john b. watson- anahi

By: Anahi Bendeck
IB Psychology
John Broadus Watson was born near Greenville, South
Carolina on January 9,1878. He was the son of Emma
and Pickens Watson. In the year 1891, John and the
rest of his family was left behind by
his father, complicating everything.
Given the circumstances that his
family was very poor, everything
then became different for them.
Since his father left his family,
Watson held a long-life resentment towards him. As a
child, John Broadus spent most of his childhood in the
relative isolation and poverty of rural South Carolina.
At the early age of 16, Watson attended the Furman University,
located in Greenvillage. Five years later, at the age of 21, he
graduated with a basic introduction to psychology and a M.A.
degree. Right after that, he spent a year as the principal of a
private school, until he was later admitted into the University of
Chicago, where he moved in the year 1900. Watson enrolled into
the University where he studied philosophy with John Dewey, on the
recommendation of Gordon Moore, a Furman Professor.
When Watson arrived in Chicago,
he found himself in a unique intellectual environment. His professor
John Dewey, had arrived from the
University of Michigan in the year
1894. Dewey, along with George
Herbert Mead, Addison W. Moore,
and James Rowland Angell, was forging a different approach to
psychological theory and research.
As Watson graduation from the University of Chicago in
the year 1903, he presented his thesis on the
relationship between brain myelinization and learning
ability in rats at different ages.
Its title was "Animal Education:
An Experimental Study on the
Psychical Development of the
White Rat, Correlated with the
Growth of its Nervous System”.
In his proposal, Watson proved
that the degree of myelinization
was not related much to the learning ability.
After his graduation, Watson resided in the University of
Chicago for several years, researching on the
connection between sensory input and learning and bird
John Watson married Mary Ickes in 1903, they had two
children which they named Polly and John. In the year 1920,
Ickes filed for divorce since Watson had an affair with his
research assistant Rosaline Rayner.
After their divorce was finally
legal, John immediately married
Rosaline and had two children: Billy
and Jimmy. His marriage with his
research assistance was the reason
for his expulsion from John Hopkins.
His wife Rosaline died in the year 1936,
of either pneumonia or dysentery, and
that caused him to start drinking in an
inconsiderate way, causing his family to
break up.
-For behaviorists, psychology is a purely
objective experimental branch of natural
science. Its theoretical, and most
important, goal is the prediction and the
control of the human’s behavior. The
behavior of man, with all of its refinement
and complexity, forms only a part of the
behaviorist's total scheme of investigation.
Watson, as a behaviorist, promoted a series
of ideas that influenced further
psychologists. Two of his most important
works are “Little Albert” and his “Twelve
Infant’s” quote. These two ideas Watson
presented were basic to the foundation of
behaviorism, which then became a
fundamental pillar of what today defines
As Watson concluded his
research at Chicago, he
published the article
"Psychology as the
Behaviorist Views It" — sometimes called "The
Behaviorist Manifesto". This article was said to be the
start of Watson and his behaviorism idea, and it clearly
states his position regarding behaviorism. In his
article, Watson outlined the most important features of
the new philosophy of psychology he had developed:
In this article, Watson states his clear position
regarding his idea, thus, he stated it in the first
paragraph of the article:
In response to introspection, Watson and
other premature behaviorists believed that
controlled laboratory studies were the
most effective and detailed way to study
learning. With this advance, the
manipulation of the learners environment
became easier. This progress stands in
contrast to techniques that placed the
emphasis for learning in the mind of the
called “learner”. Watson’s article,
presented in 1913, is often given credit
for the founding of behaviorism, and after
its publication it had a insignificant
impact. His second text, “Psychology from
the Standpoint of a Behaviorist” is
probably more responsible for introducing
behaviorist values to a generation of
future scholars of learning. In this way,
Watson prepared psychologists and
educators for the highly influential work
of Skinner and other radical behaviorists
in following decades.
A second critical factor in changing attitudes
toward behaviorism was the appearance, in
1919, of Watson's “Psychology from the
Standpoint of a Behaviorist” . Watson’s
1919 text was the first one to extend
behaviorist analysis into the human
psychological functions. In his first chapters,
he introduces students to the vision of what
psychology really is and how it is considered
an independent natural science. Watson lays
the basic foundation of psychology by
outlining the major behavior categories in
which he tries to argue for a clear difference
between how a person will act without being
synthesized into fearing or believing
In his famous text, Watson also includes a
description of the anatomical structures and
physiological functioning of the central
nervous system, the receptors, and finally,
the muscles and glands. Watson studies the
behavior of people and he discusses about
how people’s emotions can be controlled
and related to these specific parts in the
human body.
Watson then presented a reasonably
coherent, developmental, stimulus-response
treatment of phenomena ranging from the
basic emotional and reactions learned
during a child’s infancy and the way a child
can think and perceive information. This can
be also related with the personality and the
way adults think, the way they make their
everyday decisions.
His second textbook became very popular
and was in the need of reprinting, since
many people wanted it as a guide to learning
about Watson’s “behaviorism”.
In order for Watson to state his
position in a clearer way,
Watson wrote this with the
idea of letting people know that
there is something about the
environment that will influence hoe
infants grow up and develop. Nevertheless, Watson was still
struggling in the nature versus nuture argument.
“ Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own
specified world to bring them up in and I'll guarantee to take any
one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I
might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and, yes, even
beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants,
tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors. I am
going beyond my facts and I admit it, but so have the advocates of
the contrary and they have been doing it for many thousands of
years. [Behaviorism (1930), p. 82] ”
The “Little Albert” experiment conducted by John B. Watson was
an experiment that showed empirical evidence of what is called
classical conditioning. Watson used this experiment in particular
to find evidence classical conditioning in humans. As this study
helped in the study of classical conditioning, it was also said to
be an example of stimulus generalization.
The purpose of the experiment was to
help Watson support his idea that
emotional responses could be conditioned,
or learned. The experimenter came to believe
that the fear was innate or it was due to an
unconditioned response. Watson also believed
that he could condition a child to fear another stimulus which
would normally not be feared by a child; all following the
principles of classical conditioning. The experiment was
conducted at Johns Hopkins University in 1920 by Watson and
his assistant Rosalie Rayner.
Albert was chosen from a hospital
for this experiment at the age of
almost nine months. He was the
son of a nurse of the Phipps Clinic
at John Hopkins University in
Baltimore, where Watson and
Rayner were conducting the
experiment. Before Watson could
start the experiment he had Alberto
undergo several emotional tests. Albert
was exposed, briefly and for the first
time, to a white rat, a rabbit, a dog,
a monkey, masks with and without hair,
cotton wool, burning newspapers, etc.
After this exposure, Albert showed no
fear to any of these objects.
Little Albert was not being conditioned until approximately two
months later, by the time Albert was 11 months old. It all began by
placing Little Albert on a mattress on a table that was set in the
middle of the room. Then, a white laboratory rat was placed near
him and Albert was given the chance to play with it, letting Watson
know that Albert had no fear towards the rat. In the next trials,
Watson and his assistant made a loud sound behind the infant by
striking a steel bar with a hammer. This was done when the baby
touched the rat. Surprisingly, in these occasions, Little Albert
showed fear as he heard the noise, causing him to cry. After the
pairing of the sound and the rat, Albert was then
conditioned to fear the rat. As the rat
was presented later, Albert felt fear
towards it. He cried, and tried to avoid
the rat, moving from where he was. It
was then proven, that Albert had associated the white rat with the loud noise,
which then caused Albert to cry and fear the rat.
The “Little Albert” experiment
led to the following series of
1. Introduction of a loud sound
(unconditioned stimulus)
resulted in fear (unconditioned
response), a natural response.
2. Introduction of a rat (neutral
stimulus) paired with the loud
sound (unconditioned stimulus)
resulted in fear (unconditioned
3. Successive introductions of a
rat (conditioned stimulus)
resulted in fear (conditioned
response). This is when learning
What was challenging about
this experiment was that Little
Albert seemed to generalize his
response so that when Watson
sent a (non-white) rabbit into
the room seventeen days after the original
experiment, Albert also became distressed. He
showed similar reactions when presented with a
furry dog, a seal-skin coat, and even when Watson
appeared in front of him wearing a Santa Claus
mask with white cotton balls as his beard,
although Albert did not fear everything with hair.
1915 – Served as the President of
the American Psychological
1919 – Published Psychology From
the Standpoint of a Behaviorist
1925 – Published Behaviorism
1928 – Published Psychological
Care of Infant and Child
1957 – Received the APA’s award for
contributions to psychology
By 1956 he had been nearly forgotten by psychology -his student
Lashley had demolished associationism on theoretical grounds,
Skinner was gaining in popularity regardless, and Chomsky was
writing "Syntactic Structures". To the majority of the people today,
John Watson can be considered a legend to the natural science of
In the year 1957, Watson was
invited to New York City by the
American Psychological Association
to receive a special award. This award was
being presented to him for his immense contributions to
psychology. Watson went but he sent his son to receive it since he
though he would break down in public. It read: “To Dr. John B.
Watson, whose work has been one of the vital determinants of the
form and substance of modern psychology. He initiated a revolution
in psychological thought, and his writings have been the point of
departure for continuing lines of fruitful research."
John B. Watson died on September 29, 1958, at
the age of 80. Watson died in New York City, NY.
The end of a wonderful, exploring era of
psychology had come to its end. Watson was thee
leader and the influence in many psychologists we
study now a day, and he was also the founder of
what today is called “behaviorism”.
Thereby, John B. Watson was called “The Father
of Behaviorism”.

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