John B Watson and the "Little Albert Experiment"..what a jerk!

@JenInTN (27565)
United States
January 2, 2012 5:06am CST
So John B Watson is this psychologist that made a huge breakthrough in the psychology field. Like we talked about before..my concern with planted memories...it seems that there is proof that phobias can be planted as well. PHOBIAS! This psychologist and his assistant secretly sneak a sick boy from his room of about 9 months old and experiment with his emotional stability. They expose him to a little white mouse which he has no fear of initially and cause him to have a fear by scaring him with a noise whenever he sees the animal. It was apparently the ground used to prove that behavior can be conditioned. They planned on reversing the planted phobia but the problem was that the boy was released from the hospital before they had the chance to. It took them 7 years to find out who the boy was. Unethical? You bet! This Watson guy was quite the character. So have you ever heard of the "Little Albert Experiment?" Do you think that in the name of science that people are allowed to do what they want to the innocent? Do you or anyone you know have a phobia and how do you think it was created? Born with it or something happen to create it? I'm attaching a link to the story in case you want to read about it. http://www.psychology.sbc.edu/Little%20Albert.htm
2 people like this
14 responses
@MsTickle (24993)
• Australia
12 Jan 12
Hi Jen, sorry to take so long to answer this ...I needed to think about it a bit. That poor little Albert. I'm sure all that conditioning probably made him a very nervous person, regardless of the actual objects used to stimulate a response. Yes, I think Watson's experiments were unethical and I'm surprised that that fact isn't mentioned in the report. Razor blades, wire coat hangers, acrophobia and claustrophobia are my own personal phobias. The coathanger one came about when I was beaten with a bunch of them at a very early age. All my coat hangers are pretty, padded ones. The razor blade thing comes from a time when I was about 8 and in the bathroom fooling with things I shouldn't have. I cut my finger rather badly on the blade and it bled heaps. I was wearing a blue dress with white stars on it and I used the skirt to wrap my finger...the blue turned purple and the stars turned pink. I was so scared someone would find me because I knew I would be in big trouble. One day, a friend took me 4 wheel driving in a state forest. We ended up at the top of a mountain at a fire tower. I had to climb this very narrow, very high ladder to get to the observation room. There was no door, you had to climb in a low window. The view was just incredible and because the room was windows all the way round, it was a 360 degree view. It was quite an experience. Climbing back out the window to go back down, I froze. My body would not move, it was as if I was somehow stuck. I finally got out with help then had to go down the ladder which was one of the scariest things I have ever done. My partner had to go first in case I fell and he had to prise my hands loose every now and then. I have been afraid of heights ever since. I can't remember where the claustrophobia began.,. I just remember being in a lift one day and finding it hard to breathe and needing to hang on to the rail and close my eyes. I hate lifts and I cannot sleep with my face covered. I feel sick in a train with automatic doors and windows that don't open. I hate feeling like I'm trapped. There are other more personal instances of this but I won't go into detail except to say that there are moments when I'm confined or held down, feeling trapped and I feel like I'm going to have a huge panic attack. Obviously I think some phobias are self induced as in there is a reason for them to occur but I think others are triggered by something we may not even be aware of. Gee, this became quite long, didn't it?
1 person likes this
@MsTickle (24993)
• Australia
14 Jan 12
They have sessions where people with certain phobias can confront their fears...like fear of snakes, spiders and such. Phobias are very strange and very real...there is even a phobia of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. True!
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
14 Jan 12
Wow!
1 person likes this
@MsTickle (24993)
• Australia
28 Jan 12
Thanks so much for BR.
@mr_pearl (5037)
• India
2 Jan 12
Oh Good God.... What a psychotic psychologist!!! They generally experiment these things on mice and declare the results... And this idiot used a mouse as his tool... He can't be congratulated... I wonder, what he got after proving this... Theorotically, it wasn't hard to come to this conclusion... I pity the kid who suffered through this... May God be with him... Haven't they punished the doc yet????
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
This study was done in 1920 and yes..he was punished...kind of. He was punished more for the affair he had with his research assistant more than for the experiment though. The thing that burns me up is that this was a huge ground breaker for the psychology community. They present this experiment in most introductory classes to prove the classical conditioning fact. It was at great cost to the child though. Very unethical means of coming to a conclusion. The parents had no clue when they took that child home that he had a phobia planted. Psychology definitely has a bad track record.
@allknowing (69447)
• India
2 Jan 12
Talking of experiments every pharmaceutical company has what they call the Toxicology Department where trials are conducted on mice and even dogs to test the new products before they are released in the market. There are reports however that even human being are treated as 'guinea pigs' although it is highly unethical and illegal. Having said that how then can one release new products without testing them. Have any suggestions Jen?
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
That is a good point. There are things that require testing before the release. There are a lot of people that volunteer to be guinea pigs here. Usually for money or a possible cure for their problems. There have also been facilities opened up where homeless people have been infected with certain diseases so they could try to cure them...that was a very long time ago and never supposed to be revealed but everything comes out eventually. This is a little different though. It was an innocent child having fear placed to prove that people's emotions can be controlled. He certainly proved it could be done. I think that if the parents had been made aware and there was an agreement reached, it would have been different. The phobia could have been reversed. At least that's what they said they intended to do.
• India
3 Jan 12
that how these scientist are. as you written in you tag" little" i am all thinking about the great scientist albert einstine. but you are dissussing about psychological expert any way does not matter who he is more is he is experiment maker and what he has show with his little experiment. great one.
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
3 Jan 12
He certainly had a huge effect on the psychology field. He has greatly effected our lives in a daily manner too. Thanks for responding!
• India
4 Jan 12
hey, tell me more about the psycholigical expert is their any book you can tell me.
@Orson_Kart (4487)
• United Kingdom
2 Jan 12
Never heard of John B Watson, but I know they use the same method to control dogs barking. When they bark a detector picks it up and plays a loud noise which the dogs don't like. It works on dogs so ergo it will work on humans. I've also never heard of the "Little Albert Experiment" but knowing the world as it is, I suspect there are many similar experiments going on around the world as we speak! Scary or what.........was that noise?
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
There are alot of experiments that have been breakthroughs for science while breaking every code of ethics ever thought of. I would be afraid that lightening would strike me down if I even thought about doing something so immoral...maybe that was the noise.
1 person likes this
• United Kingdom
3 Jan 12
I think many scientific experiments have at least pushed the boundaries of what is (at the time) been considered morally/ethically acceptable. I know MY "Little Albert Experiments" when I was a lad would have shocked many, if I had been caught in the act. Most were for personal gratification and not in the name of science....tho I would claim as such if it got me out of a sticky situation.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
3 Jan 12
In the name of science
@thesids (22358)
• Bhubaneswar, India
2 Jan 12
Hi JenInTN Unfortunately, things like these keep happening. Though this discussion is about Phobia but its implications are in all spheres of medicines. Every year thousands (if not millions) are made scapegoats and specimens (willingly or unwillingly). Here when I was working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (they have an AIDs Awareness and Charity related program) I came to know that there are many people who are victims. They had been asked to consume special medicines (which were not approved yet and in the development phases) and many had got more critically ill and some even will never get cured. This fact will continue on as long as they are developing and experiments have to be performed on real humans because without that, the organizations (or the researchers) will not be able to find the right cures. I dont think that it is appropriate but then they do not have choices. They do need to experiment out on real people and then get the results right.
@thesids (22358)
• Bhubaneswar, India
2 Jan 12
I almost forgot the discussion The phobia in this particular case seems to be induced with the touch of Hypnotism. I have read about people using Hypnotism to cure ailments and getting rid of bad habits like smoking etc. So if some thing quite positive can be done, the negatives too can be done. I feel sad for the boy though. I have many fears - water, heights, spiders, roaches (may be more). I am sure that these fears or phobias were induced into me by some incidents (I do not remember much...) or maybe as Vandana (another mylotter) often says - "conditioned" - we often are told to stay away from spiders, roaches, lizards when we are kids and growing up.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Hi thesids! There have been monumental breakthroughs made based on unethical experiments. Perhaps even speeding up the solution that might have taken many more years to prove had they not. I can see your point. The discussion can flow over into many aspects of medicine. Psychology doesn't have a very good track record when it comes to their discoveries. Many people that were institutionalized and experimented on have been the ones that should be credited for great findings. It is a shame that discovery must be at the cost of people. Thanks for responding!
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Oh yes...conditioned is exactly how the planted phobia was described. I have thought it might be an overreaction to instinct as well.
@1hopefulman (32486)
• Canada
2 Jan 12
That is just sick!
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Your right..he stepped over the line in the name of science. He proved conditioned behavior in people..but at what cost? Thanks for the input.
@1hopefulman (32486)
• Canada
3 Jan 12
I agree! I think, we humans, at times go way too far.
@ANTIQUELADY (36488)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Happy New Year, Jenn, hope u had a big ol' time enough for both of ud, lol.U are way over my head w/this discussion but i don't think what they did to that child was right.Children have a hard enouhj time w/out some braniac messing w/their minds.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Your right...I think he was way out of line. I did have a good time. Every picture of me had my eyes closed though..lol Oh well...one of my jager bombs was dedicated to you though Thanks for responding!
1 person likes this
@ANTIQUELADY (36488)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Thank u, that was sweet of u to think of me. Had lunch w/anniefannie today. We had a nice visit. Hadn't seen her in awhile. Since i'm picki9ng ryan up at school every day it has cut down my going to meet her.Hope your daughter is feeling o.k.
@Lakota12 (42684)
• United States
2 Jan 12
no I dont think they should do things like that specialy to babies! how cruel that is. I dont like red and white checked lcothes but I know its from fallin in the irrigation ditch and going over the small falls fight to get out of the water I had on a dress made of that matirel Never wore it again but then it wasnt the dresses fault I should have tried to walk agross that mossy falls it was slick but then I was 6 or 7 . I could wear that kind of clotheing now but DOnt see anything like it anymore
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
I think it was a cruel experiment. The child must have already been sick to be in the hospital anyway..then here comes Mr. Breakthrough and experiments with him. Sad story really. I have read that people do attach experience to material articles sometimes. Thanks for responding!
@Lakota12 (42684)
• United States
3 Jan 12
yup I think so too on both things. your welcome!
@bounce58 (17524)
• Canada
3 Jan 12
I haven't heard of that experiment, but that sounds really terrible! I think that's the problem with people who think that they are 'mad-geniuses'. The line of ethical reasoning becomes blurred. They are so focused on the objective, that they don't mind losses along the way.
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@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
3 Jan 12
That's true bounce. "In the name of science" right and wrong begin to become blurred. Wait until I tell you all what else this psychologist went on to do! He was truly a "mad genius." It wasn't another awful experiment although I am sure he probably participated in those too. Thanks for the input.
@GardenGerty (102534)
• United States
3 Jan 12
I had never heard of this, but I know that things like this happen. Not as much now as in the past, but probably more than I have heard about. It makes me think of the experiments the Nazis did. Not right at all.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
3 Jan 12
Yes..there are a lot of very cold people. In the name of science it seems that morals and ethics blow out the door. I remember an experiment where the homeless was infected with diseases and then the scientists tracked the disease and tried to cure them. Thanks for the response!
• United States
2 Jan 12
I'm a psych major and Watson always pops up in the textbooks for his experiments. The Little Albert Experiment was done before there were rules and ethics set up for experiments, so really he didn't do anything wrong...even though today we see this as cruel. I definitely think that certain behaviors are conditioned, especially phobias. A person may have had a bad experience with certain things or situations, and this caused the phobia to develop. However, there may be some cases that someone is born with a phobia or a natural fear for something which then develops into a phobia. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what causes things in psychology, since there are different perspectives that seem to contribute to disorders that people have.
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@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
There were very few ethics set back in and yes...he is very popular for his studies. I have a couple of other things to share about him but I am saving that for another discussion. I think that the Little Albert Experiment is a pretty bid subject. I think that phobias may be an over reaction to a fear response. Maybe something chemical. At least the ones that haven't been planted by an experience. Thanks for the response..psychology is very interesting.
@allknowing (69447)
• India
2 Jan 12
It is not necessary that a deliberate attempt needs to be made to create phobias in people or even animals. Life's accidental experiences do generate these phobias that will be there to stay. Take me for example. I dread to go into the swimming pool because as I was in the pool I suddenly got choked one day and could not breathe and now I simply refuse to go there fearing a repeat of that experience.
1 person likes this
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
Yes..they do. I can see why you would be afraid of the pool after having such an experience. I wonder about the phobias that people have that don't know why they have them...like where did they come from? When my daughter was a baby, she didn't like heights. A lot of people hold babies up when they are playing with them but you couldn't do that with my daughter. She didn't like it one bit. She grew out of it as far as I know. She rides fair rides and stuff so I guess it wasn't as strong a fear as it could have been. Thanks for sharing!
@AidaLily (1450)
• United States
7 Jan 12
Wow to actually implant a fear into a child is in my opinion sickening. Why didn't he just research adults who have fears that their parents had when they were going up. My husband for example when he was younger was never afraid of spiders and actually thought they were kind of cool. However, when he was about three or four, his parents moved into a place that had more spiders. While he was still not afraid of spiders, every time his mother saw one she freaked out. Now years later, my husband has really bad arachnophobia to the point when a spider crawled on him he pretty much wanted to cry. He never had any true 'bad' experiences with spiders, just the occasional 'oh there is a spider there' that most people have at least once in their life. So his reaction and fear completely came from his mother. Older subject: I love reptiles and arachnids. I have never had a problem with spiders nor a fear even when i held a tarantula. I've known my husband since high school, we've been together for five years, every time I see a spider I freak out. No bad experiences or anything. In fact I used to go walking through nature trails with lots of spiders.... and now if one crawls on me or I see one I freak out.... I've been horribly afraid of spiders from watching my husband react for about three years. I hope this guy never gets to practice this again. There is no reason to use children like that.
@AidaLily (1450)
• United States
7 Jan 12
Sorry misread the information about the time period. So to correct it, I am surprised they let this guy do anymore experimentation. Its obvious that he probably didn't stop or start with this experiment and may have had other 'lab rats' because that is pretty much what the little boy was to him.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
7 Jan 12
It seems that most of this man's studies were on children. He felt as though children were "clean slates" and that there was the power to implant whatever you wanted them to be. He actually planned on reversing the phobia, but the hospital discharged the child before the team had a chance to. He was actually punished more for the affair he had with his assistant than for the experiment...well..the experiment was a huge breakthrough. I guess that made it ok. Anyway..I can see how the phobia has been created for the two of you. I would say that it borders on "learned behavior." Thanks for the response!
@celticeagle (119864)
• Boise, Idaho
2 Jan 12
No, I don't think this is right at all. They need to go through the right channels and respect others through out all of their experimentation. And young children being abused like this is ludicrous. I hate to think what i might do to a scientist if they took any of my kids and did this sort of thing with them.
@JenInTN (27565)
• United States
2 Jan 12
That's what I thought too. What if they had snuck in the hospital where my child was ill and done this to one of them? They took a child home with a fear they had no idea where it had come from. Imagine if they handed him a little stuffed white toy and couldn't figure why he was flipping out? The scientists actually meant to reverse the phobia they planted but then he was gone...released from the hospital. They didn't even know who he was and it took 7 years to even figure out who they had done this too. By the time they found him, it was too late to reverse it...he had passed from his illness. Sad sad story. The records from that experiment are still prominent while teaching psychology today. He proved conditioned response in humans with it. Before that, it was only seen in animals.
1 person likes this
@celticeagle (119864)
• Boise, Idaho
3 Jan 12
That is sure a sad story. He is as bad as the Frankenstein types. So arrogant and self involved.