Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Experiment: artificial bringing about of an event or artificial creation of a state for testing a hypothesis. Experiments can lead to the reformulation of the initial hypotheses and the reformulation of theories. See also theories, measuring, science, hypotheses, Bayesianism, confirmation, events, paradigm change, reference systems.
Annotation: The above characterizations of concepts are neither definitions nor exhausting presentations of problems related to them. Instead, they are intended to give a short introduction to the contributions below. – Lexicon of Arguments.

Author Concept Summary/Quotes Sources

John B. Watson on Experiments - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 24
Experiment/”Little Albert”/Watson/Rayner: the Little Albert experiment (Watson & Rayner 1920(1)) was the first demonstration (…) in humans: an unconditioned stimulus (loud noise) that produced an unconditioned response (fear) was paired with a conditioned stimulus (white rat) to produce a conditioned response (fear). In this manner, a conditioned emotional reaction was produced. >Conditioning/Watson
Slater I 25
Watson and Rayner [posed] four questions:
(1) Could they condition fear of an animal by presenting it and simultaneously striking a steel bar?
(2) If such a conditioned response could be established, would the emotional response transfer to other animals or other objects?
(3) What would the effect of time be upon such conditioned emotional responses?
(4) What methods could be used to remove the fear response?
When Albert was 11 months of age, the experiment combined the presentation of a rat that Albert showed no fear of with the loud sound of a steel bar. After some repetitions Albert began to cry when he was only shown the rat without any noise.
Slater I 26
The experiment continued and Watson and Rayner showed that the fear of the rat could be transferred to other animals and that it lasted for weeks. The experiment could not answer the fourth question, because Albert and his mother left the hospital.
Watson and Rayner suggested the conditioned response could be reduced by arranging “constructive” activities with the feared object by using imitation and assisting the child in interacting with the object in a constructive manner.
Quite clearly, Watson and Rayner anticipated strategies that have subsequently been shown to be efficacious in the treatment of childhood phobias even though they did not attempt them themselves: prolonged in vivo exposure, systematic desensitization, and participant modeling (Ollendick & King, 2011)(2).
Slater I 27
{The] demonstration resulted in a paradigm shift in how fears and phobias were acquired and could potentially be treated.
Problem: Harris (1979)(3) has documented that most textbook versions of Albert’s conditioning (…) suffer from various inaccuracies.
VsWatson: [the experiment] has been soundly criticized by many scholars on a number of conceptual, methodological and ethical grounds. >Conditioning/psychological theories.
Slater I 28
Stimuli/conditioning/VsWatson: it has been shown repeatedly that fears of spiders, snakes, dogs, heights, thunder, and water are much more common than fears of shoes, flowers, rabbits, and even potentially dangerous objects such as guns, knives, and electric outlets. Seligman (1971)(4) suggested that some objects or situations are more evolutionarily “prepared” to be associated with the fear response, whereas other authors like Davey (1997)(5) and Öhman and Mineka (2001)(6) speak of so-called fear-relevant stimuli and fear-irrelevant stimuli. However labeled, these recent findings challenge the notion of equipotentiality. (>Conditioning/psychological theories.)

1. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
2. Ollendick, T. H., & King, N. J. (2011). Evidence-based treatments for children and adolescents: Issues and commentary. In P. C. Kendall (Ed.), Child and adolescent therapy: Cognitive and behavioral procedures (4th edn, pp. 499–519). New York: Guilford Publications.
3. Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to Little Albert? American Psychologist, 34, 151–160.
4. Seligman, M. E. P. (1971). Phobias and preparedness. Behavior Therapy, 3, 307–320.
5. Davey, G. C. L. (1997). A conditioning model of phobias. In G. C. L. Davey (Ed.), Phobias: A handbook of theory, research, and treatment (pp. 301–322). Chichester: Wiley.
6. Öhman, A., & Mineka, S. (2001). Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review, 108, 383–522.

Thomas H. Ollendick, Thomas M. Sherman, Peter Muris, and Neville J. King, “Conditioned Emotional Reactions. Beyond Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Watson, John B.
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012

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