John B Watson's Little Albert Experiment

Decent Essays

Stage 1 – Psychology
John B Watson and Rosalie Rayner and “Little Albert” Experiment
Ethics are guidelines that differentiate between right and wrong behaviour. It defines what is good and what is bad in terms of human behaviour, therefore being ethical means doing what society accepts. Ethics in research are important because a being’s safety and rights can be harmed without it. (Deakin, 2015) Ethics is important in psychology in order to protect participants and the reputation of psychology and psychologists. (Velasquez, 2010) The guidelines help minimise harm towards those involved. In this essay the experiment ‘Little Albert’ will be summarised, ethical principles that were breached will be discussed and the experiment will be redesigned …show more content…

Watson conducted this experiment because he was interested in knowing if people’s emotions could be classically conditioned. Classical Conditioning had been researched before by a Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov, who used dogs as his subject hence Watson wanted to know if this applied to humans as well. (McLeod, 2014) The participant in the experiment was a nine month old boy which Watson and Raynor called ‘Albert B’. They started the experiment by revealing Albert to a sequence of items and animals, including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers. They observed the Albert’s reaction and he initially showed no fear of any of the objects he was shown. Watson then exposed Albert to the rat and while doing that he used a metal pipe and a hammer to create a loud noise behind his head. Afterwards, Albert began to cry every time the rat was exposed to him. (Cherry, …show more content…

Number one ‘Respect the dignity and wellbeing of participants’ and number two ‘Ensure that research is designed to maximise any benefits to participants and society, and to minimise risks of possible harm or discomfort’. The dignity and wellbeing of Albert were not respected during this experiment as they did not decondition him, therefore he may have been emotionally or psychologically harmed. (DeAngelis, 2010) Number four ‘Obtain voluntary written consent’ and number nine ‘Respect the right of individuals not to participate or to withdraw from the research at any time without explanation’, Watson did not seek permission from Albert or his mother, and therefore no written consent was retrieved. Albert was unable to withdraw and the withdrawal rights were not explained to his mother. (Wikispaces, 2014) Watson did not protect personal information because he published the results of the experiment without ensuring Little Albert would remain anonymous, therefore breaching the fifth and seventh guideline. (Bandiera, 2015)
This experiment could be redone in a more ethical way with the current ethical guidelines. However, the whole experiment is unethical as Watson uses a young child for his experiment. Even if we used animals it is still unethical and inaccurate. Watson could have informed the Albert’s mother that she could withdraw from the experiment

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