Watson and little Albert

      Until the arrival of John Broadus Watson, animal experiments remained marginal in American psychology. But in 1913 in a conference entitled Psychology as the behaviorist views it (which is generally considered the birth of behaviorism), J.B Watson exposes a radical conception of psychology as a science of behavior rather than the science of consciousness. He says that we must confine ourselves to the study of what is directly observable and content ourselves with describing it and formulating the laws that govern it.

     Watson advocates studying the man with the same methods used for the animal. This has reduced the field of study of psychology by excluding symbolic activity, consciousness and subjectivity. The only Exception made here was language, because Watson considers it “a behavior like the others”.

The experiment and little Albert

    J.B. Watson conducted an experiment, considered highly unethical today, with an 11 month old child, little Albert. At the beginning of the experiment, Albert was not afraid of white rats he even reached for them.

  In his experiment Watson presented Albert with a whit rat, and then made a startlingly loud noise behind Albert’s head. Eventually Albert learned to associate the white rat with the loud noise. Albert began to show a fear response to the white rat and due to generalization a concept seen in classical conditioning; Albert developed fear also for a rabbit and even mink coat. In this experiment Watson should that classical conditioning can be the reason behind developing phobia.


  • Watson, J. B. (1924). Behaviorism. New York: People's Institute Publishing Company.

  • Watson, J. B. (1913). Psychology as the behaviorist views it. Psychological Review, 20, 158–177.

  • SCIENCES HUMAINES N°3 - SEPTEMBER 2000- 48 F. P (27)

See Also:

Classical Conditioning

Behavior therapies

Trial and error


Operant Conditioning