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Research notes: Little Albert, lost or found: further difficulties with the Douglas Merritte hypothesis

Faculty Advisor




Watson, Little Albert, child psychology, conditioned emotional response, history of psychology

Abstract (summary)

In some intriguing detective work, Beck, Levinson, and Irons (see record 2009-18110-004) attempted to solve the mystery of what happened to Little Albert, the infant in whom Watson and Rayner (1920) claimed to have conditioned a rat phobia. They concluded that a child by the name of Douglas Merritte, the son of a wet nurse at Johns Hopkins Hospital, very likely was Albert (the published name, Albert B, apparently having been a pseudonym). Powell (see record 2010-08987-015) and Reese (see record 2010-08987-016) outlined certain difficulties with Beck et al.’s (2009) analysis, the foremost being a comment from Watson (1924/1925) that Albert was later adopted, whereas Douglas had remained with his mother (see Beck, 2010, for his rejoinder to Powell and Reese) (see record 2010-08987-017). The present report presents an additional difficulty with the Douglas Merritte hypothesis which concerns the estimated timeline during which the baseline session (and first film session) of the Albert experiment likely took place. It is the congruence between Douglas’ age and the reported age of Albert during this estimated timeline on which the case for Douglas being Albert largely rests.

Publication Information

Powell, R. A. (2011). Little Albert: lost or found: further difficulties with the Douglas Merritte hypothesis [Research Note]. History of Psychology, 14, 106-107.


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