Watson and Rayner (1920)

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  • Created by: jemjem
  • Created on: 01-05-16 13:57

Watson and Rayner (1920)


  • Albert tested with various stimuli to gauge his emotional reactions
  • Emotional responses tested again. Albert then presented with a white rat. As he started to reach for it, steel bar was hit with hammer. This was done twice.
  • A week later his reaction with the rat was tested again. Then, rat and loud noise paired five more times.
  • 5 days later, Albert brought into lab. Presented with a range of fluffy objects.
  • A month later Albert was brought back to lab to have his emotional reactions tested.
  • 5 days later, Albert again tested with rat. His fear response was "freshened up" to strengthen the emotional response. Albert's fear responses were then tested in a new environment (lecture theater).


  • No fear of any stimuli aside from the bar being hit with the hammer.
  • Showed fear and cried each time
  • Albert was initially slightly afraid of rat. Showed no fear of wooden blocks to play with. Each time the rat was paired with loud noise he showed fear. After five pairings he showed a great deal of fear towards the rat without the noise!
  • Showed fear of all. However, showed no fear of the blocks, the room or the hair of Watson's research assistants.
  • Still showed fear of rat, but not as strong. However his response was stronger after it had been "freshened up". When in the lecture theater he still showed fear, but not as strongly.
  • Albert showed a fear response, although it was not as severe.

Overall summary

Watson had been successful in his attempt to condition a fear response into a child. The study also demonstrated "emotional transfer". Watson argued that these sorts of phobias will only occur in those people who are "constitutionally inferior". REMOVAL OF CONDITIONED RESPONSESWatson argued that Albert's phobias would persist unless he was unconditioned. E.g. constant exposure to feared stimulus (extinction) THE FREUDIAN POSITION At the time of this study, Freudian ideas were popular. Freud says that sex is the principal force that shapes personality. Watson claims his study shows that fear was as important, and exist's in it's own right, separate and non reliant on sex. EVIDENCE: Albert's thumb sucking. Freudian's would see this as a pleasure seeking activity. Watson claims that Albert's thumb sucking is instead used to block fear. Watson claims that should an adult Albert ever seek counselling for his phobia, a psychoanalyst might say that his phobia of fluffy things is due to a sexual event concerning his mother. However, we can see here that a simpler explanation is classical conditioning. 


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