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John B. Watson
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John B. Watson

Born on January 9, 1878, John B. Watson grew up in South Carolina where he was considered a very poor academic student. Not allowing this to dissuade him, he entered Furman University at the age of 16 where he graduated with a Master's Degree in only five years. And just a couple of years later in 1903, John Watson earned a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Chicago.


John B. Watson
 

Watson's career path changed in 1908 when he began teaching psychology at Johns Hopkins University and began revealing his behaviorist teachings to the world shortly after. He was once quoted as saying "Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental branch of natural science.

"Its theoretical goal is the prediction and control of behavior. Introspection forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness."

Although John B. Watson gave the scientific and psychology community many new and innovative techniques and methods, he is best known for his "Little Albert" experiment where he and his assistant, Rosalie Rayner conditioned a small child to fear a white rat.

This was achieved by repeatedly pairing the white rat with a loud noise. The ethics of this experiment are often criticized today, especially because it was thought that the child's fear was never normalized. It is believed that Little Albert died at the age of 6 due to congenital hydrocephalus, so the normalized "fear theory" is inconclusive.


The Little Albert experiment was a case study showing empirical evidence of classical conditioning in humans and the results of this experiment were first published in the February 1920 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Watson's experiment and is teachings set the stage for behaviorism as we know it today. Although his version of behaviorism began to lose its hold after the 1950's, many of the concepts and principles he discovered are still in use today.

Conditioning and behavior modification are still widely used in therapy and behavioral training to help clients change problematic behaviors and develop new skills. These methods are helping addicts find new ways to suppress their addictive behavior and live a healthy, addiction free life.

Although John B. Watson's teachings may seem archaic by today's standards and some of his evidence has since been refuted, he was still at the forefront of the psychological community in the early 1900's and his experiments have given many of today's psychologists some food for thought.


Rumor Has It

that John B. Watson, on his deathbed, was visited by Willard the Rat who said, "I'm baaaaack!" as he bit him on the nose.

 

Written by Kevin Lepton

Published on January 13, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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