Psychology - Jones (1924): curing a boy's phobia


Can researchers cause and cure phobias?

Watson and Rayner planned to remove Albert's phobia of rats using classical conditioning but he was taken away before they could. Before reading on, think about how they could have done it. 

Jones' study (1924)


To investigate whether a phobia in a little boy could be deconditioned and whether this would generalise to other objects.


Peter was 2 years, 10 months when Jones began observing him. She watched Peter playing with beads in his cot as an experimenter showed him a white rat. Peter screamed. He was moved away, leaving his beads behind. When the rat touched Peter's beads he protested but didn't when another child touched them.

The next day Peter's reactions to different objects were observed (see below). His fear of the rat generalised to other subjects.

Object(s)                                 Peter's reaction

playroom and cot                      chose toys, got into cot

white ball, rolled in                    picked it up and held it

fur coat over cot                        cried until it was removed

cotton balls                               whimpered, cried, withdrew

hat with feathers                        cried

blue woolly jumper                     looked, turned away, no fear

white cloth rabbit                       no fear

wooden doll                               no fear

Peter was also shown a rabbit and he was more afraid of this than the rat, so a rabbit was used for deconditioning.

Peter had daily play sessions with three other children and…




A very detailed summary of Jones' (1924) Phobia Case Study - one for those of you who learn by reading!