Generaleneral Psychologysychology


Watson, Rayner and Little Albert

Watson and Rayner (1920) taught a young boy named Albert to become afraid of a gentle white rat. At the beginning of the study, Albert was unafraid of the white rat and played freely with the animal. While he was playing with the rat, the experimenters frightened the child by making a loud noise behind him. Albert was startled and began to cry. Thereafter, he avoided the rat and would cry whenever it was brought close to him. In Pavlovian terms, a bond had been established between the sight of the rat (CS) and the arousal of Albert's autonomic nervous system (CR).

Once this S-R bond was fixed, fear could also be elicited by showing Albert any furry object. This is called stimulus generalization. Stimulus generalization is defined as the tendency to make the same response to two similar stimuli.

Watson and Rayner showed that fears could be learned or acquired. If Pavlovian techniques can be used to induce fear, then it is likely that they can be used to remove fears. That brings us to our next story, the "Tale of Greg and the Empty Toilet Paper Roll."
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