Identify and describe both sides of the ethical conflict of the case, independent of what you believe is ethical or not.
Explain what principles and standards the study would have violated if the research had been subject to the APA’s code of ethics today
A nine-month-old baby named “Little Albert” was the subject of an experiment by John B. Watson that mimicked Pavlov’s training of dogs by using a series of repeated procedures that generated a specific reaction. Watson conducted this study to observe “Little Albert’s reaction to new animal companions. Watson’s wife would pound hard on a pipe behind Albert’s head whenever a white mouse was brought into the room, scaring Albert, and causing a cry from him. They repeated this process multiple times, stopping when a mouse was added. In the absence of any external noise, Albert would still wail and avoid the mouse. Even when there was no startling sound to accompany it, he began to fear it.
All things white, including Santa’s beard, eventually terrified Albert to the point of tears. Before Watson could desensitize Albert, the experiment was stopped by his mother.
Ethical concerns begin with the APA standard of human relations.
3.04 Avoiding Harm (a) Psychologists take precautions to ensure the safety of their patients, pupils, supervisees, research participants, business clients, and other people with whom they come into contact during their profession.
(b) Psychologists do not engage in, condone, or tolerate torture, which is defined as the intentional infliction of extreme pain or suffering on a person on purpose, or any other action that is cruel, inhuman, or degrading. 3.04(a).
This breach of ethics occurred because Little Albert’s ability to self-soothe was severely compromised by the many terrors he endured. Even though Watson tried, Little Albert’s fear of white animals continued until his adulthood.