Learning from a group of 11 year olds

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In 1954, twenty-two 11-year-old Protestant boys from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, of similar middleclass backgrounds, unacquainted with each other, boarded two buses bound for a 200-acre Boy Scouts of America summer camp near Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma.

Observing all of this from his perspective as camp “janitor” was the architect of the study, Muzafer Sherif, a Turkish-born Harvard graduate, and the father of social psychology. The boys did not know, in these days before informed consent, that they were about to become guinea pigs in one of the most fascinating and beloved psychological studies of group behavior of all time.


The grieving monkey

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The papers acted like it was a revelation: the first example, they said, of a wild animal displaying grief.

A female snub-nosed monkey was weak and bleeding from the nose. Her partner, the alpha male of the monkey group, warned the other monkeys of their group away and began touching her hand tenderly, before climbing up a tree with her, where he groomed and cared for her some more, before she fell to the ground, cracking her head on a rock.

Her partner spent her final hour with her, gently touching and grooming her, and after she was dead he stayed by her side for five minutes, touching her and pulling gently at her hand, as if trying to revive her.


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