Superordinate goals

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In psychology, superordinate goals refer to goals that require the cooperation of two or more people or groups to achieve, which usually results in rewards to the groups. Muzafer Sherif (1954) performed a study at a camp involving two groups of boys, the Eagles and the Rattlers, that were in opposition to one another in a zero-sum situation. The opposing groups had strong negative feelings towards each other, resulting in hostile actions such as 'garbage wars'.

Simple noncompetitive interactions between groups was not enough to alter the hostile opposition of one another.[1] Sherif was able to successfully bring these two groups together by using superordinate goals, such as solving the problems of a breakdown of the water supply and the breakdown of a food delivery truck. The cumulative effect of these incidents was friendship formation across group boundaries. On the last day, both groups elected to ride home together on the same bus.


  1. ^ Gaertner, Samuel L.; Dovidio, John F. (2000). "Reducing Intergroup Conflict: From Superordinate Goals to Decategorization, Recategorization, and Mutual Differentiation". Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. 4 (1): 98–114.
  • Sherif, M., Harvey, O.J., White, B.J., Hood, W.R., & Sherif, C.W. (1961) Intergroup Conflict and Co-operation: The Robbers Cave Experiment. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Book Exchange.