Dictionary of Arguments


Philosophical and Scientific Issues in Dispute
 
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Conditioning Psychological Theories Corr I 355
Conditioning/Psychological Theories: Even if we assume that Eysenck’s (1957)(1) theory were correct, classical conditioning cannot account for the known phenomena of neurosis. As discussed by Corr (2008a)(2), the classical conditioning theory of neurosis assumes assumes that, as a result of the conditioned stimulus (CS) (e.g., hairy animal) and unconditioned stimulus (UCS) (e.g., pain of dog bite) getting paired, the CS comes to take on the eliciting properties of the UCS, such that, after conditioning and when presented alone, the CS produces a response (i.e., the conditioned response (CR), e.g., fear, and its associated behaviours) that resembles the unconditioned response (UCR) (e.g., pain, and its associated behaviours) elicited by the UCS. Problem: The CR (e.g., fear) does not substitute for the UCR (e.g., pain). In some crucial respects, the CR does not even resemble the UCR. For example, a pain UCS will elicit a wide variety of reactions (e.g., vocalization and behavioural excitement – recall the last time an object hit you hard!); but these reactions are quite different – in fact, opposite to – a CS signalling pain, which consists of a different range of behaviours (e.g., quietness and behavioural inhibition). >Conditioning/Eysenck, >Conditioning/Gray.


1. Eysenck, H. J. 1957. The dynamics of anxiety and hysteria. New York: Preger
2. Corr, P. J. 2008a. Reinforcement sensitivity theory (RST): Introduction, in P. J. Corr (ed). The reinforcement sensitivity theory of personality, pp. 1–43. Cambridge University Press


Philip J. Corr, „ The Reinforcement Sensitivity Theory of Personality“, in: Corr, Ph. J. & Matthews, G. (eds.) 2009. The Cambridge handbook of Personality Psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press



Slater I 28
Conditioning/psychological theories: in the years since 1920 (Watson’s and Rayners Experiment “Little Albert”, Watson and Rayner 1920)(1); >Experiment/Watson) classical conditioning has been shown to be a complex operation that depends on many procedural nuances (Bouton, 2002(2); Field, 2006a(3)) and subject characteristics that qualify its effects (Craske, 2003)(4). Two of the more important procedural issues center around two characteristics thought to be associated with classical conditioning: namely, equipotentiality and extinction. Equipotentiality refers to the notion that any stimulus is able to become a conditioned stimulus, if it is associated with an unconditioned stimulus. This notion, of course, has not stood the test of time. For the criticisms of Watson’s and Rayner’s 1920 experiment >VsWatson, >Conditioning/Watson, >Experiment/Watson, >Conditioning/Craske.
Slater I 29
VsWatson: some early attempts to replicate conditioned emotional reactions in young children by other investigators were rather mixed, with some being successful (e.g., Jones, 1931)(5) whereas others were not (e.g., Bregman, 1934(6); Valentine, 1946(7)). Clearly, from a conceptual and theoretical standpoint, Watson and Rayner’s depiction of classical conditioning was simplistic and, assuming conditioning was produced, it may also have been fortuitous!

1. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
2. Bouton, M. E., (2002). Context, ambiguity, and unlearning: Sources of relapse after behavioral extinction. Biological Psychiatry, 52, 976–986.
3. Field, A. P. (2006a). Is conditioning a useful framework for understanding the development and treatment of phobias? Clinical Psychology Review, 26, 857–875.
4. Craske, M. G. (2003). Origins of phobias and anxiety disorders. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science.
5. Jones, H. E. (1931). The conditioning of overt emotional responses. Journal of Educational Psychology, 22, 127–130.
6. Bregman, E. (1932). An attempt to modify the emotional attitudes of infants by the conditioned response technique. Journal of Genetic Psychology 45: 169-196
7. Valentine, C. W. (1946). The psychology of early childhood (3rd edn). London: Meuthen.


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


Corr I
Philip J. Corr
Gerald Matthews
The Cambridge Handbook of Personality Psychology New York 2009

Corr II
Philip J. Corr (Ed.)
Personality and Individual Differences - Revisiting the classical studies Singapore, Washington DC, Melbourne 2018

Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
Ethics Behaviorism Slater I 30
Ethics/Behaviorism: VsWatson: From an ethical standpoint, several authors have questioned the conditioning of fears in children but perhaps more importantly the failure to remove the fears once they were conditioned. (Cf. Watson and Rayner 1920)(1); >Experiment/Watson. Ollendick/Sherman/Muris/King:: It seems to us that ethical questions such as these are important but not readily or easily resolved. In 1920 (>Experiment/Watson), little was known about how fears and phobias were acquired and one could argue that such research was extremely important and ethically defensible – so long as long-term harm did not occur to the participant. The part that seems questionable to us is why Watson and Rayner did not plan their research so they would have the time to remove the conditioned emotional responses before Albert and his mother left the hospital. Cf. Harris (1979)(2).


1. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
2. Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to Little Albert? American Psychologist, 34, 151–160.


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


Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
Experiments Watson Slater I 24
Experiment/”Little Albert”/Watson/Rayner: the Little Albert experiment (Watson & Rayner 1920(1)) was the first demonstration (…) in humans: an unconditioned stimulus (loud noise) that produced an unconditioned response (fear) was paired with a conditioned stimulus (white rat) to produce a conditioned response (fear). In this manner, a conditioned emotional reaction was produced. >Conditioning/Watson.
Slater I 25
Watson and Rayner [posed] four questions: (1) Could they condition fear of an animal by presenting it and simultaneously striking a steel bar?
(2) If such a conditioned response could be established, would the emotional response transfer to other animals or other objects?
(3) What would the effect of time be upon such conditioned emotional responses?
(4) What methods could be used to remove the fear response?
When Albert was 11 months of age, the experiment combined the presentation of a rat that Albert showed no fear of with the loud sound of a steel bar. After some repetitions Albert began to cry when he was only shown the rat without any noise.
Slater I 26
The experiment continued and Watson and Rayner showed that the fear of the rat could be transferred to other animals and that it lasted for weeks. The experiment could not answer the fourth question, because Albert and his mother left the hospital. Watson and Rayner suggested the conditioned response could be reduced by arranging “constructive” activities with the feared object by using imitation and assisting the child in interacting with the object in a constructive manner.
Quite clearly, Watson and Rayner anticipated strategies that have subsequently been shown to be efficacious in the treatment of childhood phobias even though they did not attempt them themselves: prolonged in vivo exposure, systematic desensitization, and participant modeling (Ollendick & King, 2011)(2).
Slater I 27
{The] demonstration resulted in a paradigm shift in how fears and phobias were acquired and could potentially be treated. Problem: Harris (1979)(3) has documented that most textbook versions of Albert’s conditioning (…) suffer from various inaccuracies.
VsWatson: [the experiment] has been soundly criticized by many scholars on a number of conceptual, methodological and ethical grounds. >Conditioning/psychological theories.
Slater I 28
Stimuli/conditioning/VsWatson: it has been shown repeatedly that fears of spiders, snakes, dogs, heights, thunder, and water are much more common than fears of shoes, flowers, rabbits, and even potentially dangerous objects such as guns, knives, and electric outlets. Seligman (1971)(4) suggested that some objects or situations are more evolutionarily “prepared” to be associated with the fear response, whereas other authors like Davey (1997)(5) and Öhman and Mineka (2001)(6) speak of so-called fear-relevant stimuli and fear-irrelevant stimuli. However labeled, these recent findings challenge the notion of equipotentiality. (>Conditioning/psychological theories.)

1. Watson, J. B., & Rayner, R. (1920). Conditioned emotional responses. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 3, 1–14.
2. Ollendick, T. H., & King, N. J. (2011). Evidence-based treatments for children and adolescents: Issues and commentary. In P. C. Kendall (Ed.), Child and adolescent therapy: Cognitive and behavioral procedures (4th edn, pp. 499–519). New York: Guilford Publications.
3. Harris, B. (1979). Whatever happened to Little Albert? American Psychologist, 34, 151–160.
4. Seligman, M. E. P. (1971). Phobias and preparedness. Behavior Therapy, 3, 307–320.
5. Davey, G. C. L. (1997). A conditioning model of phobias. In G. C. L. Davey (Ed.), Phobias: A handbook of theory, research, and treatment (pp. 301–322). Chichester: Wiley.
6. Öhman, A., & Mineka, S. (2001). Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review, 108, 383–522.


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


Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
Method Watson Slater I 29
Method/VsWatson/Watson: from a methodological standpoint, Watson and Rayner (1920)(1) present us basically with an uncontrolled case demonstration, sometimes referred to as an A-B single case design (i.e., a baseline followed by an intervention). That is, they report the presumed evocation of fear in a single subject and do not provide us any experimental controls for that demonstration. By today’s standards, this report would not likely be published in any top-tier journal. >Method/Behaviorism.

1. 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


Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
Method Behaviorism Slater I 29
Method/Behaviorism: By today’s standards, one might want to demonstrate the effects of conditioning in a multiple baseline reversal design (see Kazdin, 2011)(1) rather than in an uncontrolled single case study. >Vs Watson; >Conditioning/Watson, >Conditioning/psychological theories. In the multiple baseline reversal design, for example, three baselines of varying lengths (e.g., three to five baseline trials) might be used in which the emotional response to the white rat (>Experiment/Watson) in the absence of the loud noise is first measured. In addition, these varying baselines might be applied to three or more children each.
Following the multiple baselines for each of the participants, the conditioning proper would begin and the pairings of the loud noise with the presentation of the white rat would proceed until the fear response was reliably established. For each child, the number of pairings may, and likely would, have differed due to the “conditionability” of the various participants (see Craske, 2003)(2). Finally, following successful conditioning, the white rat would be presented in the absence of the loud noise for a number of trials until the fear was reduced or “extinguished” (with the caveats noted above). This design is an extremely powerful design in that it is an A-B-A design executed with multiple participants across varying baseline intervals.


1. Kazdin, A. E. (2011). Single-case research designs: Methods for clinical and applied settings (2nd edn). New York: Oxford University Press
2. Craske, M. G. (2003). Origins of phobias and anxiety disorders. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science


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


Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012
Social Learning Bandura Upton I 11
Social Learning/Bandura/Upton: According to Bandura’s social learning theory (1963), people learn through observing others’ behaviour and attitudes, using this as a model for their own behaviour. Conditions:

Attention: in order for the behaviour to be learned, the observer must see the modelled behaviour.
Retention: the observer must be able to remember the modelled behaviour.
Reproduction: the observer must have the skills to reproduce the action.
Motivation: the observer must be motivated to carry out the action they have observed and remembered, and must have the opportunity to do so. Motivation may include seeing the model’s behaviour reinforced, while punishment may discourage repetition of the behaviour.

Upton I 12
Behavior/BanduraVsWatson/Bandura: the observer will imitate the model’s behaviour only if the model possesses characteristics that the observer finds attractive or desirable. Therefore, we do not always imitate others’ actions. We choose who to imitate – learning is not an automatic response but depends on internal processes as well as environmental ones. Social learning theory/Upton: has sometimes been called a bridge between behaviourist and cognitive learning theories because it encompasses attention, memory and motivation.


Upton I
Penney Upton
Developmental Psychology 2011