adopted this method or that method of problem solution. In certain cultures, there would probably have been a greater tendency to resort to the decision of a leader or an authority figure than found here.

The second point which must be mentioned in this matter of the bounds for the interaction process is the presence, words and actions of staff members. The main function of counselors and other staff members was deliberately specified to be that of producing problem situations through setting appropriate stimulus conditions at appropriate times, in terms of the motivational state of the subjects at the time, using verbal prompting as little as possible (see Chapter 3).

An important factor in initiating or continuation of activity is the presence, words and deeds of staff members (junior counselors, participant observers and other camp authorities). Even seemingly unimportant silence, or prompting, or negation during interaction in problem situations may have great influence in the direction activities take. We cannot say that we succeeded in eliminating this factor altogether in spite of all our efforts. The subjects always knew, whether they were conscious of it all the time or not, that staff members were there; that they could always appeal to them; and that they represented the ultimate authority in setting bounds. For example, at the time of exhibition of courage and bravery while engaged in group activities, the whole psychological trend might have been reversed if the subjects had been deprived of the security that the staff members afford.

[p. 73] Another factor that sets bounds to the particular type of interaction among subjects is their age level. Eleven year-old boys are certainly not to be taken as adults, nor their behavior in groups as identical with that of adult groups. Neither can the issues conducive to friction and cooperation between two groups of 11-year-old boys in an experimentally conducted camp situation be the grim and lasting problems that sometimes prevail between groups of adults. On the other hand, at this age level, ego functioning (hence group relatedness or identification) is carried on at a conceptual level. It would have been preferable to carry out the experiment with older subjects if that had been feasible. Originally, our hypotheses were derived from a survey of literature on in-group and intergroup relations of older subjects. Validation of these hypotheses with subjects of the age level used here should have implications for future experiments with older subjects.

Note on collection of data: A special point was made that the participant observers always be close to their respective groups. Each participant observer spent at least twelve hours a day in observing their respective groups. Making allowance for the fact that one group came to camp one day earlier, the hours spent in observation of each group by the participant observers alone (not counting observation time of other staff members) were 240 and 252 hours respectively, or a total of 492 hours for both groups. The participant observers jotted down in short form outside of the vision of subjects as soon as possible after an event occurred, then expanded their notes during the afternoon rest period and after the subjects went to sleep around 9:30 P. M. At that time, a complete report of observations for the day was written and ratings made by the observer. An additional source of data at some crucial points consisted of answers and reactions of subjects about events in response to naive questions by staff members who could appropriately ask such questions because they had not been present when the events occurred.

In addition to the observational reports, 1200 pictures were taken during the three-week period. In order to attract as little attention to the picture taking as possible, staff members exhibited to the subjects as they arrived at the bus which would take them to camp that they were shutter-bugs - conspicuously taking pictures of every conceivable object in the vicinity. Conversations were recorded by a hidden tape recorded at some choice points without the awareness of the subjects. Plans for portable [p. 74] recorders which were to be used in a candid way unfortunately did not materialize because our order for two portable recorders could not be filled at the proper time.

Experimental Formation of In-groups

Stage 1

The focal concern of the present study is intergroup relations. Extrapolations from interpersonal relations, or even from in-group relations, have given us inadequate accounts missing crucial properties which make the topic of intergroup relations so vital today (Note 1). Therefore, intergroup relations are studied in this experiment as relations between actual in-groups and their respective members.

Rather than selecting existing groups, whose structures and norms were already formed and who had perhaps established norms toward various other groups of peers in prior intergroup contacts, the experiment started with the formation of in-groups among individuals who were not previously acquainted through controlling the conditions in which they interacted. It will be remembered that the members of each group were homogeneous in terms of sociocultural, economic, educational backgrounds, etc. The rest of this chapter is devoted to a summary account of the formation of group structures, norms, attitudes manifested in relation to other in-group members and toward places, persons and objects with functional relevance to their activities.

Observation and ratings of in-group structure and functioning did not stop at the end of Stage 1, which was devoted to its study. Throughout Stage 2 (intergroup friction) and Stage 3 (intergroup integration) data on in-group structure and functioning continued to be collected. Reciprocal effects of in-group and intergroup relations were one of the focal points of concentration throughout.

Since functional relations between groups would certainly affect the formation of in-groups and their structures, the two groups of subjects were kept apart during Stage 1. Until the last days of that stage, at no time did the groups have contact with one another.

[p. 75] One group was brought to the site on June 19, 1954, and the other on June 20, at a time when the first group was out of the immediate camp grounds on a cookout. Because of the size and layout of the site, it was possible to center activities of the two groups in different areas simultaneously (see Chapter 3, C. Experimental Site). Separation was accomplished through staggering scheduled activities (e. g., meals) for the 2 groups and careful timing. Toward the end of Stage 1, in preparation for the period of intergroup relations to follow, subjects were allowed to discover definitely that there were 2 groups in camp.

To test our hypotheses for Stage 1, conditions consisted of activities and problem situations (a) embodying goals with common appeal to all of the individuals and (b) requiring interdependent cooperative efforts on the part of these individuals. The characteristics of conditions for this stage were set up on the basis of the period of in-group formation in the 1949 and 1953 intergroup studies (see Chapter 2).

One form of activity which appealed greatly to every subject was competitive team sports, especially baseball. At one time or another, all asked about the possibility of playing baseball with another group, some even bringing this up on the bus going to camp. Since competitive sport between teams composed of members of the same group could not be considered an interdependent, cooperative activity, team play was not included in the activities of Stage 1. Delay of competitive games between teams until Stage 2 (intergroup) was accomplished with a great deal of planning through other activities, many of which were highly desirable to the boys, "work-up" games in which group members rotated positions and exhibited their skill, and the apparent lack of another team to play.

Following a summary running-account of interaction events in each of the two groups, evidence related to the hypotheses for Stage 1 will be reported briefly.

For the sake of continuity and clarity throughout this report the groups are called the Rattlers and the Eagles. However, it should be kept in mind that the groups did not have names when Stage 1 started and only adopted these toward the last days of the stage. For the Rattlers, who arrived first, Stage 1 lasted 8 days, and for the Eagles 7 days.

[p. 76] Proper names used in no case correspond to real names of the subjects.

Rattler Group

Subjects were picked up in Oklahoma City at two stops. Since one boy was late at the first stop, the waiting period at the second stop (1/2 hour) permitted the formation of a friendship cluster of 4 boys which was evident on the bus in seating arrangements, a paper-wad game, and the inquiry if "us south-siders" could stay together. Conversation on the bus concerned fathers' occupations, respective schools and ballteams, possessions, and favored activities.

At camp, boys were allowed to choose their bunks. The "south-side" boys chose neighboring bunks. At the campfire after supper, the boys selected Brown (the largest boy in the south-side clique and in the entire group) to make out a list of swimming buddies in anticipation of their most preferred activity.

At breakfast on Day 2, saying grace was proposed and Brown did it. After the boys arranged church services, Simpson (who had been active on the bus) led group singing, although opposed by "south-siders. " On a trip to Robbers Cave, Brown and Simpson were in the lead.

After lunch, the boys "discovered" the swimming hole upstream and the campsite. They suggested improvements (such as a rock approach and diving board) and began work on them after a swim. Brown directed activity in the water and at work. Mills organized a rock-moving chain which was effective. The boys decided to stay at the hideout for supper and were furnished hamburger and other bulk ingredients, necessitating interdependent specialized efforts by all, which Simpson directed - cutting the watermelon himself. They discussed further improvements of the area, most of the suggestions for improving the area being directed to Brown.

The next morning a canoe, which had simply been placed near their cabin, was transported by the boys overland to the upstream hideout, Brown directing the operation and Simpson showing the path (See Figures, Stage 1). The need for a latrine at the hideout was posed by staff. Brown handed the shovel to Simpson, [p. 77] and all helped in turn, the smallest boy finishing. Brown's tendency to play favorites in the use of the boat and in work led Swift (a "south-sider") to complain, in effect, "We're tired of just doing the things he leaves over."

Mills hurt his toe but did not mention it until it was discovered at bedtime. This incident marked the beginnings of a norm for being "tough" (not a sissy or cry-baby). Subsequently, injured members did not complain or cry, desiring to continue even the most strenuous activities if staff permitted. Related to this norm of "toughness" was group approval of cursing, which became widespread in the Rattler group. During campfire at Stone Corral, the boys planned an overnight hike further upstream enthusiastically.

On Day 4 the boys organized transportation of equipment to the reservoir and selected advance scouts. Brown carried a light load. Mills soon took over leading the party, with Simpson and Martin doing more than their share of the work. Mills' choice of a campsite was accepted even by Brown. Mills directed securing water and preparation of food, with various boys performing specialized tasks. Barton and Hill (low status) tried to climb the dam. Then, Mills organized this activity into a game with definite order of participation and rules for maintaining position. The boys started to pitch tents by pairs; but an approaching storm and an encounter with a rattlesnake posed the difficult problem of rapidly erecting a sturdier single tent, in which all cooperated.

The next morning the "tough" norm was revealed on the trip home (led by Mills) over hills and rocks with full packs and with only one rest stop. Upon arrival, beds and personal gear were found outside the cabin. Staff explained the cabin had been fumigated (an excuse to see how the boys would re-install themselves). In moving back, Mills chose a bed between Brown and Newman (the 2 top erstwhile "south-siders"); the other 2 south-siders moved to other parts of the cabin. The sub-clique was clearly integrated with the rest of the group. Mills put up a "Home Sweet Home" sign.

Staff at last yielded to the boys' pleas for canteen supplies, requesting that they list only 8 items on the grounds that the camp could not afford to have left-overs. Agreement on 8 items was reached, and Mills was selected to announce the results.

[p. 78] By Day 6 the route to the hideout was standard and preferred to an easier one. Boys planned the activities for the day. Swimming at Camp One (standard name for hideout) was first. Allen, Barton and Hill (low status) were upset to find paper cups at their hideout (probably left by the group), speculating with resentment that "outsiders" had been there. Baseball work-out followed with members accepting decisions of the rest of the group on plays, excepting Mills who changed a decision in his own favor. During the rest period, Mills started tossing pine cones and ended up in a tree being pelted by all others and shouting "Where's my fellow men?" A boy replied, "Look at our leader!" (The "clown" role often kept him in the center of activity.)

A group Treasure Hunt was held by staff in which all members had to be present at the reading of each note to receive the reward ($10 to be spent as the group chose). Hardball equipment was chosen, Mills having Martin write what he called "my proposal. " Mills opened nominations for baseball captain, supporting Simpson (who was selected) and choosing his own position.

Caps and T-shirts were available through the canteen for purchase at nominal cost. Mills asked if "Tom Hale" (name of the Boy Scout campsite) would be on them. The staff reply was negative. Harrison (middle status) suggested putting "Robbers Cave Robbers" on them. Later Mills proposed stenciling "Tom Hale Rattlers" on the shirts, drew a rattler design, and requested orange and black paint, all of which was approved by the group.

The next morning the boys stenciled shirts and hats with staff assistants. White material available for crafts was selected by Mills for a flag with the same design. Staff proposed practice at tent pitching. It was undertaken in disorganized fashion. Baseball practice revealed stabilization of playing positions.

After supper, the group was allowed to wander within hearing distance of the Eagles who were playing on the ball diamond. The immediate reaction was to "run them off" and "challenge them." After this, Harrison (who had had to surrender the catcher's position to Hill because of a hurt hand) cried bitterly. Hill and Martin comforted him, and he stopped crying when Mills asked him to read a comic book aloud.

[p. 79] At baseball work-out the next day, the group noted improvements they had made on the diamond and declared: "Now this is our diamond." The boys revealed a consciousness of the other group by frequent reference to "our baseball diamond," "our Upper Camp," "our Stone Corral." That afternoon the staff informed the group that there was another group in camp and that they wanted to challenge the Rattlers. The reaction: "They can't. We'll challenge them first... They've got a nerve..." Other activities in which they could be challenged were mentioned, including tent pitching. Now that tent pitching appeared a competitive activity, it was enthusiastically supported even by those formerly opposing it. The boys initiated shifts in work positions which produced an amazing change in execution of the task. All members cheered the results.

At the hideout, Everett (a non-swimmer when camp started) began to swim a little. He was praised by all and for the first time the others called him by his preferred nickname. Simpson yelled, "Come on, dive off the board!" All members in the water formed a large protective circle into which Everett dived after a full 2 minutes of hesitation and reassurance from the others. While he repeated the performance, little Barton, a frightened non-swimmer, plunged forward and started swimming a little too. He was called to the board and he too jumped in. Allen, a swimmer who was afraid to go off the board, now followed. Harrison, on the bank with an injured hand, was assured by the others that when his hand was healed they would all help him "so that we will all be able to swim." This event, which was completely spontaneous, was most effective in building group solidarity and morale. That evening the boys planned and held an enthusiastic campfire at the Stone Corral. Group skits were organized by Mills, and Brown "shone" in an individual act.

Eagle Group

The bus picking up these eleven subjects was on time at both stops so that little prior interaction was possible. Conversation on the bus started concerning Clark's bugle, which he played on request. The boys exchanged information concerning schools attended, respective standings on baseball teams, and families. Upon arrival at camp, free choice of bunks and seats at supper

[Classics Editor's Note: Click on any of the following picture pairs to see enlarged versions]

Rattler Group
Representative Activities During In-Group Formation

Eagle Group
Representative Activities During In-Group Formation
Stage 1

[p. 80] was allowed. At campfire, Myers built the fire, then disagreed with others on the proper method of roasting marshmellows. Craig stopped the argument, saying: "You're not the boss." Mason asked if they could take down a sign left by earlier campers. One boy proposed "O. U. Camp" as a name for the spot, but no decision was reached until the next day, when Myers suggested putting up an O. U. Camp sign as something already "decided."

On Day 2, Clark was last to wake and therefore couldn't play reveille on the bugle. Later in the week, it became standard procedure for the first boy up to awaken Clark, who then woke the rest with the bugle. The boys asked to take the canoe placed near their cabin on a hike downstream after breakfast. Division of labor was complete: 5 boys carrying the canoe, 5 others supplies (including lengths of heavy rope), and one the board and paint for the 0. U. Camp sign (See Figures). When Davis stopped carrying the canoe, Craig called him into line. As they prepared to swim at the hideout area, Bryan suggested a bridge across the stream. After the boys took the initiative along these lines, they were told by staff they could use the rope for this purpose. During swimming Craig took over the canoe, letting one, then another paddle and hitting boys who hung on the back. Mason wanted to get in the water to pull a big rope across for a bridge. All volunteered to help, and this was done through great effort by boys and staff.

In the afternoon when they returned to the hideout for a swim and supper, the rope bridge was completed, as agreed, through Mason's initiative. Craig walked the bridge about 15 feet before falling in, Mason less, and Myers about the same. When Cutler tried, someone said, "He won't make it very far", and there was amazement when he crossed it. The prediction that Cutler could not do as well as Craig and the others reveals the development of differential expectations in line with emerging status relationships within the group. The astonishment at Cutler's success indicates that some standardization of these expectations had already taken place on the second day.

When the boys were hungry, Myers ferried them to the opposite bank, making so many unpleasant comments to the boys that later he heard them discussing him negatively. As a result, Myers made active efforts to be agreeable the next day.

[p. 81] A large copperhead snake was seen 8 feet away from the campsite. After the staff threw at it, the boys were permitted to help kill it. They discussed snakes at length during food preparation. All but one of the boys took over jobs in preparing the meal. After supper a snake was seen in the water, and several boys said they didn't want to swim there again. The boys dubbed this place "Moccasin Creek" that night. In spite of the discussion, they returned to the spot the next morning.

Because the Eagles had 3 possible swimming spots, discussions arose repeatedly during the next few days about where they would swim. The decision on the third morning was for Moccasin Creek. Wilson said he heard a rattler everytime they passed a particular spot, which was christened "Rattlesnake Bay. " Davis proposed that the campfire area across the stream should be called "Copperhead Hill" because of the snake killed there. These names were used in all subsequent references to these places. The boys painted signs to label Moccasin Creek and Copperhead Hill.

Spontaneous discussion among the boys on the need for screens in the cabin found opinion divided, Craig saying they were unnecessary. A later vote to request screens was favorable, and when the screens arrived 3 days later, Craig was among the first making immediate efforts to install them.

At "work-out" softball near their cabin, Mason stood out the best player. Craig and Davis bawled out Myers for clowning (baseball was serious to these boys).

Since the boys had requested a campout, a hike to the reservoir started on Day 4. The boys carried 6 small tents, packs, and other equipment. Myers astounding everyone by carrying 3 tents in addition to his pack. Upon arrival, Mason said the reservoir wouldn't be good for swimming. Three boys who didn't go swimming volunteered to fix lunch. After lunch, Davis pointed out all of the features of this campsite which were inferior to Moccasin Creek. His requested vote to return there went 6 - 5 against returning. One by one he persuaded others to switch their votes to favor leaving. Therefore, after a rest period, Craig directed transportation of supplies on the homeward trip. When Myers kept the group waiting while he returned for a forgotten bathing suit, he was pelted with pebbles, but showed no [p. 82] signs of being disturbed.

At Moccasin Creek, Myers swam without his suit and was christened "Nudie. " (This became the standard mode of swimming after Mason took it up the next day.) Several staff members were present at the group's cookout at Moccasin Creek. Craig organized its preparation and played host. The boys told the staff that Moccasin Creek was several times better than the reservoir for swimming and camping (which was not objectively true). A song introduced by Craig on the bus was now called "our song."

After breakfast on the 5th day, the boys were told to select 8 items for the camp canteen, which they had been requesting for days. Craig and Davis took the lead in making suggestions, and Craig wrote them down. He accepted Myers' formulation for some terms to make them more general to cover more items. At softball work-up, Mason, the best player, accepted Craig's decision that he was "out" at second.

On the group Treasure Hunt, some members waited for Craig and handed him the notes to read. Suggestions by middle and low status members on how to spend the $10 reward were rejected in favor of Davis' proposal (hard ball equipment) which was backed by Craig, who wrote down the decision and told the boys to line up to sign it. After lunch, Craig lectured about 10 minutes on the various baseball positions and who played them.

While screens were being put up on the 6th day, Boyd and Davis (who had shown signs of homesickness, especially at night) discussed home with Mason, who also became nostalgic as the conversation continued. Craig, Myers, McGraw and Wilson derided homesickness. Wilson told Boyd he was homesick because he got too many letters from home (see below).

At lunch it was mentioned that Craig had given each boy a number. During practice with the new hardball equipment acquired with the Treasure Hunt reward, everyone ignored Myers when he refused to accept a decision, and simply left to retire from base. Craig was not ignored when he objected to an adverse ruling, but he gave in with some grumbling. During the practice, Wilson heard the other group playing at a distance and referred to "those nigger campers." Cutler asked if the Eagles [p. 83] could play them, and Craig instructed staff to "ask those campers to play us."

On the last day of Stage 1, staff decided to permit Davis and Boyd to go home, which they had requested the previous night. These boys had endured intermittent homesickness for several days. Boyd was occasionally reduced to tears even in the daytime. It was belatedly discovered that the boy had left a camp the previous summer for the same reason. Had this been known, he would not have been chosen as a subject. Davis had not been to camp before, and seemed to become homesick chiefly at night. He often went to Boyd to comfort him, and then ended up tearful too. His status was high, but had been falling because he wanted to go home. Since the experiment was not set up to deal with homesickness and it would have run counter to the design to exert outside efforts to keep individuals in the group, the departure of these 2 boys was quietly arranged. When the group asked where they had gone, Craig said, "Things are going to be better around here now." Wilson (scornfully): "They chickened out." Mason: "They are the only boys who will. " (Mason had not been immune to their talk of home himself on previous days.)

The group entered enthusiastically into tumbling, wrestling, and tent pitching. They asked when they could play the other team in baseball, and decided to elect a captain. Craig, who by this time was clearly leader, nominated Mason and agreement was voiced.

Later in the day, Myers asked if the other group had a name. Staff replied they weren't sure. Myers commented that his group needed a name. Craig suggested "Eagles." Clark suggested "Rattlesnake Biters," and then said he didn't like that himself. Craig's suggestion was supported. Myers said they could make a flag to take on the field when they played. Craig asked staff to help cut a stencil of "Tom Hale Eagles" to put on T-shirts they had decided to purchase, and proposed putting an "E" on their caps. Mason said he didn't want his shirt stenciled, but Craig told him he couldn't play if he didn't do it. At ball practice, everyone criticized Lane (low status) for not playing well; but nothing was said when Mason or Craig missed a ball. Craig told staff the group had decided to sleep out in a tent that night.

[p. 84] Summary of Hypotheses and Results: Stage 1

The above accounts of interaction during Stage 1 in the Rattler and Eagle groups hold the pith condensed from a bulk of observational material, recordings, and pictures. In the following pages, observational data are considered further in relation to the hypotheses for this stage, necessarily in highly abbreviated form.

Hypothesis 1, Stage 1

A definite group structure consisting of differentiated status positions and reciprocal roles will be produced when a number of individuals (without previously established interpersonal relations) interact with one another under conditions (a) which situationally embody goals with common appeal value to the individuals, and (b) which require interdependent activities for their attainment.

Experimental conditions with the above characteristics were varied, requiring more or lees equipment, occurring only once or being repeated over and over. Many of the specific conditions for the 2 groups were common because they were introduced deliberately as a part of the experiment. Among these were the group Treasure Hunts, which required joint efforts by all members in tracing the path, winning the reward, and in deciding how to use it; another was the canteen problem which staff posed by limiting the number of items for the much-desired canteen to eight.

Other conditions satisfying the characteristics of Stage 1 arose in both groups as problem situations because both groups had similar interests and interaction in each took place in terrain common to the camp. Many activities were suggested by subjects as pastimes they especially preferred. To a great extent, subjects were allowed to engage in these at times and as often as they chose (being limited only by health considerations and the occasional necessity of temporary postponement to keep the 2 groups separate). Out of these pastimes preferred by both groups (like swimming, boating, hiking, camping out, baseball) a great variety of problem situations arose requiring interdependent activities, and many were similar for both groups. For example, transportation of boats and equipment, planning and [p. 85] executing hikes, improving swimming places (with rock approach and diving board for Rattlers and a bridge for Eagles), organizing campfires, building fires and preparing meals in the woods with bulk ingredients (requiring division of labor in preparing hamburger, cutting chunks of meat, mixing Kool Aid, cutting watermelon, etc.) were problems common to both groups.

On the other hand, some conditions were confined only to one group, because of their particular location in the outdoor setting, special interests, etc. For example, the Eagles' cabin was closer to the water than the Rattlers', and a problem arose in the Eagle group which was not at all prominent for the Rattlers. On Day 3, the Eagles discussed the need for screens twice during the day, and when the screening arrived an Day 6, joined to install them. Another problem situation arising from the particular situation of the Eagles was where to swim. Three spots were easily accessible (boat dock, Rattlesnake Bay, Moccasin Creek), and the proposals, counter-proposals, persuasions and decisions on this topic were frequent (e. g., 2 occasions on Day 3, one on Day 4, one on Day 6). The Rattlers swam at their hideout and there was no problem of deciding where. A number of interdependent activities embodying common goals arose which were peculiar to the Rattlers. One was the dam-climbing game which Mills organized after 2 group members climbed it. The idea of this game was to achieve the top without back-sliding and to keep in the same position each time. Like most games with rules, it required reciprocal regulation along with exhibition of skill by individuals. A spontaneous activity peculiar to the Rattlers which met experimental conditions even better was their use of swimmer escorts and a protective circle to encourage a new swimmer to dive, and thence to encourage non-swimmers and non-divers. This activity involved almost the entire group.

As a result of repeated interaction in a variety of activities, all of which embodied goals common to the individuals and required interdependent efforts, status structures were stabilized by the end of Stage 1. One evidence of this is that the daily status ratings by participant observers of their respective groups correspond closely for the last several days. Below is a list of status ratings by participant observers of the Rattler and Eagle groups on the last 2 days of Stage 1:

[p. 86}

            Rattlers                                                                                    Eagles*
Day 7                      Day 8                                                   Day 6                          Day 7

Mills                         Mills                                                      Craig                            Craig                              Simpson                   Simpson                                           (Davis)-Mason                   Mason                    Martin                      Martin                                          Clark-Myers-Wilson              Myers                      Brown                      Brown                                        McGraw-Bryan-Cutler            Clark                       Allen                        Newman                                               (Boyd)                          Wilson                     Newman                  Allen                                                       Lane                            Bryan                          Swift                        Harrison                                                                                     McGraw                      Harrison                   Swift                                                                                          Cutler                     Barton                      Barton                                                                                        Lane                          Hill                           Everett                                                                                                                       Everett                     Hill

*Since Eagles came to camp 1 day later Day 7 was last day for them. (Names in brackets left camp because of homesickness.)

On the last day of Stage 1, the participant observer of each group and another observer familiar with the group in question made independent status ratings of the respective groups. The rank order correlation between independent status ratings for 2 observers for each group is given in Table 1.

At this point sociometric choices would have provided a [p. 87] further check on observational evidence and ratings, as planned in the study design (Chapter 1). However, as noted earlier, it was decided that repetition of sociometric procedures 3 times (after each stage) during such a brief time might arouse the suspicions of subjects and invalidate the results. Therefore, sociometric choices were obtained only in Stages 2 and 3.

This was the crucial point at which status relations of the developing in-groups were to be tapped through judgmental indices obtained in relation to performance throwing handballs at a target (See Chapter 2). Our previous research had shown that differential judgments of performance on a task in an unstructured situation may serve as indices of the relative status of the person whose performance is being judged. Attempts to carry out this unit at the end of Stage 1 were met with disappointment owing to mechanical failure of the apparatus, which did not register the actual score attained. Since the actual scores are a critical part of the data, the experiment could not be carried out without remedying the mechanism, which proved impossible at the time. (The failure was due in part to loss of tension by brass and phosphor-bronze spring contacts, but chiefly to a thin film of iron oxide which formed on bolt-base contacts as a result of high local humidity at night.)

On the basis of observational data and observers' ratings, it was considered that the criterion for formation of group structure under conditions of interdependent activity toward goals with common appeal value to individual members was satisfied.

Before continuing to other hypotheses for Stage 1, certain characteristics of the group structures at this time are worth considering briefly because of their implications for theory and research in this area, particularly on leadership. First, the group structures at the end of Stage 1 were not static or rigid. Fluctuations as a result of changed conditions and status strivings of members were noted. On the other hand, these groups had lived and interacted together for an entire week. They were doubtless stabilized to a considerably greater extent than many experimental groups currently employed in small group and leadership research, which meet periodically for much shorter periods of time and are usually set to tasks provided entirely by the experimenter. It is possible, therefore, that our findings may be revealing in relation to current controversies over group [p. 88] structure and the stability of leadership.

It is frequently contended that a hierarchy is not necessarily a general feature of group structure and that multiple leadership frequently exists. This contention is based on the finding that in "leaderless group" situations, leadership not infrequently changes hands from situation to situation with the task, and that differentiation of other functions varies similarly. This finding is repeatedly verified and is perfectly reasonable for such situations.

However, in the present study, which is designed as a prototype of life-like interaction in varied situations all embodying common and valued goals, differentiation of functions within the group took place over a period of time along hierarchical lines. This is indeed characteristic of lasting groups whose members are highly motivated in the direction of group goals in everyday life.

The evidence for this hierarchy is not so much in manner of treating others within the group, as in the extent to which initiative (suggestions, directions, etc.) in group activities is taken, and whether or not such initiative is effective (viz., whether suggestions are accepted, plans tried out, etc.). The ratings by participant observers in the present study were based mainly on the extent to which each member took initiative (e. g., made suggestions or plans, gave directions) and the relative effectiveness of these efforts.

Here, concrete examples may make the theoretical point clear. Many members in each experimental group showed "leadership" in the special sense of initiating activities, making suggestions, carrying-through tasks in various situations. However, by the end of Stage 1, each group had and recognized that they had a "leader" (Mills in the Rattlers and Craig in the Eagles). At this time initiative by others in the form of suggestions, plans, action was effective when the leader approved it. When he did not the matter was ordinarily dropped, perhaps after an argument. In both groups, the leaders effectively chose baseball captains by backing their choice. Baseball was extremely important to these boys, but the baseball captain in  Stage 1 was in neither case the group leader. In both groups the leader told the baseball captain which position he (the leader) would play. [p. 89] Two examples were given in the running accounts and there are many more instances of the leader taking liberties in baseball and not being censured by the captain. (The exception to this was when Craig of the Eagles wanted to umpire; the entire group - not just Mason the captain - told him he could not be, that staff should umpire and he accepted this. In short, he was exceeding even the bounds of his leadership, and he accepted the group's judgment. Note Craig's behavior in intergroup competition in Stage 2 and its effects on his position.) On occasion a high status Rattler (Brown) was observed to hold the ball so that Mills could get in safe. Craig told Mason, the Eagle captain, he couldn't play if he didn't have his shirt stenciled with the group insignia.

The findings in Stage 1 of this experiment do reveal initiative displayed by various group members on different occasions. They do not reveal "multiple leadership" in the sense of shifts in the control of group activities with shifts from one situation or task unit to the next, after group structure was stabilized as a result of continuing interaction over a time span.

Hypothesis 1a, Stage 1

If a definite group structure develops, it will be reflected in a consistent pattern in directions of communication. The specific pattern in directions of communication will be as follows: The higher the status of a group member the greater the frequency of suggestions (for group activities) addressed to him.

Because of the intensive and varied demands of both a scientific and practical nature placed on the participant observers, the observational data do not contain precise quantitative evidence needed to evaluate this hypothesis. Summaries representative of the scanty evidence available are presented here as suggestive for future research.

Rattler group:

Day 1: Brown was elected to work out a buddy system. Suggestions were made to him.

Day 2: In discussion on work at hideout suggestions were made directly to Brown by Mills, Swift, Simpson [p. 90] and others.

Day 3: Morning - Brown clearly ran the boat project with queries and suggestions coming to him and decisions made by him.

Afternoon - During work on diving board, lower level members stopped communicating with Brown. Mills organized them. Brown's slip from leadership was noted.

Day 6: Pine cone battle started by Mills, involving all boys, and centering communication to Mills. Observer noted frequent instances from Day 1 in which Mills had made himself the enter of attention and in which he had circulated among the group communicating with both high and low status members.

Afternoon - During the discussion of how to spend the Treasure Hunt reward ($10), suggestions and remarks were counted. Results:

To Mills - 16
To others - 1
At large 6
Suggestions during discussions of T-shirt and flag insignia were made to Mills, who accepted some of them but largely determined what was to be done himself and got group approval.

Day 8: At campfire, Mills organized skits. Suggestions and requests came to him ("Let me, A....!"). He included almost every boy at one time or another. He also encouraged Brown and Simpson in their individual performances.

Eagle group:
Day 5: During the group Treasure Hunt, Craig found only one note, but he was given 5 others to read to the group by those who found them. In discussing how [p. 91]

to spend reward, suggestions by middle and low status members were ignored. Davis' suggestion (hardball equipment) was backed by Craig, who called for a vote, declared it passed, wrote it down, told others to line up to sign it.

In deciding on 8 items for the camp canteen, Craig and Davis made most suggestions. Other suggestions were directed toward these 2, but many were ignored ignored and Craig put his or Davis' suggestions in their stead. Several items were decided upon by these 2 without consulting the group. Craig accepted Myers' formulations for several items, which made them more general.

The above evidence, which is presented as suggestive, is in line with the hypothesis.
Hypothesis 2, Stage 1

When individuals interact under conditions stated in hypothesis 1, concomitant with the formation of group structure, norms regulating their behavior in relations to one another and in practices and activities commonly engaged in will be standardized.

As the in-group structures of the Rattlers and Eagles became delineated, members formed attitudes toward objects and places of functional importance to them, appropriating these objects as "ours."
On Day 2, the group explored upstream where they "found" their swimming hole and hideout. By Day 6, this was "our Upper Camp" and the cabin was "home." When paper cups were found at the hideout, resentment was strong against supposed intruders.

The ball diamond was discovered on Day 5 with negative reaction. Play and improvements on Day 6 contributed to appropriation. On Day 8 (after hearing Eagles on it), the ball diamond was called "ours." [p. 92] The Stone Corral (behind Robbers Cave) was appropriated as "ours" and used for campfires.

Moccasin Creek was used for swimming on Day 2 and boys decided to swim there in future, leaving equipment there. They did so in spite of seeing snakes there, returning to it in preference to the (beautiful) reservoir. Signs naming Moccasin Creek and Copperhead Hill (across the stream) were put up on Day 4. Pictures of this area were exclusive subject of arts and crafts period, Day 5.

Campfire circle was re-named "0. U. Camp" on the first night, and a sign put up labeling it.

Attitudes toward other members of the in-group and persons important in the group's functioning were stabilized. This is particularly evident in the case of individuals whose behavior was for some reason prominent within the group. Some of these standardizations were temporary, while others were more enduring. An example of the latter is the nickname "Red" for Brown (Rattlers) which typified his coloring and probably his size and "toughness. " Among the Eagles, Myers, as noted briefly in the summary of interaction, engaged in considerable "show-off" behavior during the first days. At one time while preparing a fire, he spoke of himself with approval as "Smart Bob." Several boys echoed: "Dumb Bob! Crazy-mixed up Bob!" Such terms were used on occasion throughout this stage, although Myers began to make definite efforts to be accepted. A more enduring nickname for Myers was "Nudie, " given when he started swimming in the nude. At his suggestion the group occasionally referred to themselves with hilarity as RCNCI (Robbers Cave Nudist Colony, Inc.). Other temporary nicknames in the Eagle group were "Marilyn Monroe" or just "Marilyn" for a boy who gave a burlesque dance one night; "Screwball, senior" and "Screwball, junior" for staff members.

Norms were standardized in both groups in relation to experiences and behavior which became important to the group. The "tough" norm among Rattlers was a notable example. At various times, Mills, Martin, Simpson and Harrison all carried [p. 93] on the rather strenuous activities with injuries (all of minor nature). The staff had to remember to check Martin's bruised knee and wrist because he never mentioned them. Harrison did not cry when he injured his hand, but did cry later when he found out that it would keep him from the catcher's position, and members sympathized with him. Swift did not conform to this tough norm, and was completely ignored when he cried. Along with the "tough" norm went a definite approval of cursing. "Toughness" and cursing are both norms of conduct among groups in the larger social setting; they were not original to the Rattlers. However, these norms were not standardized among the Eagles. On the contrary, cursing was definitely discouraged in the Eagle group (see also Stage 2), and crying at injuries was indulged in even by Craig, the leader.

In the Eagle group, Davis and Boyd were ridiculed for about the last 3 days for being homesick. A definite norm against being homesick was standardized, in relation to which these two were seen as deviant. Mason, who had on occasion talked longingly of home, showed no signs of wanting to go home in Stage 1 after the norm became established. Swimming in the nude was another norm which was stabilized in the Eagle group. This practice was not taken up by the Rattlers.

In both groups, methods of rotation or taking turns were standardized for saying grace at meals. These activities were initially regulated verbally by high status members, but came in time to be self-regulating. In the Rattler group, Brown passed the duty around for 2 days; then it was rotated among low status members. When Mills attained a stable position as leader, he designated the person to say grace. From the 7th day, the order of saying grace was pre-determined by the group and followed without prompting.

During the early part of Stage 1 in the Eagle group, Davis usually told one of the boys to give thanks after he had figured out which one had not said grace as many times as the others. When he lost track, he asked each of the boys to state how many times he had said it. When Davis became homesick, Craig took over the function for a short while, but soon quit trying to keep track of whose turn was next. Thereafter, thanks was done on a volunteer basis, the end result being the same: the boys rotated the duty among themselves.

[p. 94] Spontaneous games were standardized (probably not original) in both groups: waterball among Eagles with a special "hot potato" rule; dam climbing with definite rules governing order and maintenance of positions among the Rattlers, as well as a paper airplane game.

One group product which clearly signifies in-group delineation is naming the group. The name chosen by the Rattlers is hardly coincidental in view of the not infrequent sights and encounters with rattlesnakes, notably during their overnight campout. Significantly enough, the only other suggestion in the Eagle group for a name was "rattlesnake biters." Eagles adopted their name after becoming concerned about the other group in camp. (Myers asked if the other group had a name.)

Both groups had favored songs, the Eagles referring to one consistently as "our song."

In both groups during Stage 1, deviation from norms or decisions by the group led to being "called down" or ignored. Myers was ignored by the Eagles when he refused to be "out" in baseball. When Swift did not live up to the "tough" norm, other Rattlers ignored him. Members were chastised verbally by others for not doing their share of work in both groups.

Reactions to the other group: When the in-group began to be clearly delineated, there was a tendency to consider all others as out-group. The Rattlers' reactions to paper cups at Upper Camp, which they didn't remember leaving, will be recalled. The Rattlers didn't know another group existed in camp until they heard the Eagles on the ball diamond; but from that time on the out-group figured prominently in their lives. Hill (Rattler) said "They better not be in our swimming hole." The next day Simpson heard tourists on the trail just outside of camp premises and was convinced that "those guys" were down at "our diamond" again. When the presence of another group was definitely announced, the Rattlers immediately wanted to challenge them, and to be the first to challenge. Performance in all activities which might now become competitive (tent pitching, baseball, etc.) was entered into with more zest and also with more efficiency. Since the efforts to help "all of us" to swim occurred after this, it is possible that even this strictly in-group activity was influenced [p. 95] by the presence of an out-group and a desire to excel it in all ways.

The Eagles were informed that another group was in camp three days before the end of Stage 1, but they made no comments on the fact. On the following day, Wilson said he had seen a boy across the grounds, but no one remarked on this. When the Eagles were playing on the ball diamond and heard the Rattlers, Wilson referred to those "nigger campers." Cutler asked to play them. Craig at that time issued a challenge to the Rattlers through staff. The very fact that the Eagles decided to elect a ball captain was in anticipation of playing the Rattlers. The need for a name did not occur to the Eagles until they contemplated playing in competition.

In summary, by the end of Stage 1, as a result of repeated interaction in situations embodying goals common to all individuals and requiring interdependent activity for their attainment, clear-cut in-group structures and by-products (norms) of the in-teraction process were stabilized. Discovery of another group of campers brought heightened awareness of "us" and "ours" as contrasted with "outsiders" and "intruders," an intense desire to compete with the other group in team games, and enthusiastic preparation to do so. These developments set the scene for Stage 2.


1. Cf. Groups in Harmony and Tension (op. cit.), Chapters 1, 2 and 8.