Muzafer Sherif

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Muzaffer Şerif Başoğlu , later officially Muzafer Sherif (born July 29, 1906 in Ödemiş , Izmir , Turkey ; † October 16, 1988 in Fairbanks , Alaska , USA ) was a Turkish-American social psychologist , who was particularly known through his research on social influence and research into conflict within and between groups became known.


Şerif graduated from the American College in Izmir (İzmir American Koleji) . He graduated from the Faculty of Literature at Istanbul University with a degree in philosophy . After moving to the USA, he did his Masters at Harvard University ; he received his PhD from Columbia University . He later researched and taught at Yale University , the University of Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania State University .

Serif dealt intensively with the behavior of groups, with the influence of the group on the individual and the resulting conformity behavior of the individual.

Experiment on informative social influence

One of his most famous experiments was based on the autokinetic effect . This effect is a motion illusion of a stationary point of light in the dark. Since there are no clues for the position of the light point, the light point seems to move subjectively. Serif had test subjects lead into a dark room and instructed them to give estimates of the extent of the movement of the point of light. The point was presented 100 times in each session. Here Serif formed three groups. The first group, as a control group, should assess the movements of the point in individual sessions. It turned out that each person develops a standard for himself, which can differ from person to person, but is retained in subsequent meetings. The second group should first give the estimates alone and then in further rounds in groups of two to three people. The third group should give the estimates first in a group and only then alone.

Serif was able to show that the test subjects in the second group gave a standard estimate fairly quickly, their so-called personal norm. As soon as they appreciated in the group, however, their previously very different judgments approached in the direction of a common position, the group norm.

The estimates of the third group, however, ran in the opposite direction. Because the test subjects first gave their estimates within the group, the group norm developed from the beginning. The test subjects adhered to the group norm even when they gave their estimates on their own.

This and many subsequent studies showed that other group members are used as a source of information in ambiguous situations. This is called informative social influence . The basic work on the other type of pressure to conform, the normative social influence , comes from Solomon Asch .

Robbers Cave experiments

Serif also carried out the so-called holiday camp experiment . He brought boys together in a holiday camp who had not known each other before. The 22 boys were dropped off independently and at different locations in Robbers Cave State Park in two buses with 11 passengers each. The boys initially spent several days as two small groups, which went on excursions separately from one another until they had developed a sense of group. Then the groups were allowed to compete against each other in competitions, which, however, were manipulated in favor of always the same group. It didn't take long for members of one group to verbally abuse members of the other group and become aggressive towards them.

After creating two rival groups, the real experiment began. At first both groups were allowed to eat or watch films together, but this did not reduce the stereotypes and malice between the groups. Only when the groups were given tasks that they could only solve together (e.g .: they were only allowed to see a film if they all did it together) did the stereotypes gradually reduce.

With this experiment it was shown that to break down stereotypes it is not enough to establish enough contact between the different groups. a. common goals and active cooperation are necessary. These findings formed the basis, among other things, for Elliot Aronson's group puzzle concept.

See also


  • S. Batur and E. Aslıtürk (eds.): Muzaffer Şerif'e Armağan: Muzaffer Şerif'ten Muzafer Sherif'e. İletişim, Istanbul 2007, ISBN 978-975-05-0533-1 (Turkish)
  • Muzafer Sherif, CW Sherif: Experimental studies on behavior in groups . In: J.-J. Koch (ed.): Social influence and conformity . Beltz Verlag, Weinheim and Basel 1977, pp. 167–192.
  • M. Sherif, CW Sherif: Social Psychology (Int. Rev. Ed.). Harper & Row, New York 1969.
  • M. Sherif, OJ Harvey, BJ White, WR Hood, CW Sherif: Intergroup conflict and cooperation: the Robbers Cave experiment . University of Oklahoma Book Exchange, Norman 1961.
  • M. Sherif, BJ White, OJ Harvey: Status in experimentally produced groups . In: American Journal of Sociology . Volume 60, 1955, pp. 370-379.
  • M. Sherif, CW Sherif: Groups in Harmony and Tension . Harper & Row, New York 1953.
  • M. Sherif, H. Cantril: The Psychology of Ego-Involvements . Wiley & Sons, New York 1946.Weblinks