John B. Watson was an American psychologist who conducted research on animal behavior and conducted an experiment called "Little Albert", which is linked to fear conditioning and PTSD.
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JOHN B. WATSON
John Broadus Watson (January 9, 1878 – September 25, 1958) was an American psychologist who established the psychological school of behaviorism. Watson promoted a change in psychology through his address, Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it, which was given at Columbia University in 1913. Through his behaviorist approach, Watson conducted research on animal behavior, child rearing, and advertising. In addition, he conducted the controversial "Little Albert" experiment.
THE LITTLE ALBERT EXPERIMENT
The Little Albert experiment was a case study showing empirical evidence of classical conditioning in humans. This study was also an example of stimulus generalization. It was conducted in 1920 by John B. Watson along with his assistant Rosalie Rayner. The study was done at Johns Hopkins University.
John B. Watson, after observing children in the field, was interested in finding support for his notion that the reaction of children, whenever they heard loud noises, was prompted by fear. Furthermore, he reasoned that this fear was innate or due to an unconditioned response. He felt that following the principles of classical conditioning, he could condition a child to fear another distinctive stimulus which normally would not be feared by a child.
John B. Watson and his partner, Rayner, chose Albert from a house for this study at the age of almost nine months. Baby Albert was chosen because money was offered for his consent in being the subject of the experiment, his mother only made money on the breast milk she sold. Before the commencement of the experiment, Little Albert was given a battery of baseline emotional tests; the infant was exposed, briefly and for the first time, to a white rabbit, a rat, a dog, a monkey, masks with and without hair, cotton wool, burning newspapers, etc. During the baseline, Little Albert showed no fear toward any of these items.
The experiment began by placing Albert on a mattress on a table in the middle of a room. A white laboratory rat was placed near Albert and he was allowed to play with it. At this point, the child showed no fear of the rat. He began to reach out to the rat as it roamed around him. In later trials, Watson and Rayner made a loud sound behind Albert's back by striking a suspended steel bar with a hammer when the baby touched the rat. Not surprisingly in these occasions, Little Albert cried and showed fear as he heard the noise. After several such pairings of the two stimuli, Albert was again presented with only the rat. Now, however, he became very distressed as the rat appeared in the room. He cried, turned away from the rat, and tried to move away. Apparently, the baby boy had associated the white rat (original neutral stimulus, now conditioned stimulus) with the loud noise (unconditioned stimulus) and was producing the fearful or emotional response of crying (originally the unconditioned response to the noise, now the conditioned response to the rat).
This experiment led to the following progression of results:
Introduction of a loud sound (unconditioned stimulus) resulted in fear (unconditioned response), a natural response.
Introduction of a rat (neutral stimulus) paired with the loud sound (unconditioned stimulus) resulted in fear (unconditioned response).
Successive introductions of a rat (conditioned stimulus) resulted in fear (conditioned response). Here, learning is demonstrated.
The experiment showed that Little Albert seemed to generalize his response to furry objects so that when Watson sent a non-white rabbit into the room seventeen days after the original experiment, Albert also became distressed. He showed similar reactions when presented with a furry dog, a seal-skin coat, and even when Watson appeared in front of him wearing a Santa Claus mask with white cotton balls as his beard, although Albert did not fear everything with hair.