5) John Watson: Little Albert Experiment

John Watson, an American psychologist made the study of psychology more scientific by starting a new school of thought, Behaviourism.

He defined psychology as the “study of observable behaviour” (which is still an influential part of our modern understanding of psychology as a science).

His was one of the earliest experiments in psychology to be aided with the availability of video recording technology. Watson conducted a classical experiment based on Classical Conditioning (Pavlov, 1927). He went on to conduct a lot of other influential experiments, but Little Albert is probably the best documented.

The following clip shows footage of Watson conditioning Little Albert during his experiment:

Something worth noting here is the ethical dilemma surrounding these experiments. Little Albert, and many other experiments conducted in this era, (many of which we will be touching upon in this series) are completely inacceptable, even illegal, today, given our understanding of their consequences on the subjects themselves, the scientific community and society at large.

However, for the purposes of this series, we will be refraining from commenting on ethical aspects of these experiments. It is every researcher and scientist’s responsibility to think about the ethical implications of their study, and we very much encourage you to deeply think about, discuss and look into the ethical backgrounds and controversies surrounding these experiments.

Do you think this experiment and study could be justified on any grounds? How do you think we could we study these phenomena in today’s world? Let us know in the comments below!

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