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Free «The Little Albert Experiment» Essay Sample

John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner’s "Little Albert" experiment was used to advance the field of psychology to a great extent. The two were behaviorists who sought to test some stimulus response in human beings. The performed experiment was based on one, conducted by Pavlov. He sought to demonstrate how dog’s behavior can be conditioned. The behaviorists, Watson and Rosalie, wanted to prove that emotional reactions of people could be conditioned.

The child involved in this experiment was called Albert B., but in the subsequent references, he came to be known as Little Albert. Watson and Rosalie performed this experiment when Albert was nine months old. They exposed this child to many stimuli that included a monkey, a rabbit, a rat, burning pieces of newspapers, and masks. Before the behaviorists started introducing some conditioned responses, Albert had shown no fear of the objects presented. The researchers wanted to discover whether introducing some other stimuli would alter the child’s perception.



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In the subsequent times when a rat was introduced, Watson and Rosalie hit a metal pipe using a hammer, and a loud noise was made. The child was startled by the loud noise, and the baby started to cry after hearing this noise. Watson and Rosalie repeatedly did this, and the child began associating the rat with the loud noise. Eventually, the child started crying after seeing the rat.

After some time, the baby started developing generalization. In particular, he was afraid of things that had close resemblance to the rat. This showed that, just like in Pavlov’s experiment, the process of generalization was taking place in this experiment.

Significance of the Study

The two behaviorists proved that this field had a lot of impact on psychology. A lot of other psychologists were influenced by the duo, and they sought to advance studies that proved the indispensability of behaviorism in psychology. For instance, in 1924, Mary Jones used the influence of this study to get rid of a young boy’s fear of rabbits.

Summary of Research Articles

The Retention of Conditioned Emotional Reactions in Infancy                                       

This article was written by Harold Ellis Jones in 1930. Ellis used Rosalie and Watson’s concepts to write this article. He put much emphasis on the effects of conditioned environments to create some conditioned responses. Like Rosalie and Watson, Ellis borrowed additional ideas from Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning, and he sought to prove that these effects had some life-long influence on an individual. In general, Ellis was in direct agreement with Watson and Rosalie (Jones, 1930).

Ellis carried out a research that utilized a lot of the methods used by Watson and Rosalie. It was a good advancement of the study proving that Watson and Rosalie were right. In Ellis’ experiment, he wanted to explore the concept of conditioned emotion.  In this experiment, this term referred to all sorts of emotional reactions that were acquired minus experimental substantiation. In this study, three infants and five nursery kids were used, and conditioned galvanic reflexes of the skin using foot electrodes were established. This was done by relating a light, a touch, and a range of noises with an electro tactual incentive that originally evoked the GSR (Jones, 1930).

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The outcomes of the experiment on a single subject were presented in detail, and these outcomes reveal extinctive inhibition following about four or five unreinforced stimulations. The results also showed reappearance of the conditioned responses even several periods after, which could go to as many as ten days. The reappearance came as a result of the reinforcement. For instance, sleep was induced by the repeat of the unreinforced conditioned stimulus. However, the conditioned response lasted for about seven weeks after the disappearance of the stimulus.

The galvanometric method, according to these results, has some special advantages; the objective detailing of children’s emotional reactions is made possible, and this is done without severe offensive stimulation. These methods also indicate that the Conditional Response that was initiated by Pavlov and applied by Watson, Rosalie and others is applicable, satisfactorily, to the alteration of emotions in infancy.

The Conditioning of the Human Fetus in the Uterus

This experiment was carried out by David Spelt. The unconditioned stimulus in this experiment was noise, and the conditioned stimulus was a vibrotactile. The researcher used the two variables, and he was able to establish a conditioned response in the human fetus during the last two months of gestation.

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The researcher used between 15 and 20 paired stimulations. He did this to ascertain the response to the point at which a person could expect about 3 or 4 consecutive responses to the conditioned stimulus alone. However, some additional practice resulted to as many as eleven successive conditioned responses. Other factors, including experimental loss, spontaneous revival, and preservation of the reaction also advanced Watson and Rosalie’s experiment. There was also a significant level of agreement between direct records of fetal actions and maternal accounts of sensitivity to fetal movements (Spelt, 1978).

Modifying the Emotional Attitudes of Infants by the Technique of Conditioned Response

This study was carried out by Bregman. The study sought to find out some means of modifying emotional attitudes of infants by using the technique of conditioned response. Some infants were offered certain items. These items were accompanied by a startling sound of an electric bell. Other objects similar to those were presented accompanied by some sweet sounding music or toy rattle. Then, a detailed line up of one and simultaneous presentations was followed (Bregman, 1964).

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However, this study has several differences compared to the previous ones. First, few changes appeared in the line of increased attention training. Second, there was no evidence that could change negative reactions to objects that were frequently accompanied by the bell. Likewise, there were no changes to positive responses to other objects. Therefore, Bregman concluded that conditioning alone could not be used to explain all emotional modifications of children at infancy.

Summary of the Modern Understanding on the Research

The modern scientists believe that people could be conditioned to behave in one way more than another. The research of behaviorists such as Watson has a lot of credibility today. Latter is explained by the increased number of scientists who have used both, humans and animals to prove this theory. People believe that this theory can be used to change behavior in people. They also believe that behavior of all people can be modified. In fact, some scientists attempted to modify the behavior of criminals using this theory.

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The field of behavioral psychology has taken a great leap from Pavlov’s classical conditioning theory. Unlike Pavlov who was using dogs in his experiments, subsequent researches used human beings. They wanted to apply these theories to human behavior. As a result, a lot of things were revealed about human emotions, attachments, likes and dislikes. All these things have been used to make the lives of humans better. However, a lot can still be done to improve the field. For instance, most of the conducted studies were applied to infants and babies who could not understand surrounding objects the way adults can do that. Many people have claimed that this is unethical. Scientists need to apply this to adults or people who are more conscious. Scientists primarily assumed that findings related to children could be applied to adults as well; yet this is not the case. Evidently, most of the studies carried out with children have never been applied to adults.

Therefore, for a bright future of this field, scientists need to carry out research with adults. This will give scholars a good ground to prove or disapprove their theories of human behavior. Restricting these studies to small children and infants will just be theoretical, and this may not have practical applications in the society. The behavior of all people, children and adults alike, should be studied so as to create an ideal society.

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The studies described above have greatly advanced psychology as a science. Scientists have provided consistent empirical findings to support the data provided by earlier researchers. Numerous experiments have been conducted, and a lot of variables have been used in these studies. The findings of these studies remain consistent. This proves that this discipline is scientific in nature since it has evidence supporting it. This study should be made compulsory to all students. This way, students will understand the basis of their fears and strengths, and they will work to improve things for the good of all society. 


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