John B Watson's Theory

1525 Words 7 Pages
According to the Oxford dictionary, behaviourism is “the theory that human and animal behavior can be explained in terms of conditioning, without appeal to thoughts or feelings…” John B. Watson was a psychologist who played an important role in the development of behaviourism. This essay will describe his theory of learning in detail, his experiment on little Albert and the ethical acceptability of this experiment.
Watson believed that psychologists should not be focused on studying the mind and thought processes of a person but should rather focus on studying their behaviour (Weiten). These beliefs led to the development of Behaviourism. He believed that learning took place based on experience
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Pavlov demonstrated that animals could be classically conditioned through the experimentation of dogs. Watson extended his research to show that humans could also be conditioned through the classical conditioning of human emotion. Watson’s work regarding the conditioning of emotions was focused mostly on the conditioning of fear, which was shown through his experimentation on little Albert which will be explained in detail later on in this essay. Watson was so interested in the study of human emotion because he was fascinated with how emotions are attached to a variety of stimuli. According to Weiten, Watson believed that “everyone is made and not born” and “behaviour is governed primarily by the environment” (Weiten, pg.8). Also, according to Watson, “the early home life of the child furnishes the laboratory situation for establishing conditioned emotional responses” (Watson, as cited in Green, C.) When we are born, we only have a few unlearned or unconditioned responses associated with the basic emotions of love, fear and rage that we are born with. Initially, rage is associated with the restriction of movement, fear is associated with a loss of support and loud noises and love is associated with someone stroking the baby’s skin, tickling, gentle rocking, and patting. All of these emotions become associated to different stimuli based on the environment that the child is raised …show more content…
The World Medical Association Declaration of Helsinki provides a number of ethical principles to help guide those involved in medical research, some of which clearly contradict the actions of John Watson. According to this declaration, consent must be given preferably in writing otherwise formally documented and witnessed and special attention is required for those who cannot give consent for themselves. Also, researchers must ensure that participation is voluntary and that these subjects are well informed about the research project and must have access to the best proven prophylactic diagnostic and therapeutic methods identified by the study upon conclusion thereof. All of the aforementioned principles are difficult to prove in this case as little Albert was too young to understand what the experiment and what his participation entailed, and he was removed from the experiment before he could be deconditioned. Whilst there are many parts of the declaration that Watson did adhere to, the points mentioned above clearly show that parts of his experiment were unethical. Therefore, it can be said that John Watson’s experiment on Little Albert was unethical and human’s should not be conditioned in this way, especially at such a young age,

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