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ResourcesHuman Research EthicsA real-life Lord of the Flies: the troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment – The Guardian (David Shariatmadari | April 2017)

Australasian Human Research Ethics Consultancy Services Pty Ltd (AHRECS)

A real-life Lord of the Flies: the troubling legacy of the Robbers Cave experiment – The Guardian (David Shariatmadari | April 2017)

 


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In the early 1950s, the psychologist Muzafer Sherif brought together a group of boys at a US summer camp – and tried to make them fight each other. Does his work teach us anything about our age of resurgent tribalism?
……Read an extract from The Lost Boys

July 1953: late one evening in the woods outside Middle Grove, New York state, three men are having a furious argument. One of them, drunk, draws back his fist, ready to smash it into his opponent’s face. Seeing what is about to happen, the third grabs a block of wood from a nearby pile. “Dr Sherif! If you do it, I’m gonna hit you,” he shouts.

A useful example of the degree to which such work not only fails modern ethical standards, its results were cherry-picked and stage managed. We note again our caution about using such cases to justify current human research ethics/research integrity arrangements. Also see James Kehoe recent post.

The man with the raised fist isn’t just anybody. He is one of the world’s foremost social psychologists, Muzafer Sherif. The two others are his research assistants. Sherif is angry because the experiment he has spent months preparing for has just fallen apart.
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Born in the summer of 1905 and raised in İzmir province, Turkey, during the dying days of the Ottoman empire, Sherif won a place at Harvard to study psychology. But he found himself frustrated by the narrowness of the discipline, which mainly involved tedious observation of lab rats. He was drawn instead to the emerging field of social psychology, which looks at the way human behaviour is influenced by others. In particular, he became obsessed by group dynamics: how individuals band together to form cohesive units and how these units can find themselves at each other’s throats.
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Read the rest of this discussion piece



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