What were the impacts of the Robber's Cave study?
The main impact of this study was on psychologists’ understanding of how conflict comes about and how it can be ameliorated. The Robbers’ Cave study showed that boys of about 12 years of age who were demographically similar to one another could be made to be very antagonistic towards one another when they were artificially placed in groups. Researchers put the boys in two groups and engaged in activities meant to foster group cohesion. They then made the two groups aware of the other. This led to increased group cohesion within the in group. Competition with the other group caused both groups to have very negative and aggressive attitudes towards one another. This helped psychologists to understand how people (or at least white boys of that place and time) come to form group identification and how they come to form negative attitudes towards those outside their group.
After this, the researchers engaged the boys in activities meant to foster teamwork and positive feelings about one another. This was successful in significantly reducing tensions and, eventually, in removing them altogether. The impact of this was to show that cooperative activities (at least in that setting) were effective in reducing tensions.
Overall, the Robbers’ Cave experiment has had some impact on groups that try to bridge gaps between groups such as different races in the US. These groups often try to put members of different races or ethnic groups (or of different gangs within the same ethnic group) in situations where they can cooperate and learn to reduce tensions between their groups. This is less effective in the real world because the conflicts between the groups are much more deep-seated than the conflicts between the two groups at Robbers’ Cave.