Author(s): Gina Perry
In 1954, a group of boys attended a remote summer camp where they were split into two groups, and encouraged to bully, harass, and demonise each other. The results would make history as one of social psychology's classic - and most controversial - studies- 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 archival material and new interviews, Perry pieces together a story of drama, mutiny, and intrigue that has never been told before.
Gina Perry is an Australian psychologist and writer. Her feature articles, columns, and essays have been published in The Age and The Australian, and her short fiction has been published in a number of literary magazines, including Meanjin, Westerly, and Island. Her first book, Behind the Shock Machine, was about Stanley Milgram's obedience experiences, and her co-production of the ABC Radio National documentary on the experiments won the Silver World Medal for a history documentary in the 2009 New York Festivals radio award. In 2013 she was a finalist in the UNSW Bragg Prize for Science Writing.