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Michael Armstrong

Psychology 211
40 Studies Writing Assignment #2
Reading 10: Little Emotional Albert
Researchers Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. asked the question: where do our emotional
reactions come from? Watson was a behaviorist and believed that we learn our emotional
responses. He hypothesized that if an unconditioned stimulus that produces an unconditioned
response was repeatedly paired with a neutral stimulus, then the neutral stimulus would become
conditioned to produce the same response.
To test their hypothesis, Watson and Rayner recruited a 9 month old child named Albert
from a hospital to be the subject in their experiment. To begin this experiment, Watson and
Rayner presented Albert with a white rat, a rabbjit, a monkey, a dog, masks with and without
hair, and white cotton wool while they carefully observed his reactions. Albert showed interest
for these animals and objects but no fear. The absence of his fear makes these animals and
objects the neutral stimuli. The researchers then tested an unconditioned stimulus which was
striking a steel bar with a hammer directly behind Albert, to see if it would produce an
unconditioned response such as fear which it did. The use of this loud noise is the independent
variable in this experiment and the dependent variable is Alberts responses. With these factors,
the researchers began conditioning Albert by placing a white rat near him. As he went to touch
the rat, the steel bar was struck behind him causing him to become frightened. This pairing was
repeated seven times. After the seventh time, the rat was placed near Albert again, this time

without the noise. Albert feared the rat the way that he feared the loud noise. This showed that
conditioning did in fact take place because Albert now feared the neutral stimulus that he had not
feared before. This makes the neutral stimulus now the conditioned stimulus. Watson and Rayner
then tested to find out if Alberts conditioned fear had generalized by presenting him with the rest
of the animals and objects from before the experiment. Because he had a fearful response for
these items and animals, Watson and Rayner concluded that the fear response had generalized.
Watson and Rayners research showed that Little Alberts fear of rats was conditioned
and that it is possible to generalize these conditioned responses. According to Watson, these
findings meant that simple conditioning techniques could explain human behavior, opposed to
the previous psychoanalytic thoughts by Freud (as cited in Hock, 2013, p. 75). This proved
Watsons hypothesis and helped start the behaviorism school of thought which ignores issues of
consciousness and focuses on observable behavior. According to Ciccarelli and White (2014),
When its primary supporter, John B. Watson, moved to greener pastures in the world of
advertising, B. F. Skinner became the new leader of the field. (p. 14). Skinner expanded on
Watsons findings and the behaviorism field by researching the learning of voluntary behavior.
Skinner then found that people perform voluntary actions to get rewarded or avoid being
These findings are very applicable to my life because I am a criminal justice student and I
plan on becoming a police officer after school. I can apply this knowledge that emotional
behavior can be conditioned in the field and possibly reduce negative responses towards police
officers. I can also apply it to being a parent someday and properly condition or prevent harmful
conditioning of my children.

Works Cited
Hock, R. R. (2013) Forty Studies That Changed Psychology: Explorations into the history of
psychological research (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.
Ciccarelli, S. K., White, J. N. (2014) Psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education