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John B. Watson on Fear - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 24
Fear/Watson: Thesis: (Watson and Morgan 1979)(1) rage. Specific to fear, they suggested that only a few situations called out the fear response in infants: most notably (1) suddenly removing one’s support and letting the infant fall from one’s arms (to a safe place), and (2) exposing the infant to unexpected loud noises. As noted by Watson and Morgan, a variety of other situations failed to produce the fear response in nine-month-old infants, including a white rat, a rabbit, a dog, a monkey, a mask, cotton wool, and burning newspapers, among other stimuli and situations.
In his book, Psychology from the Standpoint of a Behaviorist, Watson (1919)(2) noted that the fear response initiated by sudden dropping of the infant or loud noises consisted of a “sudden catching of the breath, clutching randomly with the hands, sudden closing of the eyelids, puckering of the lips, then crying” (p. 200). He went on to state that “we can assert with some sureness that the above mentioned group of reactions appears at birth” (p. 200). >Emotion/Watson, >Experiment/Watson, >Conditioning/Watson.


1. Watson, J. B., & Morgan, J. J. B. (1917). Emotional reactions and psychological experimentation. American Journal of Psychology, 28, 163–174.
2. Watson, J. B. (1919). Psychology from the standpoint of a behaviorist. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company.


Thomas H. Ollendick, Thomas M. Sherman, Peter Muris, and Neville J. King, “Conditioned Emotional Reactions. Beyond Watson and Rayner’s Little Albert”, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Watson, John B.
Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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