7. The Little Albert Experiment Inflicted Emotional Distress On A Child
The "Little Albert" experiment was a conditioning experiment that might have made sense from a clinical and research perspective, but had appallingly abusive implications. The 1920 experiment conducted by John Watson and Rosalie Rayner involved placing a nine-month-old infant on a mattress and allowing the child only to play with a white rat. Eventually, behind the child's back, a steel bar would be struck by a hammer whenever the infant touched the rat. This was repeated until the child began to cry and exhibit fear at the sound of the hammer on steel. Then the child was merely presented with only the white rat, which caused the child to exhibit the same crying, fear, and distress. These same reactions would also occur at the sight of many furry objects including a rabbit, a dog, and even a Santa Claus mask.
The psychologists stopped using "Little Albert" as a subject within a few months and initially no follow up by Watson and Rayner occurred. Because no attempt was made to desensitize him, psychologists became interested in what happened to the infant and whether or not he was permanently impacted by this process. At least two individuals were potentially identified as "Little Albert" but his specific identity and what befell him is still a matter of dispute.
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