Carolyn Wood Sherif: Biography of this social psychologist

Carolyn Wood Sherif (1922-1982) was a social psychologist who, among other things, conducted significant research on topics such as intergroup conflict, cooperation, power relations, social judgment, prejudice and gender identities .

Wood Sherif’s work was carried out in a context which did little to promote the participation of women in social psychology and is also considered one of the most influential for the development of this discipline. So we go a brief review of a biography of Carolyn Wood Sherif, And we’ll look at some of his contributions to social psychology and gender studies.

    Carolyn Wood Sherif: biography of a pioneer in social psychology

    Carolyn Wood Sherif was born on June 28, 1922 in Indiana, United States. She was the youngest daughter of three brothers, who quickly passed on a strong motivation for high-level studies, especially in the exact sciences. Her father was attached to Purdue University, so Carolyn and her siblings had the opportunity to begin academic training at this institution.

    Although her interest is primarily in the world of humanities, history, and other social sciences, her father’s insistence led Carolyn to train in mathematics as well. This is how he positioned himself very early on one of the best students in different branches, before coming to social psychology.

      Beginnings in social psychology

      Having trained in various disciplines and once established as a social psychologist, Wood Sherif asked herself … how did I become a social psychologist? (1983). There were not many opportunities to train and practice as a social psychologist in this setting, and furthermore, the mixed patterns between professional development and family commitments were unusual.

      Turning to the American context of World War II, where her academic and personal development took place, she herself replied that it was his desire to do something to make the world a better place which led her to ask herself various questions, which gradually brought her closer to social psychology.

      Likewise, this desire led him to question the possibilities that this discipline had of integrating the study of human cognition with motivation and social behavior. He is interested, for example, in social psychology developed by Kurt Lewin, as well as in his studies in cultural and social organization, just like Muzafer Sherif and Frederic Bartlett.

      Carolyn Wood Sherif and Muzafer Sherif

      After graduating from Purdue University, he entered the University of Iowa to pursue a master’s degree in psychology, which he completed in 1944. he started working for a research institute in Princeton, New Jersey. Through this site, she gained a lot of research experience, but felt that it was a task very foreign to the social issues that interested her, so she finally decided to give up.

      Around this time, she began to advise on where and with whom to continue her studies and got the offer to work as a researcher also at Princeton, but with Muzafer Sherif, who was already one of the most important social psychologists.

      The downside now was that Princeton University didn’t accept female students, so Carolyn start taking courses at Columbia University. Not without ceasing to carry out, in parallel, research with Chérif, in particular on the subject of intergroup relations. Years later, Muzafer Sherif would become her husband.

      The thieves cave

      Over the next several years, Carolyn Wood Sherif and Muzafer Sherif continued to work together at both Princeton University and Yale and Oklahoma, publishing many widely viewed articles and books in social psychology to date.

      However, due to the frequent forgetfulness of the scientific activity of women in this context; It is common for Carolyn Wood’s participation in these works to be rejected or directly omitted, and for the credit to be given only to Muzafer.

      One of his most popular research is the classic cave thief experience, Where they analyzed the possible origins of prejudices in different social groups, as well as various intergroup dynamics. Generally speaking, they conducted an experiment with 22 adolescent males in a rural area of ​​Oklahoma, where they were able to observe how group formation occurs, how social hierarchies are created; and what are some of the origins of friction, hostility and integration.

        Academic activity and research axes

        In 1958, Carolyn Wood Sherif began her training in a doctoral program at the University of Texas, under the direction of Wayne Holtzman and with the accompaniment of Muzafer Sherif and his three daughters. He graduated in 1961 and led a project at the US Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Where he focused on studies on self-concept and youth.

        She has also worked as an associate researcher at the Oklahoma Institute of Group Relations and has published numerous articles and books on youth, peer groups, attitudes and social justice. Finally, in the 1960s, her interests focused on psychology and gender, particularly gender identity, roles and their reproduction. The latter coincides with the feminist movements of the same decade, which promote both its academic recognition and its activism.

        In this context, he chaired the 35th division of the American Psychological Association (APA), in the 1970s, which is known as the Society for the Psychology of Women. His work and experience have earned him various accolades, including publishing and distinguished awards for his contributions to the teaching of psychology.

        In the same vein, the 35th Division of the APA has dedicated an award in her honor (the Carolyn Wood Sherif Award), through which it recognizes the tasks of teaching, research and professional leadership in female psychology, to both psychologists and psychologists.

        Bibliographical references:

        • George, M. (2011). Profile. Carolyn Wood Sheriff. Feminist Voices of Psychology. Accessed June 27, 2018. Available at
        • O’Connell, A. and Russo, N. (1983). Models of Success: Reflections from Leading Women in Psychology. New York: Columbia University Press.

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