Story of 9-month-old baby who succumbed to science- “The Little Albert Experiment”

During the 1890s, a physiologist was studying dogs' digestion. He was observing that when we give food to dogs, when is the saliva formed in their mouth? He followed that before the dogs saw the meal, saliva was already formed in their mouths, just by listening to their owner's footsteps

US: During the 1890s, a physiologist was studying dogs’ digestion. He was observing that when we give food to dogs, when is the saliva formed in their mouth? He followed that before the dogs saw the meal, saliva was already formed in their mouths, just by listening to their owner’s footsteps.

Well, to find out the answer to this, he experimented where whenever he used to offer food to dogs, he used a metronome. Along with time, dogs started associating food not with the owner’s footsteps but with the metronome ticking, which also produced their salivation. These dogs were conditioned to associate food with the sound of the metronome.

This physiologist was none other than Ivan Pavlov, who, despite not being in the field of psychology, contributed to an entirely different branch of behavioural physiology. Now inspired by this same experiment in the 1920s, a physiologist decided to do the same experiment on a 9-month-old baby. This experiment is considered to be one of the cruellest and most unethical experiments. The name of this experiment is “The Little Albert Experiment.”

Exactly ten years before Ivan Pavlov’s dog experiment, i.e., 1878, John B Watson was born. During his entire childhood, his mother tried to make him religious. So much so that his name ‘John.’ was kept by being inspired by a well-known Baptice Saint John. So he can grow up and preach the gospel. His alcoholic father even left 13-year-old John. He was left to be hammered with extremely religious ideologies by his mother.

Because of this, he developed a grudge toward religion. In the future, the family will move to Greenville in South Carolina. This was Watson’s most significant turning point in life.

Because his transition from a village to city life was utterly different, meeting new people is what drove him towards psychology. In 1903 after completing his PhD, he took up the job of a research professor at the University of Chicago. And after six years, in 1908, he came to John Hopkins University.

In 1913 he discovered a paper on behaviourism. Initially, the psychology community hadn’t completed it entirely. In 1915, he became a member of the American psychological association. And then, he continued to understand and learn more papers on behaviourism. Not only this, but he also stated that physiology revolves around behaviourism and not the mind.

Thus he rejected the study of consciousness as a part of physiology. Because he thought it was a hindrance in the world of psychology.


He was focusing more on behaviourism. In 1919, John B.Waston released one more paper whose named ‘The Schematic Outline of Emotions’. In this paper, he mentioned the three most critical emotions present in a human being at birth: fear, Love and Rage.

According to him, two fears are naturally evoked in infants.

1. Coming from a sudden loud noise.
2. Loss of physical support.

These were why he decided to study infants and how fear worked on them. For these tests, subjects were kept in front of dogs, and other animals and their reaction was learned. But when pigeons who flap their wings and make noise were held in front of them, fear invoked in them. Not only this, but to evoke fear in his subjects, he also used to lock his topics in a dark room. This does not sound like a good idea because most of his subjects were newborns. But from the 1920s, his experiment started excelling. He wanted to know how Pavlo conditioned the dogs. Can he, too, condition infants by using the same natural stimuli? They used to keep newborns with animals and study their fear. They wanted to provoke fear in these infants forcefully. This also led to the death of many babies.


The dark fact about this experiment is that we still don’t know what happened to the little Albert experiment. Many scientists even tried to trace him. The true identity hasn’t been discovered even after 102 years. The experiment was conducted and has been debated since 1921. Scientists are still studying it, but nobody has undertaken it.

Anglina Byron

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Anglina Byron

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