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. 96] CHAPTER 5

Intergroup Relations: Production of Negative Attitudes Toward the Out-group

During Stage 1, the experimental conditions which were introduced at times when they had appeal value to the subjects, and the interaction processes that arose produced two definite in-group formations. In time, each group had a definite structure in terms of statuses for individual members. Each group had its name, symbols of identification, places and facilities appropriated as "ours." Each group had its preferred songs, practices and peculiar norms. In short, each group had its particular set of group products. As noted, the groups followed somewhat different rates in developing an organization and emphasized different features in their group products.

Having produced two in-groups independently of each other through control of conditions, we could proceed to the study of relations between the groups through bringing them into functional contact under specified conditions. For reasons mentioned in Chapter 2, the first task was production of intergroup friction in order to proceed to the main phase of this study, viz., reduction of intergroup friction.

The distinguishing characteristic of Stage 2 is the interaction of the two groups under controlled conditions which are perceived by members of the respective groups as competitive and reciprocally frustrating. In other words, the aim of this stage was to control conditions so that each group would see the other as a competitor and likewise as a source of frustration. In planning this stage, we had invaluable experience from our 1953 attempt in which, at an important point during this friction phase, the source of friction was attributed to the camp administration. The 1953 study had to be terminated at this point for this reason.

Stage 2: Experimental Conditions and Behavioral Events

The two in-groups themselves set the stage for the friction phase of intergroup relations. During the last days of Stage 1, both the Rattlers and Eagles became insistent in their desire to [p. 97] challenge the other group of boys to play competitive games, especially baseball. The design of the experiment required a clear-cut stabilization of a definite structure within each group. While the staff ascertained this, the Rattlers and Eagles became impatient in their desire to engage in competitive games. When the staff members informed each group that that there was another group in the camp area, the challenge was unanimous and enthusiastic. Delaying Stage 2 became increasingly difficult. When the Rattlers heard the other group playing on "their" ball field, they made remarks expressing the feeling that they considered others playing there as intrusion. Even without coming into physical contact with "those boys at the other end of the camp," the Rattlers had built up a highly competitive mood in relation to them.

The plan for a tournament of contests was made to appear to the subjects as based on their own manifest desire. The tournament plan, therefore, was not formally announced before the participant observers carried on a number of informal talks with their respective groups explaining that the staff had to make the necessary arrangements. The formal announcement and exhibit of the trophy, prizes and medals for the tournament were postponed until the second day of Stage 2. The first day was devoted to informal talk about the tournament by staff and members of each group, items that were to be included in it, and about prizes. There was no physical or visual contact between groups on this day.

The Rattlers' reaction to the informal announcement was full confidence in their victory. They spent the day talking about the contests and making improvements on the ball field, which they appropriated as their own to such an extent that they spoke of putting a "Keep Off" sign there. They ended by putting their Rattler flag on the backstop. At this time, several Rattlers made threatening remarks about what they would do if anybody
bothered their flag.

The Eagles did not exhibit as much enthusiasm as the Rattlers when they first learned about the tournament in this informal way, even though there were a few "Oh, boy!" expressions. They were interested to learn if the other boys were practicing. Wilson and Cutler said, "We'll beat 'em," and several other boys joined in the discussion.

[p. 98] Mason (best athlete in the Eagles) and Simpson (Rattler) had previously been chosen baseball captains in their respective groups. Both boys had been elected captains as consequence of their nomination by the acknowledged leaders of their respective groups (Craig and Mills). From the time the tournament began, Mason was to come to the foreground as leader in the Eagle group in athletic as well as other matters, until the end of Stage 2.

Both groups spent most of the day practicing and preparing for coming events. Craig (Eagle leader) attached the Eagle flag to a pole, and another Eagle said, "Our flag shall never touch the ground." At one point during the day, Myers (E) (Note 1) expressed the opinion that "maybe we could make friends with those guys and then somebody would not get mad and have any grudges." On the following day, just before the baseball game started, when the two groups actually set eyes on each other and came into physical contact for the first time, derogatory name-calling began when this same Myers called one of the Rattlers "Dirty Shirt."

On the second day of Stage 2, the two groups had breakfast at different times. The members of both groups were fascinated at the sight of the tournament exhibit. When it was their turn to come to breakfast, each group saw the exhibit, consisting of a trophy, medals, and 11 four-bladed knives. After each group had breakfast the staff made the formal announcement of the tournament to each separately. The contest activities included in the tournament and the score for each were specified. It was explained that the group making the highest cumulative score in the series of contests would win the trophy, and the individual members of the winning group would receive the prizes (a knife and medal).

The prizes had great appeal to the boys. One group had included knives as one of the few items selected for the canteen list. (The inclusion of knives on the canteen list was to be brought up again by the losers after the tournament was over. The winners were to guard their knives scrupulously. The trophy was so valued by the winners that they kissed it after they took possession and hid it for safety in a different cabin against a possible seizure by the losers.)

The series of events cited in the formal announcement had to be modified when the tournament started, with the consent of [p. 99] both sides, partly because some events were not very appealing to the subjects and partly because some were decided to be somewhat hazardous. what hazardous. The actual events were completed in 7 days and included the following items:

A. Events whose outcomes could be checked by contestants:

1. First baseball game (Day 2)*
2. First tug-of-war (Day 2)*
3. Second baseball game (Day 3)
4. Second tug-of-war (Day 3)
5. Touch football game (Day 4)
6. First tent pitching (Day 4)*
7. Third baseball game (Day 4)
8. Third tug-of-war (Day 5)
9. Second tent pitching (Day 5)
10. Third tent pitching (Day 5)

*Victors had to win 2 contests out of 3 for the marked activities.

B. Events judged by staff members separately for the two groups:
1. First cabin inspection (Day 3)
2. Second cabin inspection (Day 4)
3. Third cabin inspection (Day 5)
4. Skits and songs (Day 3)
5. Treasure hunt (Day 5)
The items under category B were included to enable the experimenters to juggle points in such a way that until the final events, both groups would be highly motivated with the hope of winning the prizes. This juggling had to be done in the present study in favor of the Eagles, who during the first day of actual competitive encounters (Stage 2, Day 2) lost both the first baseball game and the first tug-of-war, the first event with a very small margin and the second in a disorganized way.

[Classics Editor's note: Clck on any of the thumbnails below to see larger versions of the photographs.]

Up to the last day, with the procedure of equalizing scores through the category B events, the scores were fairly close together. The score values were indicated by rising thermometers on the official score chart. The increase in the readings were made with considerable flourish at meals when all boys were [p. 100] present (both groups). This neck-to-neck race in contests continued until the last day of the tournament. The outcome of the tournament hinged on the last event on the afternoon of Day 5 (Stage 2). This last event was the treasure hunt, which, being conducted in the respective camp areas of each group, could be manipulated by the experimenters in a way to insure the transition of two intact group structures to Stage 3, which is the crucial stage of the study. In view of the fact that 2 boys from the Eagle group had been sent home because of homesickness at the end of Stage 1 (see Chapter 4), leaving only 9 boys in that group, there was some danger of disorganization of the Eagles in case of their defeat. More specifically, there might have been a revival of Mason's desire to go home. He had been somewhat affected in this direction during Stage 1, probably through his contact with the two boys who left the group. The fact that we could proceed two days after the end of the tournament to Stage 3 indicated that the decision to tip the scales in favor of the Eagles was sound.

Right after the treasure hunt, the two groups were brought together, each on one side of the exhibit of prizes, and results were announced. The scores received by each group for every event were specified, making the outcome hinge on the treasure hunt. The tournament was declared to have been won by the Eagles through their completion of the treasure hunt in 8 minutes 38 seconds versus 10 minutes 15 seconds for the Rattlers. The Eagles were jubilant at their victory, jumping up and down, hugging each other, making sure in loud tones that everyone present was aware of their victory. On the other hand, the Rattlers were glum, dejected, and remained silently seated on the ground.

The series of contests was the main focus of attention for both groups, manifested in actual physical encounters and practice sessions in preparation for them, in group discussion, in self-justifying and self-glorifying words used in relation to themselves, and invectives and derogatory terms hurled at the out-group in actual encounters and in reference to the out-group in the privacy of the in-group circle. Various contests had differential effects in producing the above attitudinal and behavioral consequences. At least for these 11-year-old boys, the activities which were not too prolonged and which involved direct physical contact were most effective, with the tug-of-war heading the [p. 101] list. The build-up of negative attitudes was cumulative with rapid spurts at times, as determined by the nature of the encounter. Even though the boys hurled invectives starting with the first contest of the tournament, the norms internalized from the larger social setting concerning "good sportsmanship" were clearly evident for the first two days, as revealed through the custom of giving three cheers for the losers.

After the second day of the tournament, the "good sportsmanship" stated in specific words during the initial period and exhibited after the first contests in this series (especially by the Eagles) gave away, as event followed event, to increased name-calling, hurling invectives, and derogation of the out-group to the point that the groups became more and more reluctant to have anything to do with one another. This attitude of not having anything to do with each other was intensified owing to the impact of events taking place after the tournament was over, as we shall see presently.

The first physical encounter of the two groups, their immediate "sizing up" of each other, the explicit expressions of their rapidly developing attitudes toward each other may have significant implications for the systematic study of the rise of rather sharp an in-group and out-group delineation and rapid crystallization of attitudes toward an out-group when the functional relation involved is one of rivalry. Therefore, a description of this very first contact between the two in-groups, which were formed independently of each other, follows:

The Rattlers were first at the ballfield (which they considered "ours") as befits the "home team." The Eagles approached with their flag on a pole singing the menacing notes of the "Dragnet" theme (See Figure). For a time the two groups looked each other over. Than [sic] an Eagle used a derogatory word, a catcall from a Rattler answered him, and the razzing was on. Before the game started, Mason gave a little lecture to the Eagles on not getting rattled. As the game got underway, the Rattlers sang "The first Eagle hit the deck, parley-voo. . . The second Eagle hit the deck, parley-voo. . ., etc. " Eagles called back at them: "Our pitcher is better than yours;" "Our catcher is better than yours. " As the game progressed the Rattlers referred to Wilson (E) as Fatty, Tubby, "Little Black Sambo." Myers, the Eagle of such good-will prior to the game, was especially active in calling out at the Rattlers, though Craig tried to hush him with [p. 102] words about sportsmanship.

Craig's downfall from leadership of the Eagles started during this game. He wanted to pitch when Mason became tired, but Mason put in Wilson, saying later that Craig just wasn't good enough. (In spite of this, Craig rubbed Mason's arm after the game.)

As the game continued, the Rattlers called, "You're not Eagles, you're pigeons!" When the game ended with a Rattler victory, the Rattlers put on a display of "good sportsmanship" for the losers. In the Eagle group, Mason threatened to beat up some Eagles if they didn't try harder, but praised Lane (low status) for his improved performance. Craig, who had not made a good showing, carried a Rattler glove left at the field and dropped it in the water near the Eagle cabin.

The two competing groups were together in the mess hall for the first time at lunch on Day 2, after the baseball game. There was considerable name-calling, razzing back and forth, and singing of derogatory songs by each group in turn. Before supper that evening, some Eagles expressed a desire not to eat with the Rattlers.

In saying grace at these first meals together, the members of each group expressed their desire for victory. Myers (E) asked that God help them win the tournament and that He keep them together and not let anyone else get homesick and go home. Allen (R) prayed: "Dear Lord, we thank Thee for the food and for the cooks that cooked it, and for the ball game we won today." In the Eagle group, prayers were said for victory at night, and it became standard practice for that group to huddle in prayer before games (see Figure). Mason (E) attributed their victory in baseball on the following day to this practice.

Before continuing with the tournament events, note should be taken of the behavior of sideline participants in the various contests. Because there were 11 Rattlers and only 9 Eagles, two of the Rattlers could not participate in certain of the contests (e. g., baseball, tug-of-war, etc.). These non-players were chosen by the group and were always low status members, unless injuries dictated the choice. Since these members were not actually taking part in the competition, their behavior under these [p. 103] circumstances is particularly significant.

At the first baseball game on the occasion of first contact between the groups, Everett (R), who had been chosen as one non-player, was the loudest of the Rattlers in haranguing the Eagles, cursing them roundly and making up a song about Eagles which was supposed to be very insulting. Harrison, the other non-player (because of an injury), arrived after the exchange of insults between groups had already started. Although he had not witnessed the events leading to friction between the groups, and, in fact, before he had exchanged a single word with any camper, he started yelling insults at the Eagles.

There were numerous other incidents of this nature at the other contests, which illustrate the point that actual physical participation is not a necessary condition for involvement and participation in some form by good group members.

The afternoon of the first day was spent by both groups in intensive preparation for other events. The Rattlers had cabin clean-up, practiced for tug-of-war, and washed their shirts which they had decided to wear at every game. Mason delivered a lecture to the Eagles on how to win, and the group practiced at tug-of-war for 45 minutes. Mason had organized a cabin-cleaning detail before lunch, insisting on full participation, although prior to the tournament he himself had shown no interest at all in such chores. Later in the tournament, Mason was to urge his group to practice other activities in which he personally had little interest, such as the skits. When he felt they were not trying hard enough, his usual procedure was to declare he was going home, even starting out the cabin door. This device was very effective since the Eagles were aware of Mason's value as player and captain, and it therefore resulted in renewed efforts on their part.

The first tug-of-war was held after supper on this first day of the tournament. Simpson (R) was particularly vocal in calling taunts to the Eagles. When the referee called for captains, Mason stepped forward for the Eagles, although he had been elected only as baseball captain, and Simpson stepped forward for the Rattlers. The contest began and the Eagles pulled the first Rattler over the line. At this point, the Rattlers began moving the Eagles and continued doing so until all the Eagles were across the line. When [p. 104] Craig (E) saw the Eagles were losing, he walked away from the rope. The winning Rattlers cheered, jumped, and slapped each other on the back, then gave three cheers for the Eagles (Mills noting, "that shows we are good sports!"). They passed by the dejected Eagles with much yelling and razzing, particularly from Everett who had not even taken part in the tug-of-war. Victory was on every Rattler tongue that night, and the next morning the story of how Brown, their anchor man, had shouted "Yawl come !" and they "just came", was repeated with great appreciation.

After this defeat the downhearted Eagles stood around discussing how big the Rattlers were. Mason was crying, saying the Rattlers must be at least 8th graders, that he was going home, that he would fight a Rattler the next time they met. (Since the Eagles had lost one of their large boys through homesickness, and the Rattlers did have the largest boy in camp, there was some basis for the Rattlers looking big to the Eagles.) Craig, who was chastised for leaving the rope, said they were beaten already. Myers, Clark and McGraw took an optimistic view of the situation, calling for teamwork and planned tactics. (The next day, as we shall see, the Eagles actually did work out tactics before the tug-of-war which proved highly effective. See below)

Finally someone suggested the Eagles go back to their cabin. Lane (low status) started off first and noticed the Rattlers' flag on the ballfield backstop. He yelled that they could take it down. The Eagles all ran for the backstop, Craig trying to knock down the flag and then climbing up to take it down. Mason grabbed it and tried, with the help of others, to tear it up. Someone suggested: "Let's burn it." So Mason, Craig, and McGraw (who found matches) set the flag on fire. Mason held it while it burned, then they decided to hang the scorched remnant back up. Craig did so, and the boys sang "Taps." Mason said, "You can tell those guys I did it if they say anything. I'll fight 'em!"

As they walked to their cabin, the Eagles spoke hopefully of how they would beat the Rattlers at baseball the next day. Everyone told how they contributed to the contest, comparing rope burns and aching muscles. As they went to bed, Mason found some hope for victories over the Rattlers.

This flag-burning episode started a chain of events which [p. 105] made it unnecessary for the experimenters to introduce special situations of mutual frustration for the two groups. The only manipulation necessary to insure that the actions of one group were frustrating to the other was careful timing of arrivals and departures of the groups on certain occasions. For this reason, it was arranged that the Rattlers would complete breakfast and proceed to the athletic field before the Eagles on the next morning, in order that the Rattlers would discover the damage inflicted to their flag.

At breakfast the next morning the Eagles were relatively quiet, not being elated over their progress thus far and perhaps wondering how the Rattlers would act when they found their flag. Later the Rattlers agreed that the Eagles had looked happy at breakfast, but this judgment was made only after they had found their flag.

As arranged, the Rattlers finished breakfast first and went to the ballfield. When they arrived and discovered their burnt flag, their reaction was noisy and resentful. All sorts of suggestions for retaliation were made in a disorganized fashion. Mills climbed the backstop to bring down the burnt remnant, leaving a portion there for "evidence" at the suggestion of Barton and Harrison. Simpson, the baseball captain, suggested that he ask the Eagles if they did it. The Rattlers then made a plan of action to follow when the Eagles arrived. Simpson was to go and ask the Eagles if they burned the flag. If the Eagles said that they did (and there was little doubt in the Rattlers' minds that this would be the reply), Simpson was to start fighting and others were to come to his help. Martin (a mild boy who had earlier espoused sportsmanship) volunteered to grab the Eagles' flag and burn it. When the Eagles arrived, this plan was put in effect. Simpson went to the Eagles and asked if they burned the flag, which they admitted. The Rattlers followed up Simpson, calling invectives; Martin worked his way close to the Eagle flag, grabbed it and ran down the road with some other Rattlers and with Mason (E) in hot pursuit.

In the meantime, on the field, the Eagles ran for the Rattlers' second flag which they had left on the field. The remaining Rattlers tried to get it, but the Eagles tore it up. Swift (R) grabbed Craig and held him in a wrestling hold, asking which Eagle had burned the flag. Craig said they all had. Simpson (R) [p. 106] had gotten Cutler (E) down in a fist fight, and the physical encounters had to be stopped.

The Rattlers who burned the Eagle flag returned with Mason (E), who was crying mad. He yelled for someone "my size" to whip and Mills, the Rattler leader, said: "Here I am!" Staff prevented further fighting and started the game over the Rattlers' violent objections to the Eagles being "home team" that day, since the diamond was "ours" and "we built everything but the backstop." The game finally got underway, with continued razzing and name-calling from both sides.

From the point of view of leadership (see Chapter 4), it is very interesting to note that the Eagles noticed the fact that although Simpson was the baseball captain for the Rattlers, Mills was in fact the leader of the group. Myers (E) yelled, "One guy calling all the time-outs - Mills!" Then he asked a Rattler if Mills was their captain, but the Rattler replied "No, he's at first base (Simpson)."

A jubilant group of Eagles won the game. There was cheering for the losers again and Wilson and Myers said "Nice game" to the Rattlers. Everett (R), who had been extremely noisy in calling names at the Eagles from the beginning, said, "I think they are trying to be friendly, " but none of the dejected, tired Rattlers who had played even bothered to reply.

As the Eagles walked down the road, they discussed the reasons for their victory. Mason attributed it to their prayers. Myers, agreeing heartily, said the Rattlers lost because they used cuss-words all the time. Then he shouted, "Hey, you guys, let's not do any more cussing, and I'm serious, too. " All the boys agreed on this line of reasoning. Mason concluded that since the Rattlers were such poor sports and such "bad cussers," the Eagles should not even talk to them anymore.

The immediate effect of losing the game on the Rattlers was internal friction and mutual recriminations among in-group members. This sort of immediate reaction to loss was observed for both groups on some occasions in this study. In this case, Brown (R) criticized Newman (pitcher) and Simpson (captain), who in turn retaliated and were supported by Allen and Barton (both low status). Brown said he was going to write to go home. [p. 107] Later, Allen (a non-player in this event) was criticized by Simpson for not giving enough support from the bench. Allen, in turn, criticized Martin, who was supported vehemently by several others. Mills, the Rattler leader, saved the day by making a joke out of the whole verbal skirmish, and Brown and Alien both tore up letters asking to go home amid general rejoicing.

The second tug-of-war was notable both because the Eagles had planned a strategy which caught the confident Rattlers off balance, and because it revealed in a striking way the differential experience of two contending groups, one on the verge of victory and one on the verge of defeat. This contrast between the experience of the two groups during this tug-of-war was so striking that it was followed up by observers with questions the next day. The results of this questioning are reported separately later in this chapter at the end of this running account of interaction in Stage 2.

The strategy adopted by the Eagles was, on pre-arranged signal, to sit down and dig in their feet. The Rattlers tugged strenuously for about 7 minutes and were almost exhausted when they finally sat down and dug in too (see Figures). The Eagles were slowly but surely pulling the fatigued Rattlers across the line when, after 40 minutes of the contest, a time limit of 15 additional minutes was announced. Later the Eagles were to talk about how short the contest seemed and the Rattlers how long it seemed. After the event, Mason (E) started to shake hands with the Rattlers. The Rattlers told him to "shut up" and called him names. Good sportsmanship was on the downgrade.

All afternoon Simpson (R) made suggestions that the Rattlers raid the Eagles' cabin. Now, as a result of the tug-of-war, in which the Rattlers believed the Eagles had used decidedly unfair tactics, the Rattlers' mood was definitely favorable to a raid. Mills, their leader, set the time for 10:30, after the event of skits which each group put on separately that night. Enthusiasm for a raid was high, and the Rattlers decked themselves out for it in true commando style (darkening faces, arms, etc.). The Eagles had gone to bed by this time, and all were asleep but Mason, who jumped up to arouse others when the banging and noise began. Some of the Rattlers entered the cabin to turn beds over and rip mosquito netting on the windows, while others stood outside and challenged the Eagles to come out and fight. Some of [p. 108] the Eagles slept through the raid but those who were awake sat on their beds as though stunned. After the Rattlers left, Mason shouted to the Eagles that they were "yellow", especially Craig who had pretended to be asleep. Mason said the Rattlers had tried to blind them with a light (in reality a flashbulb from a staff camera). Most Eagles were aroused enough to want to retaliate that night; but staff prevented this when it was mentioned that rocks would be used.

Back in the Rattlers' cabin, many wild tales of the raid were being repeated over and over. Mills was considered especially heroic because he jumped in a window and secured comic books and a pair of blue jeans which, much to the Rattlers' delight, turned out to be Mason's (E leader). Mills painted these jeans the next day with orange paint, the legend "The Last of the Eagles" being inscribed on each leg, and carried them like a flag (see Figure).

After breakfast on Day 4, which the Eagles ate first, the Eagles prepared for the retaliatory raid which they had planned the previous night. After making sure that the Rattlers were in the mess hall, they started off, armed with sticks and bats, and led by Cutler who had balked at participating in a raid the previous night. The Eagles messed up the Rattlers' cabin, turning over beds, scattering dirt and possessions, and then returned to their cabin where they entrenched and prepared weapons (socks filled with rocks) for a possible return raid by the Rattlers.

The Rattlers were furious at the Eagles for the mess created in their cabin, but were stopped from rushing to "get" the Eagles when their counselor suggested that the raid might have been planned so that they would lose cabin inspection. The Rattlers returned to clean up, cursing the Eagles to a man. Simpson (baseball captain) called them "communists," and this was echoed by Everett (low status).

Rain delayed the start of the touch football game. The Eagles spent this time planning what they would do if the Rattlers came to their cabin; the Rattlers went to work with a vengeance making posters and "raiding flags." At the game itself, the Rattlers were exceedingly vocal and abusive. Everett and Allen (R) repeatedly told the Eagle staff members to get off their side of the field, to "shut up", and called them derogatory names. [p. 109] Mason's pants, now a flag, were waved victoriously by the Rattlers; but the Eagles ignored all this as much as possible. The high status Eagles were telling their group not to yell at the Rattlers or brag in front of them as this was thought to bring bad luck. Occasionally Wilson (who had risen near the top) forgot this admonition, and had to be reminded. Clark (middle status) was the most vocal Eagle, and he was reprimanded several times.

After winning the touch football game (narrowly) and the tent pitching, the Rattlers were convinced that they were "winners" not quitters. The Rattler victory in football was so narrow that the Eagles did not feel too bad at losing; but they thought their tent was erected much better (though more slowly) than the Rattlers. Craig (E) walked away immediately after this contest, and one of the Eagles said, "He's quit on us again" (as he had in the first tug-of-war). The Eagles' morale shot skyward later in the afternoon when they won their second baseball victory. True to their determination to be "good sports," they carefully refrained from making bragging remarks in the Rattlers' presence. Bragging was approved behavior within the confines of the Eagle group, but by this time it was frowned upon in the presence of the out-group.

In seeking to explain their loss, which put them behind one point in the tournament, the Rattlers pointed out the weak plays various members had made, but reached general agreement that their loss was due to the fact that their bats were larger and heavier than the Eagles'. Martin expressed the current mood: "It was just like having those (prize) knives in our pockets before we lost the game." Simpson and Everett talked much of a raid, but nothing came of it at the time. The Eagles discussed the possibility of being raided by the Rattlers, and collected a bucket of stones (just in case), even "scouting" the Rattler cabin.

At breakfast on the last day of the tournament, the Rattlers sang "The enemy's coming...." as the Eagles approached. After the meal the Rattlers decided to post flags on "everything that's ours," including "home", "the swimming hole", "our Upper Camp", "our baseball diamond", and the Stone Corral. They drifted off with the idea of raiding the Eagles' cabin, but met staff members and abandoned the attempt.

The Rattlers won the third tug-of-war easily, but lost the [p. 110] second tent-pitching contest to the Eagles decisively. Before lunch, Mason (E) directed: "Take all (the food) you can get; let's don't leave much for them (Rattlers)." However, lunch was a relatively quiet meal. The Eagles were figuring out whether or not they had to win both afternoon events (tent-pitching and treasure hunt) or just one. They got into a discussion of their standing in the tournament up to that time and decided they would have to win both of the remaining contests to win the tournament.

Talk of raids had been in the air in both groups all day. The Eagles had mentioned the possibility and indulged in bravado talk, but no plans were made. Simpson was pushing the raid idea in the Rattler group, and as the possibility of their winning the tournament faded during the day, it became generally accepted. Mills (leader) stipulated that it should not be a night raid, because the Eagles had told them they were cowards to raid at night while the Eagles had come in broad daylight. Martin said he would raid if the Rattlers won, but not if they lost because that would be bad sportsmanship. (This same Martin entered into the raid that same day without question after the Rattlers lost. He was one of few boys actually engaging in a physical clash with two Eagles, and had to be forcibly restrained from fighting.)

The Eagles won the third tent-pitching easily and also won the treasure hunt (through experimenters' manipulation in plotting the routes). Their elation and the dejection of the Rattlers was described earlier in this chapter. Mason (E) was so happy that he cried. After entrusting the beloved trophy to staff for safe-keeping, the Eagles set off for their Moccasin Creek, some boys jumping in with their clothing on to celebrate.

The Rattlers raided while the Eagles were gone, messing up beds, piling personal gear in the middle of the cabin, setting loose boats at the dock, and absconding with the prize knives and medals. When the Eagles found what had happened, they rushed to the Rattler cabin shouting invectives. Mason (E) was in the lead, furious and ready to fight. Lane and Clark were right be- hind him, and Wilson, Myers, and Cutler arrived within seconds. (Craig, Bryan and McGraw returned to the Eagles' cabin.) The groups lined up, separated by an invisible line. Mason and others shouted at the Rattlers. Mason refused to fight the big Rattlers (Brown and Swift), and the smaller Rattlers refused to step out to fight him. At last, Mason turned rapidly on his heel [p. 111] and strode toward the Eagle cabin. The other Eagles started to retreat, but did so facing the jeering Rattlers, thus walking backward the entire distance. Clark and Wilson were the last to leave and closest to the pursuing Rattlers.

About ten feet from the Eagle cabin, Mason came back with McGraw yelling to Craig and Bryan in the cabin: "Come on, you yellow bellies. Are you going to lay down and take this ?" At this, Craig came out and the Eagles took a last ditch stand before their Mason, Clark, Wilson and Lane were in the front line; McGraw and Myers (who was frightened) composed the second echelon, and Craig stood in the rear. The Rattlers told the Eagles that if they would get down on their bellies and crawl, they would return the prize knives and medals they had taken. Mason (E) begged the Rattlers to take out their two big boys and fight, which the Rattlers refused to do. Martin (R) got into a fist fight with Lane (low status E). Mills (R) was scuffling with Clark (E). At this point, it was decided to stop the interaction altogether to avoid possible injury. The Rattlers' staff started forcing their boys up the trail to their cabin, one by one. Hill was the last Rattler to be pulled away, and he struggled to go back.

As the Rattlers were being herded up the trail, the Eagles came right behind them yelling that the Rattlers were running away. Eagle staff got the boys back to the cabin, but Mason ran out determined to "get" the Rattlers. He was returned shortly. Lights were brought to the cabin (lanterns and flashlights had been taken during the raid), and the boys began to clean up the mess. When the staff member who had the role of camp director arrived with some of the stolen prizes, the Eagles brightened up and told him about the event (since he had not been present). By the time they were through telling of their exploits, the Eagles had turned the whole affair into a magnificent victory for themselves. They related that the Rattlers would not take their two big men out of the fight, and how they had chased the Rattlers "over halfway back to their cabin" (actually about 40 feet).

The end result of the series of competitive contests and reciprocally frustrating encounters between the Eagles and Rattlers was that neither group wanted to have anything whatsoever to do with the other under any circumstances. On previous days, the now familiar invectives and names had been hurled back and forth ("stinkers, " "braggers, " "sissies, " and many considerably [p. 112] worse), derogation of the out-group had been expressed in word and deed (e. g., holding noses when in their vicinity). Now both groups objected even to eating in the same mess hall at the same time.

Clearly negative attitudes and social distance in relation to the out-group were standardized in both groups. These products of intergroup friction could have been tapped at that time through judgments of performance and stereotype ratings. Nevertheless it was decided to delay these crucial checks of the products of intergroup friction for one more day (a) to avoid the possibility of obtaining merely momentary reactions to the out-group, and to insure that the attitudes toward out-group had some stability, and (b) to secure further checks through a planned encounter between the groups. Accordingly the day after the tournament ended (that is, the day after the Rattlers raided the Eagles) was set aside as an interim period devoted entirely to in-group activity with the exception of one planned contact between groups.

The Eagles were taken to Lake Carlton, a more civilized and comfortable place to swim and picnic. They spent the day in self-contained and contented in-group activity, all pitching in to make the swim and picnic a success. There was discussion of the Rattlers, what a "bunch of cussers," "poor losers" and "bums" they were, and of the Eagles' glorious "victory" in the previous night's raid (see above). Craig carried the Eagle flag, and the group stayed entirely apart from other people on the beach. The only exchange with outsiders was when Lane bumped into someone and said, "Excuse me."

The Rattlers spent most of the time at their hideout, swimming, playing, and working in a congenial and happy manner with everyone included (Mills, the leader, making special efforts to involve low status members in games). There were occasional references to the Eagles as "sissies," "cowards," "little babies," etc. Upon returning to camp for supper, the Rattlers made it clear that they did not want to eat with the Eagles, who as it happened were not there. Martin and Hill asked if knives were on the canteen list. Mills said he didn't want the kind of knives the Eagles had won, and others expressed interest in having knives, but not the kind the Eagles had won.

The Eagles returned after supper. As planned for the "test [p. 113] situation" arranged by the staff, the Rattlers were taken on a hike in the Eagle area, passing within about 20 to 30 yards of the Eagles' cabin. Mason heard the Rattlers approaching and yelled, "Come on, you guys, we're being raided!" After the boys had rushed toward the cabin, Mason stopped to listen. Bryan and McGraw had by this time taken to the bushes to hide. In the meantime, the Rattlers, with Mills, Brown, Simpson and Everett in the lead, decided to take a look at the Eagles' hideout (Moccasin Creek). There they became quite engrossed in crossing the Eagles' rope bridge, and although the Rattlers mentioned above spoke of cutting it before they left, this was not done.

The Eagles were discussing the possibility that the Rattlers might do something to their swimming hole, Wilson, Clark and Mason arguing that they should protect it. Wilson said he thought they must be at O. U. Camp: "That's our camp and they'll try to tear down our sign." The Rattlers returned by the Eagle cabin, yelling insults in loud voices. Mills (R) said: "They were afraid to even look at us." The Eagles inspected their swimming place the next morning and commented that there were more rocks in the water, which the Rattlers must have been responsible for.

Thus, reaction in this test situation further confirmed the prior evidence of this friction phase of intergroup relations which by this time had crystallized in negative attitudes toward the out-group (stereotypes of out-group characteristics and considerable social distance in relation to its members). These negative attitudes were maintained even after intergroup contact in competitive and reciprocally frustrating situations ceased.

How Long the Tug-of-War Lasted

Viewpoints of groups on the verge of victory and defeat: Among the factors frequently reflected in judgments of objects, persons, or events in Stage 2 were immediate and long-range trends in intergroup relations, strenuous physical efforts, victory or defeat, etc. A striking contrast between groups, as evidenced by differential effects along group lines, was seen in estimates of the time consumed by the second tug-of-war. As noted above, reactions of the two groups to this event were followed up by participant observers. Evidence for differential experience by the members of the two rival groups was found, both [p. 114] when estimates were made individually and when they were a matter of concensus [sic] within groups.

The Rattlers had won the first tug-of-war easily. When the groups met again the Eagles had adopted a strategy of sitting down and digging in their feet. The Rattlers stood up and pulled mightily for about 7 minutes (losing ground steadily) and were almost exhausted when they finally sat down and dug in too. The Rattlers' fatigue gave the Eagles a decided advantage, and they were gradually pulling their opponents across the line when, at the fortieth minute of the contest, a time limit of 15 additional minutes was announced. The event ended in a tie through a mighty effort of the Rattlers to keep their last man from crossing the line.

Later in the evening, at their own cabins, both groups talked about the event. Most of the Eagles seemed to feel that the time had literally flown by, one of them saying, "That was the shortest ten minutes in my life" (referring to the last 15 minutes of the contest). However, remarks at the Rattler cabin revealed that they felt the event had lasted a "helluva long time."

Since these remarks indicated differential biases according to group membership the members of both groups were asked individually by their participant observers on the morning following the event, "How long did the tug-of-war last after both groups sat down and dug in?" The objective time was 48 minutes. The estimates made are tabulated on the following page.

It is significant that the Eagles all gave their estimates in minutes and the Rattlers all gave theirs in hours, even though the same question was asked both groups and all boys were questioned individually. The members of the two competing groups used the same dimension (elapsed time) in making estimates, but used different units - the shorter unit being used by those on the verge of victory and the longer by those on the verge of defeat. Also, it was found on further questioning that the Rattlers were unable to differentiate between the length of time occupied by the whole event and the time after both groups sat down.

Note that the median judgment for the Eagles represents an 18 minute underestimation of elapsed time; that of the Rattlers a 12 minute overestimation. The median judgment for Rattlers [p. 115] was twice that of the Eagles, giving a 30 minute difference between groups. Although there is no overlap in judgments of the members of the two groups, and the significance of the results is obvious, they may be put in the more formal language of statistics. According to the Mann-Whitney U test (1947) the probability of getting these estimates, so distributed between groups, by chance is less than .001.

After polling the group members individually, each participant observer asked his group (at a time when the group was all in one place) how long the event had lasted. After some discussion the Eagles decided the estimate should be 45 minutes (the original estimate of the group's leader). The Rattlers decided it was "over an hour." These estimates arrived at by consensus still represent under- and overestimations of the objective time.

Table 1

Estimates of How Long the Second Tug-of-War Lasted, Made Individually by Eagles (who almost won) and Rattlers
(who almost lost.)*

             Eagles                 Rank                Rattlers                            Rank

             22 1/2 minutes     2                     1 hour                              12.5
             22 1/2 minutes     2                     1 hour                              12.5
             22 1/2 minutes     2                     1 hour                              12.5
             25       minutes     4                     1 hour                              12.5
Median-30       minutes     5.5                  1 hour                              12.5
             30       minutes     5.5     Median-1 hour                              12.5
             32 1/2 minutes     7                     1 hour plus                       16
             45       minutes     8.5                  1 1/2 hours                       17
             45       minutes     8.5                  2 hours                             18
                                                               3 1/2 hours                       19.5
                                                               3 1/2 hours                       19.5

*When an interval was given as an estimate, the mid-point was tabulated, e. g., 22 1/2 minutes for 20 to 25 minutes.


1. (E) is used for Eagles; (R) for Rattlers


Mann, H. B., and Whitney, D. R. A test of whether one of two random variables is stochastically larger than the other. Annals
of Mathematical Statistics, 1947, 18, 50-60.