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The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif's Robbers Cave Experiment
Contributor(s): Perry, Gina

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ISBN: 1947534602     ISBN-13: 9781947534605
Publisher: Scribe Pubns Pty Ltd
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Binding Type: Paperback
Published: April 2019


Competition. Prejudice. Discrimination. Conflict.

In 1954, a group of American boys attended a remote summer camp where they were split into two groups, and encouraged to bully, harass, and demonize each other. The results would make history as one of social psychology’s classic studies, and one of the most controversial: the Robbers Cave experiment.

Conducted at the height of the Cold War, the experiment officially had a happy ending: the boys reconciled, and psychologist Muzafer Sherif demonstrated that while hatred and violence are powerful forces, so too are cooperation and harmony. Today it is proffered as proof that under the right conditions warring groups can make peace. Yet the true story of the experiments is far more complex, and more chilling.

In The Lost Boys, Gina Perry explores the experiment and its consequences, tracing the story of Sherif, a troubled outsider who struggled to craft an experiment that would vanquish his personal demons. Drawing on both on archival material and new interviews with the subjects, now in their 70s and none aware that the summer camps they’d attended had in fact been experimental ruses, Perry pieces together a story of drama, mutiny, and intrigue that has never been told before.

Additional Information
BISAC Categories:
- Psychology | Social Psychology
- Biography & Autobiography | Social Scientists & Psychologists
- Biography & Autobiography | Science & Technology
Dewey: 302
Academic/Grade Level: General Adult
Book type: Non-Fiction
Physical Information: 8.50" H x 5.50" W x 1.25" (0.90 lbs) 375 pages
Descriptions, Reviews, Etc.

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly Reviews (PW Reviews 2019 January #2)

Using archival notes and new interviews, Australian psychologist Perry (Behind the Shock Machine) looks at a notable 1954 experiment in Oklahoma's remote Robbers Cave State Park in her unsatisfying history. After recruiting almost two dozen 11-year-old boys and dividing them into two competitive teams, social psychologist Muzafer Sherif and his team showed how, over the course of a few weeks, friendships could devolve into intense, sometimes violent, antagonism. Conversely, the boys would drop their antagonism and reunite when facing a common challenge. Perry uncovers some deep flaws in the experiment, which she calls a "choreographed enactment," with the staff sometimes acting as "agents provocateurs." Perry also spends time with some of the surviving subjects, now in their 70s, exploring whether any psychological effects remain. However, she drops this line of inquiry abruptly to devote her book's last third to Sherif's biography, which Perry hypothesizes might have influenced his "tribal war and peace research": as a boy in the early 1920s, he witnessed particularly brutal violence between Greeks and Turks in the Anatolian town where he grew up. This seems plausible, but Perry does not really anchor it in Sherif's own writings. Her long profile of him, and description of his experiment, will likely remain unsurpassed, but she never clearly establishes the Robbers Cave study's long-term significance. (Apr.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.
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