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A History of Modern Psychology 11th Edition

A History of Modern Psychology (11th Edition)

Book Edition11th Edition
Author(s)Schultz, Schultz
Chapter 10, End of Chapter, Review Questions, Exercise 1
Page 233

What criticisms would you make of Watson's Little Albert study? How would you design research to study conditioned emotional reactions in infants?

Here is a tip:

According to behavioral psychology experiments, Infant A's case needs further investigation because of the violations of ethical considerations in classical conditioning.


Psychologist John B. Watson along with their assistant chose an eight-month-old infant named Infant A to be a part of the experiment related to learning and conditioning. This experiment raises several ethical issues, some of which are given below:

  • The modern code of ethics deems evoking fear responses in a human subject, which is a violation of research ethics unless the subject gives consent to it. In this case, the infant could not give consent and still was made a part of such an experiment, which was ethically wrong.
  • In a way, the psychologist, for an experiment, scarred an infant for life by making the infant fear common things such as furry animals, furry coats and objects, and so on, which is inhumane. The infant was petrified to the point that the infant terribly cried each time, which, in a way, is human torture.
  • After conditioning a perfectly happy child who was not fearful of anything, the psychologist Watson did not de-condition the child.

Research to condition emotional responses in infants can be conducted as follows:

  • First and foremost, receiving consent from the parents or the caregivers of the infant
  • Ensuring the use of non-aversive methods and stimulus that does not in any way harm the child or condition the child to life-long fears or phobias
  • The child can be given a teddy bear to play with, and a few seconds later, it can be taken away to see the emotional response of the child. This is the unconditioned stimulus.
  • A person dressed as a clown would enter the room and take the teddy bear away each time. This would be the conditioned stimulus.
  • Over subsequent trials, it can be observed that the sight of the clown itself evokes crying in the child [emotion], even before the teddy bear is taken away. This means that a display of emotion toward unconditioned stimulus can be tested.

Verified Answer

The experiment by the psychologist John B. Watson has raised many ethical issues, including the obtaining of consent, scarring the infant forever about objects that are not even harmful, evoking fear to the level of uncontrollable crying, inducing a form of emotional torture, and so on.


An experiment to condition the emotional response from an infant can be done by using non-harmful objects and stimuli. Taking away a child's teddy bear would make the child cry [it is an unconditioned stimulus]. If a clown always arrives in the room and then takes away the teddy bear from the child [unconditioned stimulus], the response of the child to crying can be tested on the arrival of the clown [unconditioned stimulus]. 

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