In the world of psychological studies, the Little Albert Experiment was (and still is) known as one of the most controversial and unethical experiments done. Conducted by Dr. John B. Watson and his assistant Rosalie Rayner in the year of 1920. It was one of the first experiments done on a child (or infant). The objective of the experiment was to demonstrate the fundamental steps of classical conditioning, in this case using a loud noise in order to produce fear in the infant while he was handling the rat.
The experiment consisted in letting the infant handle a white lab rat, at first the child showed no fear to it, he appeared calm even happy. He showed the same reaction when introduced to other objects, a dog, a rabbit, even a fur coat. You better sit down before I tell what they did next to the infant. Are you ready? This is the unethical part of the experiment, the team of doctors used a hammer and a steel pipe and started to make loud noises with them, this of course startled the infant causing him to cry, after they observed that the baby feared the loud sound they started to pair the sound with the object. As Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009) state, after doing the experiment so many times, the baby not only created a fear to the rat, but generalized his fear to other furry objects.
So, who is this Baby Albert? Is he still alive? Is Albert his real name? These are questions that everyone asks themselves after hearing about the experiment. Well, Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009) found evidence about the identity of Baby Albert and his mother. So, what did the evidence say? Well it pointed to a woman named Arvilla Irons, a wet nurse that worked at Harriet Lane Home. On March 9, 1919, she gave birth to a baby boy and named him Douglas Merritte. Why did Beck et al. think that Douglas was Baby Albert? Well Douglas shared three physical traits with Albert, both were male, Caucasians, and born between March 2 and March 16. Arvilla was working at the same time and place when the experiments were being held.