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Little Albert

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A Reflection Paper on the Article : Little Emotional Albert

In the history of psychology, we can see how the tsunami-like waves of Freud’s Psychoanalytic theory engulfed most of the study of human behavior and mental processes in mid 1900’s. such breakthrough provided convincing explanations about he dimension of man in accordance to the discipline of psychology. Freudians’ conception that we are governed by our unconscious desires and repressed emotions prove to be cunning enough to leave the rest of the world agrees to their claim. Freud’s brainchild stood up like invincible walls – until an attempt to shake and bang the wall down took place. Although we can say that the wall was not completely toppled down, we cannot deny the fact that it left huge cracks and holes to it, paving the way for another dogma to emerge.

With an agitate esprit to counter Freud’s theory, Watson and his colleagues delivered the birth of Behaviorism. Banking on the idea that behavior is generated outside the person through various environmental or situational stimuli, Watson was eager to provide justice to his point. Through his works, he figured that the environment played a very significant role in shaping one’s behavior.

Watson and company espoused on the idea that emotional responses exists in us because we have been conditioned to respond emotionally to a certain stimuli in the environment. Therefore, emotional responses and all other human behavior are learned through conditioning.

Like any other pioneering thoughts in psychology, we can say that the acceptance of this idea seemed to be rather slow. Most are indeed skeptic about Watson’s notion because it challenges the popular Freudian Theory. Determined to prove his point, Watson demonstrated how emotions could be experimentally conditioned. Watson carried out his very controversial but nonetheless, famous experiment. Come hell or high waters, the test on Little Albert pushed through.

In his theoretical propositions, Watson contended that if a stimulus that automatically produces a certain (emotional) response in you, is repeatedly experienced as the same moment as something else, that new thing paired up with the automatic stimuli will gain the same effect and will solicit the same fear in you, as though, alone. In other words, the response you make is the product of conditioning.
To test his claim, Watson used an innocent baby. Orphaned but undoubtedly healthy, little Albert was the perfect ‘guinea pig’ for this test. There was no clear account from the article about certain information about little Albert. Only that he was 9 months then, and was taken from the hospital where he was born. The baby was described to be physically and emotionally sound.

From the onset of the experiment, Watson and his team tried to determine baby Albert’s inherent fear. He was presented with stuffs that would possibly elicit fear. However, little Albert show no sign of fear from the objects presented to him. Because of the inability to draw out the desired response of the child, which is fear, the objects were therefore labeled as ‘neutral stimuli’.

The next test was to see if he reacts to noise or loud disturbing sounds. Just like any other human, Little Albert exhibited fear whenever he hear the unwanted noise. Since this event frightens baby Albert , this was labeled ‘unconditioned stimulus’.

The third stage proved to be the most criticized phase of the study. Now, Watson would couple up the neutral stimuli and the unconditioned stimulus to check if the emotion (fear) would be conditioned in Little Albert. Because of the intricacies of the test, they conducted the third procedure when Little Albert turned 11 months. It was mentioned from the text that there was indeed, hesitation on the part of the researchers to purposely create fear in the child. But still, the call of the scientific pursuit prevailed and so, they proceed.

The researchers presented little Albert with both the white rat and the noise (loud sound). At first, little Albert show sign of interest with the white rat by trying to reach and touch it. But after a seven times of pairing up the white rat and the sound, Little Albert learned to fear the white rat. Even without the sound, the bmere sight of the white rat elicits fear in little Albert. He cried, crawled away from it and the poor child almost fell on the table because of the fear. As though alone, the white rat scares the child. Because of this, thewhite rat become the conditioned stimulus.

The researcher tried to test whether this fear turn uniquely with the white rat only or with other objects with the similar features with the white rat. If the latter occur, then the researchers noted that the fear for white furry stuffs created in the child was generalized. Generalization therefore is when fear or any other emotions transfer to another stimulus bearing the same characteristics as the original stimulus.

It was unfortunate for little Albert who seem to have generalized any white furry object as fearful stimuli. He learned to fear for these stimuli.

Another aspect that Watson’s team would like to figure was whether the learned emotion would transfer from one situation to another. If found, that Albert’s reaction to the conditioned stimulus was only extreme when inside the experiment laboratory, then the significance of the study will be greatly reduced. To test this, little Albert was brought to a place greatly different from the settings was first tested. The well lit lights that brightened the room, the different look of the place and the presence of more people contributed to reduce the intensity of the fear in little Albert.

A table presented on the article shows what stimuli were effective in eliciting fear in little Albert. The final test was to see if Albert will react to the stimuli with the same intensity of fear over a period of time. Moreover, it was figured that Albert was still afraid of the stimuli.

What was not really amusing in this study is that little Albert was never given reconditioning after the whole experiment. Albert left the hospital with his new adoptive parents and left no trace to follow. The poor little kid was not given a chance to have his fears eliminated.

Two of the most important goals of the study were first, to demonstrate that all human behavior stems from learning and conditioning and second, to prove the Freudians that their concept of Psychology, that behavior stems from the unconscious processes is wrong. The study, although presented with all its faulty procedures and unethical schemes, have proved to be successful in swaying a great number of minds in Psychology. His proposition that emotions could be conditioned through simple stimulus-response system was a strong force that is applied up to this time.

What made Watson’s claim more acceptable than Freud’s is that his work provides a more straightforward and simple answer to the complexities of psychology as compared with the intangible study of Freud.
As thogh both side have their own version of explanation to a certain phenomenon of psychology, such as thumb-sucking, Watson’s remained to more appealing.

On a side note, I can see a deeper reason of this scientific feud between both of the most distinguished personas in the field, a reason that I cannot really point out given a limited data for justifying.

Concern for the child was the first feeling that has risen from me given that sad fate little Albert met. Being orphan does not really issue a GO-signal for these people to touch and even subject little Albert for the experiment. It was really saddening that he has to go through this experimentation. This clearly violates his right of the child. There should never be an issuance of consent from the hospital at all. Not because you do not have a parent does not entitle anyone of exploiting you. But what was actually lacking then was the ethical check up or regulation or standard that we fortunately have nowadays.

Even though I have this musing against Watson and his crew, a reason in the text was included to justify the actions of their team. These scientists are engaged into a new, unexplored area of research. The acknowledgement of hesitation plus the fact that in anyway, with or without experiment, Albert will still experience unreasonable fears because it is human nature pushed the study to be polished.

The more frightening account is that they allowed Albert to go without necessary reconditioning. Watson and his team contend that the conditioned response persists over a person’s lifetime. Imagining Albert grow into a very fearful, intimidated man with this extreme fear of white furry things and loud noise, make me pity him. In a world where exposure to this stuff is inevitable, for every single time of Albert’s life he might feel horror every now an then.

However, it was discovered that such phenomenon as ‘extinction’ occurs. This happens when a certain stimuli has not been paired with the stimuli that automatically elicits fear. This also has been made possible through constant learning and unlearning and conditioning and unconditioning processes.

In the brighter side of the study on little Albert, it can be noted that it paved way for the study of origins and cure and treatments of phobias. Phobias are said to be the extreme form of fear.

In a nutshell, Watson’s brainchild it is a well-defended theory that allowed man to further understand fear and where it is coming from. Not only fear, but in all human emotions and behavior. His study on how the nature affecting most of the behavior of man was really eye-opening and enlightening. He gave us the idea that emotions could be conditioned and so , we become more wary of our actions and how great the impact of the negative use of this is.

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