LITTLE ALBERT: A Neurologically Impaired Child

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Hall Beck Ph.D., Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:

Abstract: Evidence collected by Beck, Levinson, and Irons (2009) indicates that Albert B., the “lost” infant subject of John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner’s (1920) famous condi tioning study, was Douglas Merritte (1919 –1925). Following the finding that Merritte died early with hydrocephalus, questions arose as to whether Douglas’s condition was congenital, rather than acquired in 1922, as cited on his death certificate. This etiology would imply that “Little Albert” was not the “healthy” and “normal” infant described by Watson and numerous secondary sources. Detailed analyses of Watson’s (1923) film footage of Albert suggested substantial behavioral and neurological deficits. The anomalies we observed on film of Albert B. are insufficiently explained by his hospital upbringing but are consistent with findings from newly discovered medical records of Douglas Merritte. These documents revealed that the infant suffered from congenital obstructive hydrocephalus, iatrogenic streptococcal meningitis/ventriculitis, and retinal and optic nerve atrophy. The medical history also indicates that Albert’s sessions with Watson occurred during periods when Douglas’s clinical course was relatively stable. Further inquiries found ample sources of information available to Watson that would have made him aware of Douglas/Albert’s medical condition at the times he tested the baby. Experimental ethics, Watson’s legacy, and the Albert study are discussed in light of these new findings.

Additional Information

Alan J. Fridlund, William D. Goldie, Gary Irons, Hall P. Beck(2012) LITTLE ALBERT: A Neurologically Impaired Child. History of Psychology Vol. 15, No. 4, 302–327 (DOI: 10.1037/a0026720) (ISSN: 1093-4510)
Language: English
Date: 2012
, albert, neurolgically, impaired, child, watson, ethics, history, psychology,

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