Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Little Albert


Classical Conditioning, Little Albert. Page 181, Watson and Rayner’s “Little Albert”. Cited as, the importance of classical conditioning and overgeneralization in the development of phobias was first proposed by John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner. In 1920, Watson and Rayner published a now-famous article in which they described their attempt to condition a fear response in an 11-month-old infant named Albert. Albert was reported to be a healthy, well-developed child, whose mother worked as a wet nurse in the hospital where the tests were conducted. Albert was described as a “stolid and unemotional” child who almost never cried. In fact, he seemed to display an unusual level of emotional stability.

                The researchers began the experiment by testing Albert’s reactions to a variety of objects. These included a white rat, a rabbit, a dog, some cotton wool, and even a burning newspaper. None of the objects elicited any fear, and in fact Albert often attempted to handle them. He was, however, startled  when the experimenters made a loud noise by banging a steel bar with a hammer. The experimenters thus concluded that the loud noise was an unconditioned stimulus that elicited a fear response (or, more specifically, a startled reaction) whereas the other objects, such as the rat, were neutral stimuli with respect to fear. Without further explanation this experiment was flawed as there was no foundation for a two-sided conversation between subject and experimenter.

                My question here is how any infant could be truly involved in an experiment such as this, whether it be a Classical or an operant conditioning scenario when there has not yet been an establishment of adult language to explain the situation. What I mean here is based on the language equation that governs a person to understand what is being done. This contradicts a normalcy to equate a communication that has been said to be a foundation to a language that humans share. An infant is a clean slate that can be manipulated to respond in any fashion to fulfill a self-fulfilling expectation of an experimenter. So, in my conclusion there could never be any subjective results that can be finalized when there is an environment based on deception pertaining to a language deficit, and please respond and correct me if you see the need to.



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