The Little Albert Experiment By John Watson And Rosalie Rayner

2169 words - 9 pages

The Little Albert experiment has become a widely known case study that is continuously discussed by a large number of psychology professionals. In 1920, behaviorist John Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner began to conduct one of the first experiments done with a child. Stability played a major factor in choosing Albert for this case study, as Watson wanted to ensure that they would do as little harm as possible during the experiment. Watson’s method of choice for this experiment was to use principles of classic conditioning to create a stimulus in children that would result in fear. Since Watson wanted to condition Albert, a variety of objects were used that would otherwise not scare him. These objects included a white rat, blocks, a rabbit, a dog, a fur coat, wool, and a Santa Claus mask. Albert’s conditioning began with a series of emotional tests that became part of a routine in which Watson and Rayner were determining whether other stimuli’s could cause fear.
Watson and his team opened the experiment by questioning if a loud noise would cause a fear reaction. A hammer struck against a steel bar was an abrupt sound causing Albert to throw his hands in the air. By the third and last strike, the child was crying; this was the first time an emotive state (in the lab) produced fear, causing Albert to cry. The sound conditioning led to Watson and his team questioning whether they could condition an emotion while presenting a white rat to the child at the same time they strike the steel bar.
The first time the rat was presented to Albert he began to reach for it; as soon as he touched the rat the bar was struck. This affected Albert causing him not to cry, but show signs of distress. After a weeks break from experimenting, Albert was placed on the mattress with the rat without sound. He started to reach for the rat, however once the rat came into contact with Albert’s hand, he quickly withdrew it. This occurrence between the rat and the bar showed that the dual stimulations the week prior had a lasting effect on Albert. In his case study, Watson explained that the stimulations were given to get a complete reaction from Albert. The response from the stimulations “was as convincing a case of a completely conditioned fear response as could have been theoretically pictured” (Watson, 1920, pp. 314). Every time the rat was joined with the loud sound (dual stimulation), Albert gave the same complete negative reaction.
In the experiment, pairing the rat and noise caused by the hammer striking the bar, play the role of unconditioned stimulus (US), conditioned stimulus (CS) and conditioned response (CR). Introducing Albert to the loud sound of hammering the bar is measured as the unconditioned stimulus. The loud sound is something that Albert is not accustomed to, so the response is unlearned. Conditioned stimulus occurred when Albert was continuously introduced to the rat alone. Since Albert experienced the rat at the same the bar was hammered, he...

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