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Hist Psychol. 2014 Nov;17(4):312-24. doi: 10.1037/a0037325. Epub 2014 Jul 28.

Little Albert's alleged neurological impairment: Watson, Rayner, and historical revision.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology.
2
Department of Psychology, University of New Hampshire.

Abstract

In 2012, Fridlund, Beck, Goldie, and Irons (2012) announced that "Little Albert"-the infant that Watson and Rayner used in their 1920 study of conditioned fear (Watson & Rayner, 1920)-was not the healthy child the researchers described him to be, but was neurologically impaired almost from birth. Fridlund et al. also alleged that Watson had committed serious ethical breaches in regard to this research. Our article reexamines the evidentiary bases for these claims and arrives at an alternative interpretation of Albert as a normal infant. In order to set the stage for our interpretation, we first briefly describe the historical context for the Albert study, as well as how the study has been construed and revised since 1920. We then discuss the evidentiary issues in some detail, focusing on Fridlund et al.'s analysis of the film footage of Albert, and on the context within which Watson and Rayner conducted their study. In closing, we return to historical matters to speculate about why historiographical disputes matter and what the story of neurologically impaired Albert might be telling us about the discipline of psychology today.

PMID:
25068585
DOI:
10.1037/a0037325
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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