John B. Watson

1878-1958

The Father of Behaviorism

"Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of years." –John B. Watson, Behaviorism, 1930

Brief History

John Watson was born on January 9, 1878 in South Carolina. Watson attended Furman University at the age of sixteen after five years he graduated and moved to the University of Chicago. John Watson earned his PHD in Psychology in 1903. He died on September 25, 1958.

Top Contributions

John Watson is one of the founders of the behaviorist school of thought. Behaviorism is the theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings, and that psychological disorders are best treated by altering behavior patterns, as stated by the Oxford dictionary.

Famous Experiment

Little Albert

Watson conducted a study of an infant child and it is named the Little Albert experiment. In this experiment Watson proves that fear is learned by associating things the child perceives with loud noises.

Baby Albert Experiments

Criticisms of Little Albert

Watson's experiment has several flaws. For example the results are askew because it's hard to interpret the outcome, whether Albert was truly afraid of just the rat or if it was intense anxiety to animals, as stated by Ben Harris (1979)


"Critical reading of Watson and Rayner's (1920) report reveals little evidence either that Albert developed a rat phobia or even that animals consistently evoked his fear (or anxiety) during Watson and Rayner's experiment.

It may be useful for modern learning theorists to see how the Albert study prompted subsequent research [...] but it seems time, finally, to place the Watson and Rayner data in the category of "interesting but uninterpretable" results."

Sources

General Information

Kendra Cherry (2014). John B. Watson Biography (1878-1958). Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesofmajorthinkers/p/watson.htm

Baby Albert Video


Penn State Media Sales, Youtube User: Jaap van der Steen (2011, Dec. 12). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMnhyGozLyE


Harris, B. (1979). "Whatever Happened to Little Albert" American Psychologist, 34, 2, pp. 151–160. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Albert_experiment#Criticisms