Story of a 9-month-old baby who succumbed to science – “The Little Albert Experiment”

Story of a 9-month-old baby who succumbed to science – “The Little Albert Experiment”

WE: In the 1890s, a physiologist studied the digestion of dogs. He observed that when we feed dogs, when does saliva form in their mouths? He tracked that before the dogs saw the meal, saliva had already formed in their mouths, just from listening to their owner’s footsteps.

Well, to find the answer to that, he experimented where whenever he used to offer dogs food, he used a metronome. Over time, dogs began to associate food not with the footsteps of the owner but with the ticking of the metronome, which also produced their salivation. These dogs have been conditioned to associate food with the sound of the metronome.

That physiologist was none other than Ivan Pavlov, who, although not in the field of psychology, contributed to a whole other branch of behavioral physiology. Now inspired by this same experiment in the 1920s, a physiologist decides to do the same experiment on a 9-month-old baby. This experiment is considered one of the most cruel and unethical experiments. The name of this experiment is “The Little Albert Experiment”.

Exactly ten years before Ivan Pavlov’s canine experience, that is, in 1878, John B Watson was born. Throughout his childhood, his mother tried to make him religious. So much so that his name ‘John.’ was kept inspired by a well-known Baptist Saint John. So he can grow up and preach the gospel. His alcoholic father even left 13-year-old John. He was left hammered by his mother with extremely religious ideologies.

Because of this, he developed a grudge towards religion. In the future, the family will move to Greenville, South Carolina. This was Watson’s most important turning point in life.

Because his transition from a village to the city was completely different, meeting new people is what drove him to psychology. In 1903, after completing his doctorate, he took up the position of research professor at the University of Chicago. And after six years, in 1908, he came to Johns Hopkins University.

In 1913, he discovered an article on behaviorism. Initially, the psychology community had not fully completed it. In 1915, he became a member of the American Psychological Association. And then he continued to understand and learn more articles on behaviorism. Not only that, but he also said that physiology revolves around behaviorism and not the mind.

Thus, he rejected the study of consciousness as part of physiology. Because he thought it was an obstacle in the world of psychology.


It focused more on behaviorism. In 1919, John B. Waston published another article called “The Schematic Outline of Emotions”. In this article, he mentioned the three most critical emotions present in a human being at birth: fear, love and rage.

According to him, two fears are naturally evoked in infants.

1. Coming from a sudden loud noise.
2. Loss of physical support.

That’s why he decided to study infants and how fear acts on them. For these tests, subjects were held in front of dogs and other animals and their reaction was learned. But when pigeons flapping their wings and making noise were held before them, fear invoked in them. Not only that, but to evoke fear in his subjects, he also used to lock his subjects in a dark room. This doesn’t seem like a good idea since most of his subjects were newborns. But from the 1920s, his experience began to excel. He wanted to know how Pavlo conditioned the dogs. Can it, too, condition infants using the same natural stimuli? They kept newborn babies with animals and studied their fear. They wanted to forcefully instill fear in these infants. It also led to the death of many babies.


The grim reality of this experiment is that we still don’t know what happened to Albert’s little experiment. Many scientists have even tried to find it. The true identity has not been discovered even after 102 years. The experiment has been conducted and debated since 1921. Scientists are still studying it, but no one has undertaken it.

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