Baby 'Little Albert' Experiment - How Unethical!

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One really important topic covered in chapter two is the idea of conducting research in an ethical way. Research can almost always be considered a good thing because it results in knowledge. However, there are both good and bad methods of research.


Little Albert's story is one example of an experiment with a poor method of research.

The story found at says

"The participant in the experiment was a child that Watson and Raynor called "Albert B.", but is known popularly today as Little Albert. Around the age of nine months, Watson and Raynor exposed the child to a series of stimuli including a white rat, a rabbit, a monkey, masks and burning newspapers and observed the boy's reactions. The boy initially showed no fear of any of the objects he was shown.

The next time Albert was exposed the rat, Watson made a loud noise by hitting a metal pipe with a hammer. Naturally, the child began to cry after hearing the loud noise. After repeatedly pairing the white rat with the loud noise, Albert began to cry simply after seeing the rat. "

This experiment took place in the 1920, and would not be considered an ethical experiment today. The main point of the material covered in the book on this topic is that there are ethical guidelines, especially for human research, that must be followed. This may cause researchers the need to spend more money or to completely redesign an experiment if it does not follow these guidelines. However, these guidelines are extremely important because while research and the pursuit of knowledge is good, the well-being and safety of human beings is much higher valued. In the case of Little Albert, he was a child and did not have a choice in the experiment. The research may have been psychologically damaging to the child and overall, it was not a pleasant experience for the baby. So while Watson and Raynor truly had legitimate questions they wanted to find the answers to, they did not go about it in an ethical manner. Keep in mind that any and all experiments conducted today must be run through an ethical filter. It would certainly be a pity for any other unethical studies to be conducted in the future!


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Interesting! Researchers have to be careful of how they conduct the experiments. But I guess in the end, as long they provide all the information about the experiment and its possible side effects, its ultimately up to the participant as to what they think of as unethical or not.

Little Albert is an interesting example of conditioning. A code of ethics for psychologists was not around at the time of the experiment and this example is one reason why there is a code! The ethical filter for research (IRB, typically) isn't necessarily there for all research. If someone wanted to conduct studies in private with no government funding, there would be no filter -- scary to think about!

This is really interesting! I had heard about Little Albert previous to this class as it is such a significant moment in research. I think it is great that there are guidelines now-a-day to regulate unethical research methods but I also agree with Michelle, that in the end, it is the participants choice whether they believe the experiment to unethical or not.

The title and the picture are really attractive. The example is powerful to prove your opinion. This kind of experiment is so unfair to a baby. He was only 9 months old and knew nothing. "Little Albert" indeed reflect that some psychological experiment are unethical. So I think if a research really want to do some research that maybe hurt somebody, he or she needs to give participants a warning to show respect.

The picture here is really can evoke peoples' sympathy. I read this blog seriously. "Keep in mind that any and all experiments conducted today must be run through an ethical filter." We need a correct choice between these experiment and our baby.

Great picture. It really was a good picture to go alone with the topic of your post. Researchers need to be more careful with their techniques in experimentation. Sad that this happened to a child.

Is this not just a variation on Pavlovs dog experiment? Scary that this was once considered ethical when done with a child.

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This page contains a single entry by and02471 published on January 25, 2012 1:13 PM.

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