Correcting the record on Watson, Rayner, and Little Albert: Albert Barger as 'psychology’s lost boy'
Little Albert, John B. Watson, phobias, fear conditioning
In 1920, John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner attempted to condition a phobia in a young infant named 'Albert B.' In 2009, Beck, Levinson, and Irons proposed that Little Albert, as he is now known, was actually an infant named Douglas Merritte. More recently, Fridlund, Beck, Goldie, and Irons (2012) claimed that Little Albert (Douglas) was neurologically impaired at the time of the experiment. They also alleged that Watson, in a severe breach of ethics, probably knew of Little Albert’s condition when selecting him for the study and then fraudulently hid this fact in his published accounts of the case. In this article, we present the discovery of another individual, Albert Barger, who appears to match the characteristics of Little Albert better than Douglas Merritte does. We examine the evidence for Albert Barger as having been Little Albert and, where relevant, contrast it with the evidence for Douglas Merritte. As for the allegations of fraudulent activity by Watson, we offer comments at the end of this article. We also present evidence concerning whether Little Albert (Albert Barger) grew up with the fear of furry animals, as Watson and Rayner speculated he might.
Powell, R. A., Digdon, D., Smithson, C., & Harris, B. (2014). Correcting the record on Watson, Rayner, and Little Albert: Albert Barger as “psychology’s lost boy.” American Psychologist, 69, 600-611. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0036854
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