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The macabre experiment with a baby who was provoked by phobias for life

The macabre experiment with a baby who was provoked by phobias for life

The macabre experiment with a baby who was provoked by phobias for life

Jhon B. Watson is one of the fathers of behaviorism, a current of psychology that studies and examines, through experiments, the behavior of the human being or any other phenomenon that occurs in the world.

The scientist performed a series of tests on a child, just 8 months old, without thinking about the consequences that would carry the future in the infant.

Watson was influenced by Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist known for having laid the foundations of classical conditioning, a strand of behaviorism, who argued that living things are conditioned by a ‘Stimulus – Response’ relationship. Pavlov conducted an experiment with his dogs to convey his theory. L

What the Russian did with his pets was replicated by Watson in the little baby to prove his thesis. The results are still controversial due to the procedures he used and the aftermath.

Ivan Pavlov’s experiment

Watson’s ‘seed’ began with testing Pavlov and the ‘effectiveness’ of its results.

The Russian noticed that the dogs began to salivate when they saw the food that was being prepared for them. The scientist discovered that his pets already ‘knew’ what time to eat was when a certain subject performed an action that reminded them of the time of meal.

From there he started to introduce different stimuli before serving them food as a form of alert.

The one that most adapted to the needs of their pets was a campaign, which was the necessary instrument to condition the animals before eating. The bell itself did not create any reaction in the dogs, so it is considered, in Pavlov’s terms, as a ‘neutral stimulus’. Food, on the other hand, causes an innate or irrational reaction in the dog, that is, salivation.

Being so, the bell (neutral stimulus), when associated with food (innate stimulus), creates in the dog a process of ‘psychological conditioning’. The sound of the instrument becomes the potentiator of salivation in the dog at mealtime.

The experiment with little Albert

John B. Watson wanted to replicate Pavlov’s experiment in humans.

From the beginning his claims were exaggerated since, together with his assistant Rosalie Ryner, they immersed themselves in the search for a child with the necessary characteristics to carry out the procedure.

So they decided to visit an orphanage.

There they found a boy as young as 8 months old named Albert

He was the son of one of the maids on the site and seemed to go unnoticed by his mother’s busyness at work.

He was calm and, according to some specialized media, did not express whining or tantrums, so Watson considered him the perfect candidate.

John B. Watson.  (Photo: Private Archive).

His mother, still unidentified, agreed to ‘lend’ her son for scientific analysis. Watson put little Albert on socialize with different animals. The idea was to observe which stimuli were the ones that created the greatest fear in him. Loud noises generally activated the infant’s senses and made him cry. The animals, for their part, had no negative reaction from Albert.

The conditioning process started with a white mouse: the idea was for the little one to play with it while, at the same time, some thunderous noise was sounded to create fear in the child.

After several repetitions the infant created a deep fear against the rodent since when ‘it was with him’ the stunning noise began.

Other animals and objects were added to the experiment. In all scenarios Albert began to cry just seeing them. It macabre of the experiment appears in the temporality of the tests: the child was a full year under the strict regime of the analyst, he went from being a quiet child to being in a constant state of anxiety about different objects that, combined with sounds, caused him fear.

Watson was expelled from John Hopkins University and was not allowed near the campus, however, he did not receive a court sanction.

It is not known what happened to the baby.

Some specialized media claim that Albert died of congenital hydrocephalus, presumably due to the consequences of the experiments, but this has not been proven.

Although the essays aroused much criticism, they became one of the most famous investigations in psychology. It goes without saying that, in any case, it is a procedure that currently violates certain ethical norms established by scientific authorities.

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