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In 1954, Muzafer and Carolyn Sherif studied the origin of prejudice in social groups. He conducted his research in a 200 acre (0.8 km²) Boy Scouts of America camp which was completely surrounded by Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.
Posing as a janitor, Sherif assigned boys to living groups. The Sherifs broke up existing friendships, by assigning boys in living groups with different friends. The Sherifs also assigned them to have a sport competition. Although each team had a long-standing friendships with similar backgrounds, stereotypical hostility was observed within a few days. The two social groups developed a social hierarchy spontaneously; one calling itself "The Rattlers", the other "The Eagles." The experiment was too successful, the hostility escalating to the point where Sherif believed it could not continue safely.
To try and promote unity amongst the camp, the Sherifs assigned tasks of a cooperative nature—such as having to pull the "broken down" camp bus back to camp—rather than competitive ones. This caused hostile behavior to subside.
Sherif died of a heart attack at the age of 82.
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