Little Albert Experiment: History of Experiments on Human Behavior

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There have been many historical experiments on human behavior, however we are going to be focussing on the earliest, to the most controversial, the most successful experiments in history. Over time there have been human behavior experiments that still help psychology experts to this day, then there are some that people still ask the question, “why would they do this?”. An experiment on human behavior is when the experimenter is examining somebody’s reaction, or action during an event, and recording it for a purpose or experiment.

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The first, and one of the most historic experiments on human behavior we will talk about is the Little Albert experiment at Johns Hopkins University. This experiment is among one of the earliest experiments on human behavior, also one of the oldest experiments on record. This unethical experiment was to determine whether or not they could cause a nine month old baby to have an irrational fear through a series of pairings. The experiment consisted of putting the nine month old baby in a room with a rat, however, the experimenter would create a loud sound by striking a steel bar with a hammer every time little Albert was presented with the rat. At first little Labert presented no signs of fear with the rat, but over time everytime little Albert saw the rat he would begin screaming and crying because he knew the annoying sound was coming.

Watson, the experimenter, also created different situations with other things and animals until little Albert feared them all. The study was to prove that classical conditioning works on humans as well, and it was proven. It’s known that early childhood exposure to these things lead to future adult fears as well.

One of the earliest experiments, that led to the little Albert experiment was done on dogs. This experiment is called Pavlov’s Dog Experiment. Pavlovs’ experiment began with a simple questioning, are there things that dogs don’t need to learn? Whenever Pavlov would feed his dogs he would ring a bell. Obviously the dogs would salivate whenever it was time to eat, but the dogs began salivating whenever they would hear the bell. The dogs began salivating at the sound of the bell because they associated the sound to feeding time. This experiment was conducted in 1890, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The experiment would create a new type of stimulus, conditioned, which is now known as classical conditioning.

The most effective experiment on human behavior was the experiment conducted in 1968 in Iowa in a teachers classroom inspired by the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. An elementary school teacher, Jane Elliot, decided to show kids the effects of rascism and prejudice. She seperated her class by eye color, the first day the blue eyed kids were “superior” to the brown eyed kids. Throughout the course of that day the blue eyed kids actually began bullying the “minority” of brown eyed kids. The following days the roles were reversed and the brown eyed kids were considered “superior”. At the end of the experiment the children were so relieved that they actually embraced one another and agreed that nobody should be treated differently because of their outward appearances.

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