Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Little Albert Experiment

Similar to the experiment done by Ivan Pavlov with dogs, the Little Albert experiment was conducted in order to see if behavioral conditioning was possible in humans. A nine-month-old baby was shown several objects, including a white rat. When first shown the rat, the baby is unafraid and interested in the rat as it crawls on and around him. The rat is then taken away and the next time the baby sees it, a loud noise is made as the baby tries to reach for it, causing him to cry. The third time, the baby starts to cry as soon as he sees the rat, regardless of whether or not the noise is made. Even a week later, when shown the rat, the baby cried as soon as he saw it.

However, as an analysis of data collected by Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009) as well as the video itself have now found, the child in the admittedly cruel experiment had been impaired from birth. When his true identity was discovered, his medical records showed that Little Albert, real name Douglas Merritte, was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or water in the brain at birth, making him already disabled during the experiment.

The case, however, doesn't stop there. Researchers say that Watson, the researcher in charge of the experiment, had ample information available to him at the time of the experiment that would have made him aware that the baby was already mentally deficient. The whole story becomes closer to that of academic fraud than just a faulty experiment. These findings, coming to light so late after the experiment, are fascinating proof of how, not only can you not get away with things like that, but also of how the feild is changing as new things are discovered and older things disproven.

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