In 1920, behaviorist John B. Watson and his eventual wife, Rosalie Rayner - then a graduate student studying under him - set out to prove they could condition a child's feelings. Specifically, they wanted to demonstrate their power to engender a phobia within a living being. Their experiment was based on Pavlov’s conditioning of dogs, which implemented a repetitive action in order to elicit a desired response.
While Watson and Rayner did technically accomplish their goal, they also clearly yet inadvertently demonstrated the need for ethics in psychological studies. Their actions against their subject, a baby known as “Little Albert,” are now understood to have been abhorrent -- riddled with ethical issues -- and due to the researchers' carelessness, determining the amount of damage they inflicted is practically impossible.
The Experiment Conditioned 'Little Albert' To Fear Any Furry, White Object
No Objective Parameters Were Imposed To Evaluate Albert's Reactions
Researchers Failed To Reverse Albert's Conditioning Once The Experiment Ended
Watson May Have Known About And Hid Albert's Poor Health