Fear experiment on a 9-month baby. Science. Ethics. Humanity.


You’ll have heard of Pavlov’s dogs, conditioned to expect food at the sound of a bell. You might not have heard that a scarier experiment – arguably one of psychology’s most unethical – was once performed on a baby.

In it, a 9-month-old, at first unfazed by the presence of animals, was conditioned to feel fear at the sight of a rat. The infant was presented with the animal as someone struck a metal pole with a hammer above his head. This was repeated until he cried at merely the sight of any furry object – animate or inanimate.

The “Little Albert” experiment, performed in 1919 by John Watson of Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, was the first to show that a human could be classically conditioned. The fate of Albert B has intrigued researchers ever since. (1)

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Science likes to experiment.
But a human would never experiment on another human.
A human would never make a baby cry just to “learn” something.

We may find it normal for science to be “ethically neutral” today.
But this was not always the case.

There was a time when science and religion was one.
There was a time when science and humanity was once one.
Now they have followed separate paths.

We have “human sciences” only because science is not humanitarian…

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