(My psychology geeks will undoubtedly remember the case of Little Albert.)
A paper published this month in the journal History of Psychology makes the case that Little Albert was not, as Watson insisted, “healthy” and “normal.” He was probably neurologically impaired. If the baby indeed had a severe cognitive deficit, then his reactions to the white rat or the dog or the monkey may not have been typical–certainly reaching universal conclusions about human nature based on his reactions wouldn’t make sense. The entire experiment, then, would be a case of a researcher terrifying a sick baby for no valid scientific reason (not that using a healthy baby would have been ethically hunkydory).
But what makes it worse, the authors of the paper argue, is that Watson must have known that Little Albert was impaired. This would turn a cruel experiment of questionable value into a case of blatant academic fraud.
A New Twist in the Sad Saga of Little Albert