John Watson

"Father of Behaviorism"

Early Life

John Watson was born on January 9, 1878. Watson grew up in South Carolina. While he was in school, he thought that he was a poor student. At the age of 16 he entered Furman University. After 5 years of study at Furman University, he began studying psychology at the University of Chicago.


When Watson began studying behaviorism he thought that humans were simply more complicated than animals but operated on the same principles. Watson thought that animals were extremely complex machines that responded to situations according to their nerve pathways that were conditioned by experience.

Modern Day

Today John Watson's theory on behaviorism has impacted how to train dogs and other animals. Some mental health professionals use behaviorist principles to condition away phobias and fears.

Most Famous Study: "Little Albert Experiment"

Watson's most famous study was called the "Little Albert Experiment". He thought that children have three basic emotional reactions: fear, rage, and love. Watson wanted to prove that these three reactions could be artificially conditioned in children. Watson used a little boy named Albert to test his theory. He repeatedly presented Albert a rat in conjunction with a sudden, loud noise to classically condition fear of the rat.

Interesting Facts

  • Watson created the School of Behaviorism.
  • Watson was accepted to Greenville’s Furman University as a sub-freshman.