Who is Little Albert?
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Starting in 1920, John Watson conducted a series of experiments on a baby named Albert B. to investigate classical conditioning in human beings. While these experiments successfully support the principles of conditioned learning, Watson was chillingly insensitive to the emotional impact of his research methods on the baby.
When Albert was about nine months old he was exposed to a series of white fuzzy items, including a white rat, rabbit, dog, monkey, and masks with and without white cotton hair. The presence of the rat was then paired with a loud noise created by banging a hammer against a steel pipe. This was repeated several times until little Albert grew terrified at the mere sight of the rat. Later experiments showed that Albert’s fearful reactions had generalized to other fuzzy white items, including a rabbit, dog, and Santa Claus mask. This generalized fear was still present several months after the original experiment.
Today human subjects review committees are required in all research institutions in order to protect the rights of research subjects.