Little Albert (1920)

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  • When Little Albert was 9 months old, he was used in an experiment to test the classical conditioning theory with phobias (with his mother present). His reactions to various stimuli were tested.
  • One of them being the sound of a hammer striking a 4 ft. steel bar just behind his head which frightened him. With classical conditioning, the sound of the hammer hitting the bar (UCS) produces fear (UCR).
  • The other stimuli (a white rat, a rabbit, a dog, a monkey, masks with&without hair, cotton wool, burning newspapers) were the NS because they did not produce fear, NR.
  • When Albert was 11 months, the white rat & the sound were presented together (NS+UCS): as Albert would reach out to stroke the animal, Watson would cause the sound (hit the bar with a hammer). NS+UCS=UCR
  • This occurred multiple times, then the rat (CS) caused Albert fear (CR). Watson&Rayner had succeeded in trying to produce a fear of rates in a baby. Also, the CR also occurred with the rabbit, the dog, a fur coat, cotton wool, Watson's hair and a Santa Claus mask.
  • But it didn't generalize to Albert's building blocks, or to the hair of the 2 observers (so Albert was showing discrimination). 5 days after conditioning, the CR produced by the rat persisted. After 10 days, it was was still present to even 1 month later.
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