John Watson, father of behaviorism, was a psychologist who was apt to using orphans in his experiments. Watson wanted to test the idea of whether fear was innate or a conditioned response. Little Albert, the nickname given to the nine month old infant that Watson chose from a hospital, was exposed to a white rabbit, a white rat, a monkey, masks with and without hair, cotton wool, burning newspaper, and a miscellanea of other things for two months without any sort of conditioning. Then experiment began by placing Albert on a mattress in the middle of a room. A white laboratory rat was placed near Albert and he was allowed to play with it. At this point, the child showed no fear of the rat.
Then Watson would make a loud sound behind Albert’s back by striking a suspended steel bar with a hammer when the baby touched the rat. In these occasions, Little Albert cried and showed fear as he heard the noise. After this was done several times, Albert became very distressed when the rat was displayed. Albert had associated the white rat with the loud noise and was producing the fearful or emotional response of crying.
Little Albert started to generalize his fear response to anything fluffy or white (or both). The most unfortunate part of this experiment is that Little Albert was not desensitized to his fear. He left the hospital before Watson could do so.
The Lies of the Little Albert Experiment
Poor little Albert was being conditioned to feel fear when faced with white furry things. The experiment was a success and Little Albert would freak out whenever he saw white furry things such as rats, fur jackets or santa’s beard.
Watson conducted the experiment and reported Little Albert was a healthy baby. Little did we know, he lied or wasn’t thorough in his report about Little Albert suffering from hydrocephalus since birth. Little Albert died at age 6. We’ll never know if he enjoyed his childhood or was he just generally scared of everything white and furry…