John B. Watson was a famous American psychologist of the first half of 20th century. He is considered as the establisher of the psychological school of behaviorism. Applying his behaviorism method, he developed and described several studies dealing with children raising and animal behavior.
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He also is an author whose books on psychology are among the most cited through the 20th century (Haggbloom et al. 139). Watson also conducted one of the most famous and discussed psychological experiment known as “Little Albert.” Watsons’s major contributions to psychology are the topic of the present essay.
One of Watson’s famous works, “Psychology as the Behaviorist Views It”, was first published in 1913 and is a so-called The Behaviorist Manifesto. The major principles of his new theory are presented and explained there. He claims psychology as behaviorist views to be an objective branch of natural science, as well as there are no significant differences in the general line of behavior of a human and an animal (Watson Psychological review 158).
Watson emphasizes the external behavior of humans in the certain situations they are put in, neglecting their mental activity at that time. He claims that analyzing the reactions and behavior is the only objective way to understand human actions.
In his another work Behaviorism Watson discusses definitions and the nature of speech and memory, calling language a “manipulative habit” that develops through the imitation of surrounding people; and memory is a response to the stimuli of human’s previous life experience, that can be easily brought to mind by repeating certain accompanying actions (Watson Behaviorism 186). Watson’s study of emotions claims that the first emotions baby experiences are fear, rage and love.
A loss of physical support or a sudden loud noise or might cause fear in infants. A forced immobilizing of a baby later transferred to any physical enforcement of the individual, causes rage. Love is invoked by mother’s touching activity in early childhood resulting in baby’s positive respond, and transferring it later to other people who perform the same activity pattern (Crain 109).
Another significant branch of Watson’s scientific activity was dealing with children rearing. In 1928, he wrote his book Psychological Care of Infant and Child, stating that children have to be raised as young adults, and too much care and affection provided by parents will play a bad role in individual’s further life as the society does not provide children and young people with the amount of care the loving parents do. Watson warned that “once a child’s character has been spoiled by bad handling – which can be done in few days – who can say the damage is ever repaired?” (Watson Psychological Care 3).
His most famous baby experiment, though raising many questions and evoking numerous discussions was “Baby Albert”, conducted to an 11-month-old boy. The experiment laid within the idea of making the little boy to afraid something he was not afraid before (white rat) by accompanying it with frightening attributes (loud noise), thus applying the principles of classical conditioning.
The ethical concerns about such specific way of treating baby, raise discussions of this experiment till today bringing up new suggestions like “Albert” was not mentally healthy and his reactions can not be considered as representative (Fridlund et al. 302).
John Watson made a significant input into the scientific psychology of the 20th century. The American Psychological Association awarded him with the medal for his works in the field of psychology in 1957. He also worked in advertisement industry successfully applying the behaviorism principles he studied.
Crain, William. Theories of development: Concepts and applications. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.
Fridlund, Alan J., Hall P. Beck, William D. Goldie, Gary Irons. “Little Albert: A neurologically impaired child.” History of Psychology 15.4 (2012): 302. Print.
Haggbloom, Steven J., Jason E. Warnick, Vinessa K Jones, Gary L. Yarbrough, Tenea M. Russell, Chris M. Borecky, and Reagan McGahhey. “The 100 most eminent psychologists of the 20th century.” Review of General Psychology 6.2 (2002): 139–152. Print.
Watson, John. B. Psychological Care of Infant and Child. New York, NY: W.W. Norton Company, Inc., 1928. Print.
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—. (1925). Behaviorism. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1925. Print.
—. “Psychology as the behaviorist views it.” Psychological review 20.2 (1913): 158. Print.