John B Watson
Founder of Behaviorism
As the Behaviorist views it
Watson was a Behaviorist, meaning that he believed that "Psychology is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior." (Watson) Watson believed that all behavior, whether it was displayed by animals or humans, is caused by outside influences, and could be conditioned or controlled. He believed that psychology was not the study of the mind, but of behavior, and he was convinced that the mind could not be studied.
The Little Albert experiments subjected an 11 month year old boy to loud noises when he was exposed to certain animals or objects, giving him a fear of these things. He was introduced to a white rat, which he enjoyed and even played with, and was then subjected to the sound of clanging an iron rod, which he began to associate with the rat, and eventually, he began to fear the rat. Unfortunately, Albert was taken out of town before Watson had time to decondition him and remove his fears. It's believed that Albert's mother was not aware that the experiments were happening, because they happened in the hospital where she was believed to work as a wet nurse, a very low paying position, so it's possible that she left her son with Watson or volunteered him for experiments so that they could get money, but was not aware of the nature of the experiments.
Even though he was not able to decondition Albert, he proved that it was possible with Peter, another boy who had a fear of white rats and rabbits. They placed Peter in a highchair with a snack and placed the white rabbit across the room in a cage. Each day, they slowly moved the rabbit closer to Peter while he ate his snack until, eventually, Peter was able to eat with the rabbit right next to him and was even able to play with the rabbit without showing signs of fear or discomfort.
Effect of the Little Albert Experiments
Little Albert was about 8 months old when the experiments began, and today, that's pretty unethical, which is why the Little Albert experiments are considered highly controversial. Today, thanks to these experiments and other questionable experiments that were performed after it, there is legislation to prevent this kind of thing happening again.
Born in 1878, Watson entered a psychology field where many psychologists were using introspection to look into the human mind and discover how it worked. Watson believed that this was wrong, and that the mind could not be studied, instead believing that behavior was influenced by experiences and surroundings. Much of his work was published and had influences of the future of psychology, but unfortunately, he burned most of his work that had not been published in 1958. He died later that year.