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Finding Little Albert Summary of the Historical Research Conducted by: Hall P. Beck Sharman Levinson Gary Irons American Psychologist October 2009 These.

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Presentation on theme: "Finding Little Albert Summary of the Historical Research Conducted by: Hall P. Beck Sharman Levinson Gary Irons American Psychologist October 2009 These."— Presentation transcript:

1 Finding Little Albert Summary of the Historical Research Conducted by: Hall P. Beck Sharman Levinson Gary Irons American Psychologist October 2009 These slides were created by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D., host of The Psych Files podcast. The slides accompany episode #114, which can be viewed by clicking here: Finding Little Albert on The Psych Files podcast web site.Finding Little Albert on The Psych Files podcast

2 Questions 1. Who was “Little Albert”? 2. When was he born? 3. Where did he live? 4. Who were his parents? 5. What was his real name? 6. What was inside the trunk? 7. Summary of the Evidence 8. Whatever happened to him?

3 Q1: Who was “Little Albert”? “Albert B.”was the subject of John B. Watson’s famous study in which Watson wanted to show how fears could be conditioned. Instead of having to refer to unconscious forces to explain fears (i.e., psychoanalysis), Watson wanted to show that fears and phobias could be explained much more simply by applying the conditioning principles established by Pavlov to humans. “…remains one of the most frequently cited articles in textbook psychology.” - Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009)

4 Q2: When was he born? We don’t know the exact date, however: The conditioning studies took place during the winter of at Watson’s Infant Laboratory near the Harriet Lane Home. FACT: Albert was first assessed by Watson when he was 8 months and 26 days old FACT: Approximate dates of this first assessment: November 28th to December 12th, THUS: subtracting 8 months and 26 days from this period gives us an approximate birth date of between March 2nd and March 16th.

5 Q3: Where did he live? Albert spent almost his entire first year of life at the Harriet Lane Home for Invalid Children - a pediatric facility on the Johns Hopkins University campus

6 Q4: Who Were His Parents? No notes kept by Watson and Rayner regarding “Albert B’s” parents No patient records from the Harriet Lane Home a census year, but no information regarding a child was found in the census taken at Johns Hopkins His mother was a “wet nurse” employed at the Harriet Lane Home However: 3 women were listed as being employed as “Foster Mothers” - this occupational category includes what are commonly called “wet nurses”

7 Ethel Carter Pearl Barger Arvilla Merritte Q4: Who Were His Parents? (black woman)

8 Could Pearl Barger be Albert B’s mother? “Several hundred hours of examining birth, death, census, marriage, and other records yielded no evidence of Pearl’s motherhood. We remained open to the possibility that Pearl was a wet nurse. Still, all we had determined was that she lived on campus at the time of the Watson and Rayner (1920) study and probably worked with children.” Beck, et al. Pearl Barger Arvilla Merritte Q4: Who Were His Parents?

9 Arvilla Merritte: White, 22 years old Gave birth at Johns Hopkins Hospital to a boy on March 9, 1919 (Watson’s Albert born between March 2nd and 16th) Both lived on the campus for the 1st year of their lives (making the boy present for the Watson studies) – Arvilla’s maiden name: Irons Arvilla Merritte Arvilla spent some time at the “Baltimore Home For Fallen And Friendless Women” before the boy’s birth. Q4: Who Were His Parents? Father: William Merritte: 25 years old No info beyond this

10 Q5: What Was His Real Name?

11 Q: But if his real name was Douglas, why didn’t Watson and Rayner refer to the baby as “Douglas B.” instead of “Albert B.”? Or Why not “Baby A” or “Subject #5”? Q5: What Was His Real Name? A: Watson did many studies with babies at his infant laboratory, but “Albert” is the only one he refers to by a name. A “publicity-generating masterpiece”? “Giving him a name made him easier to relate to…giving him a number would have stolen his warmth, psychologically distancing him from readers” - Beck, et al. Good Question

12 Q: Okay, but why “Albert B”? Why not “Albert A” or “Albert X”? Q5: What Was His Real Name? He was named after the Baptist minister John Albert Broadus Interesting fact: Watson and Rayner had two boys: William and James Watson was an admirer of William James “Watson’s playful use of names” –Beck, et al. (2009) Watson’s middle name: Broadus. Good question.

13 Q6: What was inside the trunk? Arvilla died in 1988 at the age of 89 While preparing for her funeral, two photographs were found inside a trunk owned by Arvilla One photograph was of Maurice; the other of Douglas On the back of the photo was the address of the studio where the photo was taken the studio was less than 2 miles from the Harriet Lane Home Would a comparison of the picture of Douglas with the pictures from the video of “Albert” prove that the two boys were the same?

14 Enlargements were made from the video Examinations were made of both boys’ eyebrows, noses, mouths, and chins. The resolution of Albert’s photo was too poor to determine where the eye sockets began and ended and in Douglas’ photo he is wearing a bonnet and you cannot see his ears. A biometric analysis of the two pictures was conducted (a “cross-sectional ratio comparison”) Q6: What was inside the trunk? Conclusion: “…one cannot exclude the subject in question as possibly being Albert. There are certainly facial similarities…the two photographs could be the same individual”

15 Summary of the Evidence Fact: “Albert B.” born between March 2nd and 16th, 1919 Douglas Merritte born March 9th, 1919 Fact: “Albert B.” spent his first year on the Johns Hopkins campus Arvilla Merritte was living on the Johns Hopkins campus Fact: Watson stated that Albert’s mother was a wet nurse at the Harriet Lane Home Arvilla Merritte worked at the Harriet Lane Home and since she gave birth to Douglas in March she could have been a wet nurse Fact: Albert and Douglas were Caucasian males Based on the photographs there were physical resemblances between the two boys

16 Q7: Whatever Became of Douglas? “..I recalled a daydream in which I had envisioned showing a puzzled old man Watson’s film of him as a baby. My small fantasy was among the dozens of misconceptions and myths inspired by Douglas.” - Beck, et al, p. 612 But Douglas never became an old man “After leaving the Harriet Lane Home, the robust child shown in the Watson’s (1923) film became sickly” - Beck, et al, p. 613 Douglas died developed hydrocephalus and died on May 10th, 1925 at the age of 6. Hydrocephalus, also known as Water on the Brain, is a medical condition. People with hydrocephalus have an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the ventricles, or cavities, of the brain. This may cause increased intracranial pressure inside the skull and progressive enlargement of the head, convulsion, and mental disability. Hydrocephalus can also cause death. - Wikipedia

17 Arvilla is buried in Prospect Cemetery in Maryland Douglas is buried in Locust Grove Cemetery a few miles away near the Church of the Brethern Q7: Whatever Became of Douglas?

18 “…the little Albert study became a landmark in behavioral psychology. Albert’s conditioning helped stimulate a movement that reshaped the conduct and practice of our discipline” - Beck, et al, p. 613 As much as Pavlov’s dogs, Skinner’s pigeons, and Milgram’s obedience experiments, the conditioning of Albert is the face of psychology. To many, Little Albert embodies the promise and, to some, the dangers inherent in the scientific study of behavior” - Beck, et al, p. 613 Q7: Whatever Became of Douglas?

19 Finding Little Albert “Our search of seven years was longer than the little boy’s life. I laid flowers on the grave of my longtime ‘companion,’ turned, and simultaneously felt a great peace and profound loneliness” - Beck, et al, p. 613 These slides were created by Michael A. Britt, Ph.D., host of The Psych Files podcast. The slides accompany episode #114, which can be viewed by clicking here: Finding Little Albert on The Psych Files podcast web site.Finding Little Albert on The Psych Files podcast


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