B. Watson (1878-1958) was an American
Psychologist that founded the school of
Behaviorism. Watson was not interested in introspection
or the unconscious mind but the study of observable behavior. He felt that Behaviorism should apply the techniques
of animal research or conditioning to humans. Particularly he
wanted to apply Ivan Pavlov’s principals of conditioned reflexes.
Watson conducted his famous ground breaking experiment in
1920 on a normal healthy baby boy named Albert.
approximately nine months of age we ran him through the emotional
tests that have become a part of our regular routine in determining
whether fear reactions can be called out by other stimuli than
sharp noises and the sudden removal of support. In brief, the
infant was confronted suddenly and for the first time successively
with a white rat, a rabbit, a dog, a monkey, with masks with
and without hair, cotton wool, burning newspapers, etc. At no
time did this infant ever show fear in any situation. The infant
practically never cried. The
test to determine whether a fear reaction could be called out
by a loud sound was made when he was eight months, twenty-six
days of age. The sound was that made by striking a hammer upon
a suspended steel bar four feet in length and three-fourths
of an inch in diameter.”
child started violently, his breathing was checked and the arms
were raised in a characteristic manner. On the second stimulation
the same thing occurred, and in addition the lips began to pucker
and tremble. On the third stimulation the child broke into a
sudden crying fit. This is the first time an emotional
situation in the laboratory has produced any fear or even crying
in Albert. We had expected
just these results on account of our work with other infants
brought up under similar conditions. It is worthwhile to call
attention to the fact that removal of support (dropping and
jerking the blanket upon which the infant was lying) was tried
exhaustively upon this infant on the same occasion. It
was not effective in producing the
Can we condition fear of an animal, e.g.,
a white rat, by visually presenting it and simultaneously
striking a steel bar?
If such a conditioned emotional response can
be established, will there be a transfer to other animals or
What is the effect of time upon such conditioned
a reasonable period such emotional responses have not died out,
what laboratory methods can be devised for their removal
from Watson’s Research)
Albert - Age: 11 Months
White rat suddenly taken from the basket and
presented to Albert. He began to reach for rat with left hand.
Just as his hand touched the animal the bar was struck immediately
behind his head. The infant jumped violently and fell forward,
burying his face in the mattress. He did not cry, however.
Just as the right hand touched the rat the bar
was again struck. Again the infant jumped violently, fell forward
and began to whimper.
Little Albert –
Age: 11 Months 10 Days
presented suddenly without sound. There was steady fixation
but no tendency at first to reach for it. The rat was then placed
nearer, whereupon tentative reaching movements began with the
right hand. When the rat nosed the infant's left hand, the hand
was immediately withdrawn. He started to reach for the head
of the animal with the forefinger of the left hand, but withdrew
it suddenly before contact. It is thus seen that the two joint
stimulations given the previous week were not without effect.
In the remainder of the tests the blocks were given frequent.
stimulation with rat and sound. Started, then fell over immediately
to right side No crying.
stimulation. Fell to right side and rested upon hands, with
head turned away from rat. No crying. .
stimulation. Same reaction.
suddenly presented alone. Puckered face, whimpered and withdrew
body sharply to the left.
stimulation. Fell over immediately to right side and began to
stimulation. Started violently and cried, but did not fall over.
alone. The instant the rat was shown the baby began to cry.
Almost instantly he turned sharply to the left, fell over on
left side, raised himself on all fours and began to crawl away
so rapidly that he was caught with difficulty before
reaching the edge of the table.
was as convincing a case of a completely conditioned fear response
as could have been theoretically pictured. In all - seven joint
stimulations were given to bring about the complete reaction.
Question II. When a conditioned
emotional response has been established for one object, is there
Albert – Age: 11 Months 15 Days
Test showed the conditioned
response to the white rat had carried over completely
for the five days in which no tests were given. The question
as to whether or not there is a transfer was next taken up.
alone. The rabbit was suddenly placed on the mattress in
front of him. The reaction was pronounced. Negative responses
began at once. He leaned as far away from the animal as possible,
whimpered, then burst into tears. When the rabbit was placed
in contact with him he buried his face in the mattress, then
got up on all fours and crawled away, crying as he went. This
was a most convincing test.
alone. The moment
fixation occurred the child shrank back and as the animal came
nearer he attempted to get on all fours but did not cry at first.
As soon as the dog passed out of his range of vision he became
quiet. The dog was then made to approach the infant's head (he
was lying down at the moment). Albert straightened up immediately,
fell over to the opposite side and turned his head away. He
then began to cry.
coat (seal). Withdrew immediately to the left side and began
to fret. Coat put close to him on the left side, he turned immediately,
began to cry and tried to crawl away on all fours.
v Just in play W. put his head down to
see if Albert would play with his hair. Albert was completely
negative. Two other observers did the same thing. He began
immediately to play with their hair! Then we brought the
Santa Claus mask and presented it to Albert. He
was again pronouncedly negative.
From the above results it would seem that emotional
transfers do take place. Furthermore it would seem that the
number of transfers resulting from an experimentally produced
conditioned emotional reaction might be very large. In our observations
we had no means of testing the complete number of transfers,
which may have resulted.”
effect of time upon conditioned emotional responses
Little Albert –
Age: 1Year 21 Days
Claus mask. Withdrawal, gurgling, then slapped at it without
touching. When his hand was forced to touch it, he whimpered
and cried. His hand was forced to touch it two more times. He
whimpered and cried on both tests. He finally cried at the mere
visual stimulus of the mask.
v Fur coat.
Wrinkled his nose and withdrew both hands, drew back his whole
body and began to whimper as the coat was put nearer. Again
there was the strife between withdrawal and the tendency to
manipulate. Reached tentatively with left hand but drew back
before contact had been made. In moving his body to one side
his hand accidentally touched the coat. He began to cry at
once, nodding his head in a very peculiar manner (this reaction
was an entirely new one). Both hands were withdrawn as far
as possible from the coat. The coat was then laid on his lap
and he continued nodding his head and whimpering, withdrawing
his body as far as possible, pushing at the coat with his feet
but never touching it with his hands.
v The rat. He allowed the rat to crawl towards
him without withdrawing. He sat very still and fixated it intently.
Rat then touched his hand. Albert withdrew it immediately, then
leaned back as far as possible but did not cry. When the rat
was placed on his arm he withdrew his body and began to fret,
nodding his head. The rat was then allowed to crawl against
his chest. He first began to fret and then covered his eyes
with both hands.
v The rabbit. The animal was placed directly
in front of him. After
a few seconds he puckered up his face, began to nod his head
and look intently at the experimenter. He next began to push
the rabbit away with his feet, withdrawing his body at the same
time. Then as the rabbit came nearer he began pulling his feet
away, nodding his head, and wailing "da da". After
about a minute he reached out tentatively and slowly and touched
the rabbit's ear with his right hand, finally manipulating it.
The rabbit was again placed in his lap. Again he began to fret
and withdrew his hands. He reached out tentatively with his
left hand and touched the animal, shuddered and withdrew the
whole body. The experimenter then took hold of his left hand
and laid it on the rabbit's back. Albert immediately withdrew
his hand and began to suck his thumb. Again the rabbit was laid
in his lap. He began to cry, covering his face with both hands.
v Dog. Albert fixated it intensely for a few seconds,
sitting very still. He began to cry. When the dog was pushed
closer to him he at first sat motionless, then began to cry,
putting both hands over his face.
Before Conditioning: Albert showed no fear of dogs.
emotional responses as well as those conditioned by transfer
persist for a longer period than one month.
QUESTION IV. "Detachment"
or removal of conditioned emotional responses
Albert was taken from the hospital the day the above tests were
made. Hence the opportunity of building up an experimental technique
by means of which we could remove the conditioned emotional
responses was denied us. Our own view, is that these responses
in the home environment are likely to persist indefinitely,
unless an accidental method for removing them is hit upon. The
importance of establishing some method must be apparent to all.
Had the opportunity been at hand we should have tried out several
methods, some of which we may mention.
Constantly confronting the child with those stimuli,
which called out the responses in the hopes that habituation,
By trying to "recondition" by showing
objects calling out fear responses (visual) and simultaneously
stimulating the erogenous zones (tactual). We should try first
the lips, then the nipples and as a final resort the
“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed,
and my own specified world to bring them up and I’ll guarantee
to take any one at random and train him to become any type of
specialist I might select—doctor, lawyer, merchant-chief, and
yes, even beggar man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants,
tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.”
(1930 John B. Watson)