Danish social experiment from 1969

In the Danish movie Broen (Om Fordomme) two groups who can not stand each other have to collaborate in order to build a bridge. The movie is visible online.

On this webpage there are also other short movies about prejudice, e.g. a study of how we relate to people with facial handicaps such as scars and what personality traits we associate with such cosmetic properties. This is, I guess, related to slow and fast thinking.

But now back to the short movie. The two groups in question consist of six members of a motorcycle gang and six hippies respectively. Groups who in those times were often involved in violent clashes. Perhaps the clashes between mods and rockers in Brighton were similarly motivated.

The movie is interesting to me, because the opinions and prejudices that are voiced sound completely modern. Replace the motorcycle gang with conservatives/liberal democrats and hippies with socialists, and the phrases that are voiced are more or less the same.

The motorcycle gang says things like:

  • Why should we work and pay our taxes when these other people don’t want to work at all?
  • If these other people don’t contribute to society, then everything falls apart

The hippies say things like:

  • People in a motorcycle gang are violent, talk dirty and are frightening

The experiment and law of collaboration

The experiment is that six representatives from each group are placed on an island in a lake, twelve people total. 5000 kroner is awarded to each group (either six or twelve people) which builds a bridge to the mainland before midnight. 1800 kroner is awarded to each group (either six or twelve people) who finish the bridge after midnight. No money is awarded if no bridge is built.

The experiment is set up so that pays out to collaborate with the other group in order to build a bridge before midnight, in which each member gets 5000/12 = 416 kroner. This assumes that one group alone can not build a bridge before midnight, and that the group of six would then get only 1800/6 = 300 kroner.

The social theory says that opposing groups will collaborate if faced with a common challenge, with a dire need for addressing the problem. The dire need is here motivated by the size of the award.

A similar experiment in 2013?

It would be interesting to conduct a similar experiment today, but substituting libertarians for rockers and socialists for hippies.

The real eye-opener for me was how similar groups who consider themselves as “time typical” are to groups in other periods of history. It is almost as if only the clothes change.

Other related movies

On the

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