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What ever happened to Little Albert after the classic conditioning experiment

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We reviewed the Pavlov experiment and got a little background about John Watson. Watson wanted to take the Pavlov experiment further and test the hypothesis on children. His little Albert experiment would be outlawed today but did wonders for the times in understanding how classical conditioning works in the lives of everyday people. However John B. Watson’s contribution to psychology gave us all new insight into human behavior.

The little Albert experiment

Little Albert was a baby used for the experiment whom the researchers called Albert B. The child was nine months old. The experiment started with the baby being shown various things like a newspaper, rabbit, and white rat. The baby was not afraid of any of them. These objects were called stimuli.

Then the second phase of the experiment was to make little Albert afraid of the neutral stimulus. Watson started to make a loud sound by banging a pipe with a hammer every time the baby was shown the white rat. Of course the baby would cry at the sound of the banging. Eventually because of the pairing of the banging with the white rat the child became afraid of the white rat when he saw it alone. The baby crawled away to escape the rat and what he learned would be a banging noise associated with the white rat.

Elements of Classical Conditioning in the Little Albert Experiment

”The Little Albert experiment presents an example of how classical conditioning can be used to condition an emotional response.

See: The uses for classical conditioning today for a more in-depth understanding of classical conditioning.

Watson and colleague also discovered stimulus generalization which meant that Little Albert now became afraid of anything white or furry.

Criticism of the Little Albert experiment

Ethical concerns of instilling fear in a baby

Poor construction – the only so called scientific method was the researcher‘s subjective observations.

Reversing the experiment

The researchers wanted to reverse the fear that Little Albert had learned but the child no longer could be found. Little Albert’s mother moved away without a forwarding address. It was eventually discovered that Douglas Meritte the real little Albert had died of encephalitis which is a fluid buildup in the brain at the age of six.

Since Little Albert was not healthy. Recently, it has been said that Watson already knew about it when he did his experiment and thus it raised even more ethical criticism and puts a shadow on his famous experiment.



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