In the Little Albert experiment of Conditioned Emotional Reactions, baby Albert was exposed to various stimuli which were paired with a loud banging noise on a bar. A rat was put next to Albert and when he would reach for the rat, they would bang that bar to get baby Albert to display fear by crying. Albert was conditioned to the point that by simply showing him the rat he would cry and want to crawl away. He knew that along with the rat, came the loud clanging noise, therefore he felt that by avoiding the rat, he would also be able to avoid the noise.
“In classical conditioning, the unconditioned stimulus (US) is one that unconditionally, naturally, and automatically triggers a response” (Cherry). In this study, the unconditioned stimulus (US) is the noise of the banging bar. The conditioned stimulus (CS) is the rat and the conditioned response (CR) is that of baby Albert crying and crawling away from the rat. The conditioned stimulus is a stimulus that was once neutral, but becomes linked with the unconditioned stimulus, and eventually elicits a certain response (Cherry).
Little Albert was also exposed to various other stimuli, like masks, a rabbit, a dog, a fur coat, cotton and wool. In all of these incidences, Little Albert reacted negatively. He was so accustomed to the rat producing the loud bang of the bar, that he started to exhibit generalization when all of these other items were introduced. Generalization occurs when a similar stimulus is introduced yielding the same conditioned response. (Feist & Rosenberg, 2012 p. 310). There was markedly little difference in his reaction to these other stimuli in comparison to the reaction with the rat.
In this research study the conditioning did not last over time due to extinction. Little Albert was exposed repeatedly to the identical stimuli and therefore the aversion to the rat and banging bar decreased. The rat no longer yielded the same results it once did. Although he still shied away from it, he no longer exhibited the fearful crying that was once present. The conditioned responses persisted, although with a loss in the severity of the response (Watson & Rayner, 1920). In my opinion, this experiment is highly unethical.
First, I have to wonder what the effects of this experiment had on Little Albert later on in his life. The article stated that right up until the day he left the hospital, the experiment continued. There was no evidence of follow up or desensitization with this young infant. The other area of concern for me is that this experiment was conducted with a loud banging noise in propinquity to Little Albert’s ear. Exposure to loud noises especially noises in close proximity to the ear, can cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss (Bredenkamp & Gnaupp). There was no indication that this was even considered.
These are only a few of the unethical conditions under which this experiment was conducted. This experiment cannot be conducted today because Little Albert’s well being was not protected, and in my opinion this experiment could have been quite detrimental to his overall health. ? References Bredenkamp, J. K. , & Gnaupp, F. B. (n. d. ). Noise induced hearing loss and its prevention. Retrieved October 18, 2013. from http://www. medicinenet. com/noise_induced_hearing_loss_and_its_prevention/page4. htm Cherry, K. (n. d. ). Conditioned Stimulus – About. com Psychology.
Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://psychology. about. com/od/cindex/g/condstim. htm Cherry, K. (n. d. ). What Is an Unconditioned Stimulus? Retrieved October 18, 2013, from http://psychology. about. com/od/uindex/g/unconditioned. htm Feist, G. J. , & Rosenberg, E. L. (2012). Learning. In Psychology: Perspectives & connections (p. 310). Retrieved from https://digitalbookshelf. southuniversity. edu/#/books/0077736494/pages/66379448 Watson, J. B. , & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional reactions. Journal of Experimental Pscyhology, 2, pp. 1-14.