Watson and Rayner’s (1920) study with little Albert was based on finding out if humans are pre-programmed with emotions and whether or not he is able to condition fear into Little Albert using classical conditioning. Classical conditioning was first discovered in the early twentieth century by Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936). It initially begins with a unconditioned stimulus (UCS) which produces a unconditioned response (UR). However during conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (CS) and unconditioned stimulus (UCS) are associated to elicit a conditioned response (CR). “The conditioned response need not resemble the unconditioned response, and that the conditioned stimulus must predict but not necessarily precede the unconditioned stimulus for conditioning to occur” (McSweeney & Bierley 1984).
Watson and Rayner’s study with little Albert was inspired by Ivan Pavlov’s initial experiment using classical conditioning. Pavlov used dogs in this research and the experiment involved measuring each time the dog would salivate before and after being presented with food. A tube was used to transfer the saliva from the dog and out of the mouth in order to be measured. In this experiment the unconditioned stimulus (food) elicited the response of salivation. However, once the conditioned stimulus (bell) was presented alongside the unconditioned stimulus (food) several times during conditioning, the dog was able to salivate with only the CS being presented. Therefore each time the dog salivates with only the conditioned stimulus being presented it was then no longer a unconditioned response but a conditioned response as it was elicited by the CS rather than the US.The theory Watson and Rayner had based their experiment on, “Can an infant be conditioned to fear an animal that appears simultaneously with a loud, fear arousing sound?”. To test this theory they used a 9-month-old infant (Little Albert) whom they described as “healthy” and “stolid and unemotional” (Harris, B.
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(1979). During the experiment Watson presented Albert with objects such as, a white rat, a dog, a monkey, a rabbit, masks, cotton wool, burning newspapers etc. Prior to conditioning, Little Albert had no fear of the objects. The infant was particularly fond of the white rat and their aim was to condition Albert into developing fear from it.The unconditioned stimulus used in this experiment was a hammer and a steel bar. Each time Little Albert was presented with the white rat, the hammer was struck against the bar making a loud noise behind his head. The conditioned stimulus (white rat) followed by the unconditioned stimulus (loud noise) triggered Albert into a feared response which is the conditioned response (CR).
They reported that Albert’s fear was generalized towards other furry objects (Beck, H. P., Levinson, S., & Irons, G. (2009).Upon the discovery of Little Albert, researchers were curious in finding out what happened to him years after the experiment occurred.
There were no notes left by Watson and Rayner, no patient records or employee files (Beck, H. P., Levinson, S., & Irons, G.
(2009). This demonstrates that Watson and Rayner had no intention of leaving any critical evidence for our knowledge of albert and made it difficult in tracing his whereabouts. This has left us with uncertain theories of which may or may not be true on Alberts true identity and the date of his passing.To elaborate, Douglas Merritte is said to be one of the “Very few children” who could have been Albert. There are three key main aspect that link Douglas and Albert, the first being that both of their mothers were working at Harriet Lane Home. Second, Douglas’s mother Arvilla gave birth on march 9, 1919 therefore there is a chance she served as a wet nurse. Lastly, Both Albert and Douglas left Hopkins during the early 1920’s (Beck, H. P.
, Levinson, S., & Irons, G. (2010). Although there are similarities between the two that imply they’re the same person, there still is no complete certainty.