Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Slater I 24
Conditioning/Watson: As noted by Watson and Morgan (1917)(1), 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.
Against the backdrop of this innate theory of emotions and his observations that only a limited number of situations could evoke a fear response, Watson and Rayner (1920)(2) reasoned that there had to be other processes (i.e., learning processes) through which fear responses could be produced since children were observed to be fearful of a number of things, not just loud noises and being dropped or falling from high places.
Based on the work of Pavlov and related early findings on classical conditioning with non-human animals, Watson and Rayner suggested that “conditioned reflex factors” must be at work and that “the early home life of the child furnishes a laboratory situation for establishing conditioned emotional responses” (p. 1.) Prior to this time, the acquisition of fear in humans through classical conditioning had not been demonstrated. >Emotion/Watson, >Fear/Watson, >Conditioning/Craske, >Conditioning/psychological theories.


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., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.


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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