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In this module, you will examine the key theorists associated with behaviorism. Familiarize yourself with Module 4’s objectives, introduction, video, and articles. Answer the questions below;

1. Behaviorism is based on the idea that all behaviors are acquired through conditioning. In your own words, define Behaviorism, Classical Conditioning, and Imitative Learning? Provide an example of each.

2. Watson and Rayner’s classical conditioning of “Little Albert” was helpful in what way?

Video link for Little Albert Experience

https://youtu.be/9hBfnXACsOI

Please use the articles that are attached

Whatever Happened to Little Albert?

BEN HARRIS Vassar College

ABSTRACT: John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner’s
1920 conditioning of the infant Albert B. is a well-
known piece of social science folklore. Using pub-
lished sources, this article reviews the study’s actual
procedures and its relationship to Watson’s career and
work. The article also presents a history of psycholo-
gists’ accounts of the Albert study, focusing on the
study’s distortion by Watson himself, general textbook
authors, behavior therapists, and most recently, a
prominent learning theorist. The author proposes pos-
sible causes for these distortions and analyzes the
Albert study as an example of myth making in the
history of psychology.

Almost 60 years after it was first reported, Watson
and Rayner’s (1920) attempted conditioning of
the infant Albert B. is one of the most widely
cited experiments in textbook psychology. Under-
graduate textbooks of general, developmental, and
abnormal psychology use Albert’s conditioning to
illustrate the applicability of classical conditioning
to the development and modification of human
emotional behavior. More specialized books focus-
ing on psychopathology and behavior therapy (e.g.,
Eysenck, 1960) cite Albert’s conditioning as an ex-
perimental model of psychopathology (i.e., a rat
phobia) and often use Albert to introduce a dis-
cussion of systematic desensitization as a treat-
ment of phobic anxiety.

Unfortunately, most accounts of Watson and
Rayner’s research with Albert feature as much
fabrication and distortion as they do fact. From
information about Albert himself to ‘the basic ex-
perimental methods and results, no detail of the
original study has escaped misrepresentation in the
telling and retelling of this bit of social science
folklore.

There has recently been a revival of interest
in Watson’s conditioning research and theorizing
(e.g., MacKenzie, 1972; Seligman, 1971; Weimer
& Palermo, 1973; Samelson, Note 1), and in the
mythology of little Albert (Cornwell & Hobbs,
1976; Larson, 1978; Prytula, Oster, & Davis,
1977). However, there has yet to be a complete
examination of the methodology and results of the

Vol. 34, No. 2, 151-160

Albert study and of the process by which the
study’s details have been altered over the years.
In the spirit of other investigations of classic
studies in psychology (e.g., Ellenberger, 1972;
Parsons, 1974) it is time to examine Albert’s con-
ditioning in light of current theories of learning.
It is also time to examine how the Albert study
has been portrayed over the years, in the hope of
discovering how changes in psychological theory
have affected what generations of psychologists
have told each other about Albert.

The Experiment

As described by Watson and Rayner (1920), an
experimental study was undertaken to answer three
questions: (1) Can an infant be conditioned to
fear an animal that appears simultaneously with
a loud, fear-arousing sound? ( 2 ) Would such fear
transfer to other animals or to inanimate objects?
(3) How long would such fears persist? In at-
tempting to answer these questions, Watson and
Rayner selected an infant named Albert B., whom
they described as “healthy,” and “stolid and un-
emotional” (p. 1). At approximately 9 months
of age, Albert was tested and was judged to show
no fear when successively observing a number of
live animals (e.g., a rat, a rabbit, a dog, and a
monkey), and various inanimate objects (e.g.,
cotton, human masks, a burning newspaper). He
was, however, judged to show fear whenever a
long steel bar was unexpectedly struck with a claw
hammer just behind his back.

Two months after testing Albert’s apparently
unconditioned reactions to various stimuli, Watson
and Rayner attempted to condition him to fear a

Preparation of this article was aided by the textbook
and literature searches of Nancy Kinsey, the helpful com-
ments of Mike Wessels, and the bibliographic assistance
of Cedric Larson. The author also thanks Bill Wood-
ward and Ernest Hilgard for their comments on earlier
versions of this work.

Requests for reprints should be sent to Ben Harris,
Box 368, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York 12601.

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST • FEBRUARY 1979 • 151
Copyright 1979 by the American Psychological Association, Inc.

0003-066X/79/3402-01Sl$00.75

white rat. This was done by presenting a white
rat to Albert, followed by a loud clanging sound
(of the hammer and steel bar) whenever Albert
touched the animal. After seven pairings of the
rat and noise (in two sessions, one week apart),
Albert reacted with crying and avoidance when
the rat was presented without the loud noise.

In order to test the generalization of Albert’s
fear response, 5 days later he was presented with
the rat, a set of familiar wooden blocks, a rabbit,
a short-haired dog, a sealskin coat, a package of
white cotton, the heads of Watson and two assist-
ants (inverted so that Albert could touch their
hair), and a bearded Santa Glaus mask. Albert
seemed to show a strong fear response to the rat,
the rabbit, the dog, and the sealskin coat; a “nega-
tive” response to the mask and Watson’s hair; and
a mild response to the cotton. Also, Albert played
freely with the wooden blocks and the hair of
Watson’s assistants.

After an additional 5 days, Watson recondi-
tioned Albert to the rat (one trial, rat paired with
noise) and also attempted to condition Albert di-
rectly to fear the previously presented rabbit (one
trial) and dog (one trial). When the effects of
this procedure were tested in a different, larger
room, it was found that Albert showed only a
slight reaction to the rat, the dog, and the rabbit.
Consequently, Watson attempted “to freshen the
reaction to the rat” (p. 9) by presenting it with
the loud noise. Soon after this, the dog began to
bark loudly at Albert, scaring him and the experi-
menters and further confounding the experiment.

To answer their third question concerning the
permanence of conditioned responses over time,
Watson and Rayner conducted a final series of
tests on Albert after 31 days of neither condition-
ing nor extinction trials. In these tests, Albert
showed fear when touching the Santa Claus mask,
the sealskin coat, the rat, the rabbit, and the dog.
At the same time, however, he initiated contact
with the coat and the rabbit, showing “strife be-
tween withdrawal and the tendency to manipulate”
(Watson & Rayner, 1920, p. 10). Following these
final tests, Albert’s mother removed him from the
hospital where the experiment had been conducted.
(According to their own account, Watson and
Rayner knew a month in advance the day that
Albert would no longer be available to them.)

The Context of Watson and
Rayner’s Study
What was the relationship of the Albert experi-
ment to the rest of Watson’s work? On a per-

sonal level, this work was the final published
project of Watson’s academic career, although he
supervised a subsequent, related study of the de-
conditioning of young children’s fears ‘(M. C.
Jones, 1924a, 1924b). From a theoretical per-
spective, the Albert study provided an empirical
test of a theory of behavior and emotional de-
velopment that Watson had constructed over a
number of years.

Although Watson had publicly declared himself
a “behaviorist” in early 1913, he apparently did
not become interested in the conditioning of motor
and autonomic responses until late 1914, when he
read a French edition of Bekhterev’s Objective
Psychology (see Hilgard & Marquis, 1940). By
1915, Watson’s experience with conditioning re-
search was limited to this reading and his collabora-
tion with his student Karl Lashley in a few simple
studies. Nevertheless, Watson’s APA Presidential
Address of that year made conditioned responses
a key aspect of his outline of behaviorism and
seems to have been one of the first American ref-
erences to Bekhterev’s work (Hilgard & Marquis,
1940, p. 24; Koch, 1964, p. 9; Watson, 1916b).
Less than a year after his APA address, two ar-
ticles by Watson (1916a, 1916c) were published
in which he hypothesized that both normal de-
fense mechanisms and psychiatric disorders (e.g.,
phobias, tics, hysterical symptoms) could be under-
stood on the basis of conditioning theory.

Six months later, the American Journal of Psy-
chology featured a more extensive article by Wat-
son and J. J. B. Morgan (1917) that formulated
a theory of emotion, intended to serve both ex-
perimentalists and clinicians. Its authors hypothe-
sized that the fundamental (unlearned) human
emotions were fear, rage, and love; these emotions
were said to be first evoked by simple physical
manipulations of infants, such as exposing them to
loud sounds (fear) or restricting their movements
(rage). Concurrently, they hypothesized that “the
method of conditioned reflexes” could explain how
these basic three emotions become transformed
and transferred to many objects, eventually result-
ing in the wide range of adult emotions ithat is
evoked by everyday combinations of events, per-
sons, and objects. In support of these theoretical
ideas, Watson and Morgan began to test whether
infants’ fears could be experimentally conditioned,
using laboratory analogues of thunder and light-
ning. In the description of this work and the
related theory, a strong appeal was made for its
practical importance, stating that it could lead to
a standard experimental procedure for “bringing

152 • FEBRUARY 1979 • AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST

the human emotions under experimental control”
(p. 174).

By the early months of 1919, Watson appears
not yet to have found a reliable method for experi-
mentally eliciting and extinguishing new emotional
reactions in humans. However, by this time he
had developed a program of research with infants
to verify the existence of his hypothesized three
fundamental emotions. Some early results of this
work were described in May 1919, as part of a
lengthy treatise on both infant and adult emotions.
Anticipating his work with Albert,1 Watson
(1919b) for the first time applied his earlier prin-
ciples of emotional conditioning to children’s fears
of animals. Based on a case of a child frightened
by a dog that he had observed, Watson hypothe-
sized that although infants do not naturally fear
animals, if “one animal succeeds in arousing fear,
any moving furry animal thereafter may arouse it”
(p. 182). Consistent with this hypothesis, the
results of Watson and Rayner’s experiments with
Albert were reported 9 months later.

Although Watson’s departure from Johns Hop-
kins prematurely ended his own research in 1920,
he continued to write about his earlier findings,
including his work with Albert. In 1921, he and
Rayner (then Rosalie Rayner Watson) summa-
rized the results of their interrupted infant re-
search program, concluding with a summary of
their experience with Albert. Although this was
a less complete account than their 1920 article, it
was the version that was always referenced in
Watson’s later writings. These writings included
dozens of articles in the popular press (e.g., Wat-
son, 1928b, 1928c), the books Behaviorism (1924)
and Psychological Care of Infant and Child
(1928a), and a series of articles in Pedagogical
Seminary (Watson, 192Sa, 192Sb, 1925c). Many
of these articles retold the Albert story, often
with photographs and with added comments elabo-
rating on the lessons of this study.

Introductory-Level Textbook
Versions of Albert

A selective survey of textbooks2 used to introduce
students to general, developmental, and abnormal
psychology revealed that few books fail to refer
to Watson and Rayner’s (1920) study in some
manner. Some of these accounts are completely
accurate (e.g., Kennedy, 197S; Page 1975; White-
hurst & Vasta, 1977). However, most textbook
versions of Albert’s conditioning suffer from in-
accuracies of various degrees. Relatively minor

details that are misrepresented include Albert’s
age (Calhoun, 1977; Johnson & Medinnus, 1974),
his name (Galanter, 1966), the spelling of Rosalie
Rayner’s name (e.g., Biehler, 1976; Helms &
Turner, 1976; McCandless & Trotter, 1977; Pa-
palia & Olds, 1975), and whether Albert was ini-
tially conditioned to fear a rat or a rabbit (CRM
Books, 1971; Staats, 1968).

Of more significance are texts’ misrepresenta-
tions of the range of Albert’s postconditioning
fears and of the postexperimental fate of Albert.
The list of spurious stimuli to which Albert’s fear
response is claimed to have generalized is rather
extensive. It includes a fur pelt (CRM Books,
1971), a man’s beard (Helms & Turner, 1976),
a cat, a pup, a fur muff (Telford & Sawrey, 1968),
a white furry glove (Whittaker, 1965), Albert’s
aunt, who supposedly wore fur (Bernhardt, 1953),
either the fur coat or the fur neckpiece of Albert’s
mother (Hilgard, Atkinson, & Atkinson, 1975;
Kisker, 1977; Weiner, 1977), and even a teddy
bear (Boring, Langfeld, & Weld, 1948). In a
number of texts, a happy ending has been added
to the story by the assertion that Watson removed
(or “reconditioned”) Albert’s fear, with this pro-
cess sometimes described in detail (Engle & Snell-
grove, 1969; Gardiner, 1970; Whittaker, 1965).

What are the causes of these frequent errors
by the authors of undergraduate textbooks? Pry-
tula et al. (1977) cataloged similar mistakes but
offered little explanation of their source. Corn-
well and Hobbs (1976) suggested that such dis-
tortions, if not simply due to overreliance on sec-
ondary sources, can be generally seen as authors’

1 In tracing the development of Watson’s ideas about
conditioning, it would be helpful to know whether the
experiments with Albert had already begun when Watson
wrote his 1919 Psychological Review article. Unfortu-
nately, there is no hard evidence of exactly when the
Albert study was completed. Watson and Rayner’s origi-
nal report was published in the February 1920 Journal
of Experimental Psychology, suggesting that the research
was completed in 1919. Also, M. C. Jones (1975, Note 2)
remembers that Watson lectured about Albert as early
as the spring of 1919 and showed a film of his work with
infants at the Johns Hopkins University (Watson, 1919a).
Individual frames of this film published later (“Behavior-
ist Babies,” 1928; “Can Science Determine Your Baby’s
Career Before It Can Talk’?,” 1922; Watson, 1927, 1928a)
suggest that at some date this film contained footage of
Albert’s conditioning. Since the work with Albert lasted
for approximately 4 months, there seems to be a strong
possibility that Watson’s 1919 prediction was not en-
tirely based on theoretical speculation.

2 After this survey of texts was completed, similar re-
views by Cornwell and Hobbs (1976) and by Prytula et al.
(1977) were discovered. Interested readers should con-
sult these articles for lists of additional textbook errors.

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST • FEBRUARY 1979 • 153

attempts to paint the Albert study (and Watson)
in a more favorable light and to make it believable
to undergraduates. Certainly, many of the com-
mon errors are consistent with a brushed-up image
of Watson and his work. For example, not one
text mentions that Watson knew when Albert
would leave his control—a detail that might make
Watson and Rayner’s failure to recondition Albert
seem callous to some modern readers.

However, there are other reasons for such errors
besides textbooks’ tendencies to tell ethically pleas-
ing stories that are consistent with students’ com-
mon sense. One major source of confusion about
the Albert story is Watson himself, who altered
and deleted important aspects of the study in his
many descriptions of it. For example, in the Sci-
entific Monthly description of the study (Watson
& Watson, 1921), there is no mention of the con-
ditioning of Albert to .the dog, the rabbit, and the
rat that occurred at 11 months 20 days; thus Al-
bert’s subsequent responses to these stimuli can
be mistaken for a strong generalization effect (for
which there is little evidence). A complementary
and equally confusing omission occurs in Psycho-
logical Care oj Infant and Child (Watson, 1928a).
There, Watson begins his description of ithe Albert
study with Albert’s being conditioned to a rabbit
(apparently the session occurring at 11 months 20
days). As a result, the reader is led to believe
that Albert’s fear of a rat (a month later) was
the product of generalization rather than the initial
conditioning trials. Besides these omissions, Wat-
son and Rayner (1920) also made frequent edi-
torial comments, such as the assention that fears
such as Albert’s were “likely to persist indefinitely,
unless an accidental method for removing them is
hit upon” (p. 12). Given such comments, it is
understandable that one recent text overestimates
the duration of the Albert experiment by 300%
(Goldenberg, 1977), and another states that Al-
bert’s “phobia became resistant to extinction”
(Kleinmuntz, 1974, p. 130).

A second reason for textbook authors’ errors, it
seems, is the desire of many of us to make experi-
mental evidence consistent with textbook theories
of how organisms should act. According to popu-
lar versions of learning theory (as described by
Herrnstein, 1977), organisms’ conditioning should
generalize along simple stimulus dimensions; many
textbooks list spurious fear-arousing stimuli (for
Albert) that correspond to such dimensions. To
illustrate the process of stimulus generalization,
Albert is often said to have feared every white,

furry object—although he actually showed fear
mostly of nonwhite objects (the rabbit, the dog,
the sealskin coat, Watson’s hair), and did not
even fear everything with hair (the observers).
But to fit a more simplified view of learning, either
new stimuli appear in some texts (e.g., a white
rabbit, a white glove) or it is simply asserted that
Albert’s conditioning generalized to all white and
furry (or hairy) stimuli (see Biehler, 1976; Craig,
1976; Helms & Turner, 1976). Though it might
seem as if Albert’s fear did generalize to the cate-
gory of all animate objects with fur (e.g., the
rabbit) or short hair (e.g., Watson’s head), this
is impossible to show conclusively. The only ex-
perimental stimuli not fitting this category were
the blocks and the observers’ hair. Apparently
the blocks were a familiar toy (thus not a proper
stimulus), and Albert’s familiarity with the ob-
servers is not known (although we may guess that
one might have been his mother).

Behavior Therapists’ Views of Albert

Unfortunately, misrepresentations of Watson and
Rayner’s (1920) work are not confined to intro-
ductory-level texts. For proponents of behavioral
therapies, Albert’s conditioning has been a fre-
quently cited reference, although its details have
often become altered or misinterpreted. Joseph
Wolpe, for example, is well known for his condi-
tioned-anxiety model of phobias and his treatment
of various neurotic disorders by what was origi-
nally termed “reciprocal inhibition” (Wolpe,
19S8). According to Wolpe and Rachman (1960):

Phobias are regarded as conditioned anxiety (fear) reac-
tions. Any “neutral” stimulus, simple or complex, that
happens to make an impact on an individual at about the
time that a fear reaction is evoked acquires the ability
to evoke fear subsequently, (p. 145)

In support of .this model Wolpe and Rachman
cited the Albert study to “indicate that it is quite
possible for one experience to induce a phobia”
(p. 146). Also, Eysenck (1960) asserted that
“Albert developed a phobia for white rats and in-
deed for all furry animals” (p. 5). Similar inter-
pretations of Watson and Rayner’s (1920) experi-
ment are found in subsequent writings by Wolpe
and other behavior therapists (e.g., Rachman,
1964; Sandier & Davidson, 1971; Ullman & Kras-
ner, 1965; Wolpe, 1973).

Critical reading of Watson and Rayner’s (1920)
report reveals little evidence either that Albert
developed a rat phobia or even that animals con-

154 • FEBRUARY 1979 • AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST

sistently evoked his fear (or anxiety) during Wat-
son and Rayner’s (1920) experiment. For ex-
ample, 10 days after the completion of the initial
(seven-trial) conditioning to a white rat, Albert
received an additional trial of conditioning to
the same rat. Immediately following this, his
reaction to the rat was described as: “Fell over to
the left side, got up on all fours and started to
crawl away. On this occasion there was no crying,
but strange to say, as he started away he began
to gurgle and coo, even while leaning far over to
the left side to avoid the rat” (p. 7 ) .

On the same day as this, Albert received a trial
of conditioning to the rabbit he had seen previ-
ously (using the clanging steel bar). When shown
the rabbit itwice again, he whimpered but did not
cry. Immediately after this, his reactions were
tested in a different (larger) room. When shown
the rabbit, Albert’s response was described as:
“Fear reaction slight. Turned to left and kept
face away from the animal but the reaction was
never pronounced” (p. 9).

Finally, 31 days later and after having received
an additional conditioning trial to the rat at the
end of the preceding session, Albert’s reactions to
the (same) rat were:

He allowed the rat to crawl towards him without with-
drawing. He sat very still and fixated intently. Rat then
touched his hand. Albert withdrew it immediately, then
leaned back as far as possible but did not cry. When the
rat was placed on his arm he withdrew his body and
began to fret, nodding his head. The rat was then al-
lowed to crawl against his chest. He first began to fret
and then covered has eyes with both hands, (p. 11)

Not only does Albert’s response seem lacking in
the strength that we associate with phobia (pos-
sibly due to Watson’s alternation of acquisition
and extinction trials) but on a qualitative basis
it seems unlike the classically conditioned anxiety
on which some behavior therapists base their
theoretical models of phobias.

Of course, it might be argued by proponents of
a two-factor theory of phobias that Albert’s re-
actions to the rat and the rabbit were successful
escape responses from the anxiety-arousing stimuli,
thus explaining Albert’s relative calm (no rapid
breathing, crying, etc.). However, Albert did not
consistently avoid the animals to which he was
conditioned. On his final day of testing, for ex-
ample, Albert initially did not avoid the rabbit to
which he had been conditioned; he then attempted
to avoid it, but then “after about a minute he
reached out tentatively and slowly and touched

the rabbit’s ear with his right hand, finally manip-
ulating it” (Watson & Rayner, 1920, p. II). 3

A more serious problem’ with clinicians’ citing
of the Albert study is the failure of Watson’s con-
temporaries to replicate his work. Although H. E.
Jones (1930) subsequently demonstrated persistent
galvanic skin response (GSR) conditioning with
an infant (using a mild electric current as an un-
conditioned stimulus, and a light and various
sounds as conditioned stimuli), attempts to repli-
cate the Albert study using variations of Watson’s
own method were unsuccessful. Valentine (1930),
for example, used extensive naturalistic observa-
tion and failed to find conditioned fear of infants
to loud noises; he criticized both Watson’s meth-
odology and his simplistic theory of emotional de-
velopment. Bregman (1934) was also unsuccess-
ful in her attempts to condition even 1 of IS in-
fants to fear wooden and cloth objects, using a
disagreeable noise as an unconditioned stimulus
(see Thorndike, 1935). Finally, whatever our ret-
rospective view of Albert’s conditioned reactions,
a conditioned-avoidance model of phobias (with
fear as a necessary component) is not consistent
with more recent experimental and clinical litera-
ture (see Costello, 1970; Hineline, 1977; Marks,
1969,1977).

Albert and Preparedness Theory

One of the reasons that Albert is so well known
is that he is rediscovered every S or 10 years by a
new group of psychologists. In the early 1960s,
Wolpe and Eysenck were the curators and analysts
of the Albert myth. Ten years later, Wolpe and
Eysenck were supplanted by M. E. P. Seligman,

3 Another model that has been applied to the Albert
study is that of operant or instrumental conditioning.
For example, Larson (1978) and Reese and Lipsitt (1970)
cited a paper by R. M. Church (Note 3) on this point
(see also Kazdin, 1978). Such an interpretation is ap-
parently based on Watson’s notes indicating that at least
for the first two trials, the loud noise was contingent on
Albert’s active response (i.e., touching the rat). Also, the
one trial of conditioning to the rabbit occurred when
Albert had begun “to reach out and manipulate its fur
with forefingers” (Watson & Rayner, 1920, p. 8). The
attractiveness of an (aversive) instrumental model of Al-
bert’s conditioning is that it would not necessarily predict
any emotional reaction by Albert and would help ex-
plain his reluctance to touch the experimental animals.
Strong support for this model is lacking, however, with
Watson and Rayner describing at least four conditioning
trials on which the loud sound was not contingent on
Albert’s instrumental response, and a number of trials
the character of which is uncertain.

AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGIST • FEBRUARY 1979 • 155

who has seized control of the Albert story and
uses it (in slightly revised form) to attack the
views of its former proponents. At the same time,
Seligman both challenges traditional theories of
learning and proposes his own reformulation,
known as “preparedness theory.”

Briefly stated, preparedness theory (Seligman,
1970, 1971; see also Schwartz, 1974) posits that
traditionally held laws of learning cannot be uni-
formly applied to all stimuli interacting with all
organisms. In a classical conditioning paradigm,
organisms may be physiologically or cognitively
“prepared” to form certain conditioned stimulus-
unconditioned stimulus associations and “contra-
prepared” to develop others. In the former case
(e.g., rats learning taste aversion to food causing
illness) the association is easily formed, but in
the latter case (e.g., rats learning taste aversion to
food paired with footshock) it is difficult if not im-
possible to form. Similarly, Seligman (1970) sum-
marized evidence from instrumental-learning para-
digms to suggest that for a particular organism,
certain behaviors differ in their potential to be
successfully conditioned (see Shettleworth, 1973).

Relevant to Albert, Seligman (1971) hypothe-
sized that the strength of human phobic reactions
(i.e., their resistance to extinction) is due to the
high degree of preparedness of certain stimuli (e.g.,
snakes). This conditioning to phobic objects oc-
curs very quickly, whereas conditioning to other
stimuli (assumed to be of low preparedness or
contraprepared) results in fear reactions that are
less intense, take longer to establish, and extinguish
more quickly. As Marks (1977) noted, there is
some evidence that objects differ in their ability
to produce conditioned GSR in humans over time
(e.g., Ohman, Erixon, & Lb’fberg, 1975). It also
makes sense that evolution ‘may have made it
easier for humans to learn some responses than
others (see Herrnstein, 1977). However, much of
Seligman’s (1971) discussion of human phobias is
based on an erroneous interpretation of Watson
and Rayner’s (1920) work.

As described in his article “Phobias and pre-
paredness,” Seligman’s version of Albert’s condi-
tioning is generally consistent with the exaggerated
claims for the study made by Watson (e.g., Wat-
son, 1924). According to preparedness theory,
the existence of strong animal phobias in the hu-
man clinical literature is evidence that “furry
things” (Seligman, 1971, p. 315) are strongly
prepared phobic stimuli for humans. If furry
things are highly prepared and Watson and Rayner

(1920) used furry things in their study, then Al-
bert must have quickly developed a strong fear
of animals and other furry things. Consistent with
this logic is Seligman’s (1971) assertion that “Al-
bert became afraid of rats, rabbits, and other
furry objects” (p. 308, italics added) and that
Watson “probably did not” become an aversive
stimulus to Albert. In fact, Albert was “com-
pletely negative” to Watson’s hair (Watson &
Rayner, 1920, p. 7), and of course, Albert’s fear
was only tested to a single rat, a single rabbit, and
to no previously neutral, nonfurry objects.

In addition to presenting this inaccurate picture
of how Albert’s fear initially generalized, Selig-
man’s account also misrepresents the ease with
which Albert was conditioned, the durability of his
reactions, and the details of an attempt to repli-
cate the Albert study. According to Seligman
(1971), Albert’s “conditioning occurred in two
trials” and this “prepared fear conditioning [did]
not extinguish readily” (p. 315). In fact, “seven
joint stimulations were given [to Albert] to bring
about the complete reaction” (Watson & …

Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by

Christopher D. Green

York University, Toronto, Ontario

(Return to Classics Index)

Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it.

John B. Watson (1913).

First published in Psychological Review, 20,
158-177

Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental
branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction
and control of behavior. Introspection
forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific
value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they
lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The
behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal
response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute.
The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity,
forms only a part of the behaviorist’s total scheme of investigation.

It has been maintained by its followers generally that
psychology is a study of the science of the phenomena of consciousness.
It has taken as its problem, on the one hand, the analysis of
complex mental states (or processes) into simple elementary constituents,
and on the other the construction of complex states when the elementary
constituents are given. The world of physical objects (stimuli,
including here anything which may excite activity in a receptor),
which forms the total phenomena of the natural scientist, is looked
upon merely as means to an end. That end is the production of
mental states that may be ‘inspected’ or ‘observed’. The psychological
object of observation in the case of an emotion, for example,
is the mental state itself. The problem in emotion is the determination
of the number and kind of elementary constituents present, their
loci, intensity, order of appearance, etc. It is agreed
that introspection is the method par excellence by means
of which mental states may be manipulated for purposes of psychology.
On this assumption, behavior data (including under this term everything
which goes under the name of comparative psychology)
have no value per se. They possess significance only in
so far as they may throw light upon conscious states.1
Such data must have at least an analogical
or indirect reference to belong to the realm of psychology.

Indeed, at times, one finds psychologists who are sceptical of
even this analogical reference. Such scepticism is often shown
by the question which is put to the student of behavior, ‘what
is the bearing of animal work
upon human psychology?’ I used to have to study over this question.
Indeed it always embarrassed me somewhat. I was interested in
my own work and felt that it was important, and yet I could not
trace any close connection between it and psychology as my questioner
understood psychology. I hope that such a confession will clear
the atmosphere to such an extent that we will no longer have to
work under false pretences. We must frankly admit that the facts
so important to us which we have been able to glean from extended
work upon the senses of animals by the behavior method have contributed
only in a fragmentary way to the general theory of human sense
organ processes, nor have they suggested new points of experimental
attack. The enormous number of experiments which we have carried
out upon learning have likewise contributed little to human psychology.
It seems reasonably clear that some kind of compromise must be
affected: either psychology must change its viewpoint so as to
take in facts of behavior, whether
or not they have bearings upon the problems of ‘consciousness’;
or else behavior must stand alone as a wholly separate and independent
science. Should human psychologists fail to look with favor upon
our overtures and refuse to modify their position, the behaviorists
will be driven to using human beings as subjects and to employ
methods of investigation which are exactly comparable to those
now employed in the animal work.

Any other hypothesis than that which admits the independent value
of behavior material, regardless of any bearing such material
may have upon consciousness, will inevitably force us to the absurd position
of attempting to construct the conscious content of the
animal whose behavior we have been studying. On this view, after
having determined our animal’s ability to learn, the simplicity
or complexity of its methods of learning, the effect of past habit
upon present response, the range of stimuli to which it ordinarily
responds, the widened range to which it can respond under experimental
conditions — in more general terms, its various problems and
its various ways of solving them — we should still feel that
the task is unfinished and that the results are worthless, until
we can interpret them by analogy in the light of consciousness.
Although we have solved our problem we feel uneasy and unrestful
because of our definition of psychology: we feel forced to say
something about the possible mental processes of our animal. We
say that, having no eyes, its stream of consciousness cannot contain
brightness and color sensations as we know them — having no taste
buds this stream can contain no sensations of sweet, sour, salt
and bitter. But on the other hand, since it does respond to thermal,
tactual and organic stimuli, its conscious content must be made
up largely of these sensations; and we usually add, to protect
ourselves against the reproach of being anthropomorphic,
‘if it has any consciousness’. Surely this doctrine which calls
for an anological interpretation of all behavior data may be shown
to be false: the position that the standing of an observation
upon behavior is determined by its fruitfulness in yielding results
which are interpretable only in the narrow realm of (really human)
consciousness.

This emphasis upon analogy in psychology has led the behaviorist
somewhat afield. Not being willing to throw off the yoke of consciousness
he feels impelled to make a place in the scheme of behavior where
the rise of consciousness can be determined. This point has been
a shifting one. A few years ago certain animals were supposed
to possess ‘associative memory‘,
while certain others were supposed to lack it. One meets this
search for the origin of consciousness under a good many disguises.
Some of our texts state that consciousness arises at the moment
when reflex and instinctive activities fail properly to conserve
the organism. A perfectly adjusted organism would be lacking in
consciousness. On the other hand whenever we find the presence
of diffuse activity which results in habit formation, we are justified
in assuming consciousness. I must confess that these arguments
had weight with me when I began the study of behavior. I fear
that a good many of us are still viewing behavior problems with
something like this in mind. More than one student in behavior
has attempted to frame criteria of the psychic
— to devise a set of objective, structural and functional criteria
which, when applied in the particular instance, will enable us
to decide whether such and such responses are positively conscious,
merely indicative of consciousness, or whether they are purely
‘physiological’. Such problems as these can no longer satisfy
behavior men. It would be better to give up the province altogether
and admit frankly that the study of the behavior of animals has
no justification, than to admit that our search is of such a ‘will
o’ the wisp’ character. One can assume either the presence or
the absence of consciousness anywhere in the phylogenetic scale
without affecting the problems of behavior by one jot or one tittle;
and without influencing in any way the mode of experimental attack
upon them. On the other hand, I cannot for one moment assume that
the paramecium responds
to light; that the rat learns a problem more quickly by working
at the task five times a day than once a day, or that the human
child exhibits plateaux in his learning curves. These are questions
which vitally concern behavior and which must be decided by direct
observation under experimental conditions.

This attempt to reason by analogy from human conscious processes
to the conscious processes in animals, and vice versa:
to make consciousness, as the human being knows it, the center
of reference of all behavior, forces us into a situation similar
to that which existed in biology in Darwin‘s
time. The whole Darwinian movement was judged by the bearing it
had upon the origin and development of the human race. Expeditions
were undertaken to collect material which would establish the
position that the rise of the human race was a perfectly natural
phenomenon and not an act of special creation. Variations were
carefully sought along with the evidence for the heaping up effect
and the weeding out effect of selection; for in these and the
other Darwinian mechanisms were to be found factors sufficiently
complex to account for the origin and race differentiation of
man. The wealth of material collected at this time was considered
valuable largely in so far as it tended to develop the concept
of evolution in man. It is strange that this situation should
have remained the dominant one in biology for so many years. The
moment zoology undertook the experimental study of evolution and
descent, the situation immediately changed. Man ceased to be the
center of reference. I doubt if any experimental biologist today,
unless actually engaged in the problem of race differentiation
in man, tries to interpret his findings in terms of human evolution,
or ever refers to it in his thinking. He gathers his data from
the study of many species of plants and animals and tries to work
out the laws of inheritance in the particular type upon which
he is conducting experiments. Naturally, he follows the progress
of the work upon race differentiation in man and in the descent
of man, but he looks upon these as special topics, equal in importance
with his own yet ones in which his interests will never be vitally
engaged. It is not fair to say that all of his work is directed
toward human evolution or that it must be interpreted in terms
of human evolution. He does not have to dismiss certain of his
facts on the inheritance of coat color in mice because, forsooth,
they have little bearing upon the differentiation of the genus homo
into separate races, or upon the descent of the genus homo
from some more primitive stock.

In psychology we are still in that stage of development where
we feel that we must select our material. We have a general place
of discard for processes, which we anathematize so far as their
value for psychology is concerned by saying, ‘this is a reflex’;
‘that is a purely physiological fact which has nothing to do with
psychology’. We are not interested (as psychologists) in getting
all of the processes of adjustment which the animal as a whole
employs, and in finding how these various responses are associated,
and how they fall apart, thus working out a systematic scheme
for the prediction and control of response in general. Unless
our observed facts are indicative of consciousness, we have no
use for them, and unless our apparatus and method are designed
to throw such facts into relief, they are thought of in just as
disparaging a way. I shall always remember the remark one distinguished
psychologist made as he looked over the color apparatus designed
for testing the responses of animals to monochromatic light in
the attic at Johns Hopkins. It
was this: ‘And they call this psychology!’

I do not wish unduly to criticize psychology. It has failed
signally, I believe, during the fifty-odd years of its existence
as an experimental discipline to make its place in the world as
an undisputed natural science. Psychology, as it is generally
thought of, has something esoteric in its methods. If you fail
to reproduce my findings, it is not due to some fault in your
apparatus or in the control of your stimulus, but it is due to
the fact that your introspection is untrained.2
The attack is made upon the observer and
not upon the experimental setting. In physics and in chemistry
the attack is made upon the experimental conditions. The apparatus
was not sensitive enough, impure chemicals were used, etc. In
these sciences a better technique will give reproducible results.
Psychology is otherwise. if you can’t observe 3-9 states of clearness
in attention, your introspection is poor. if, on the other hand,
a feeling seems reasonably clear to you, your introspection is
again faulty. You are seeing too much. Feelings are never clear.

The time seems to have come when psychology must discard all reference
to consciousness; when it need no longer delude itself into thinking
that it is making mental states the object of observation. We
have become so enmeshed in speculative questions concerning the
elements of mind, the nature of conscious content (for example,
imageless thought, attitudes,
and Bewusstseinslage, etc.) that
I, as an experimental student, feel that something is wrong
with our premises and the types of problems which develop from
them. There is no longer any guarantee that we all mean the same
thing when we use the terms now current in psychology. Take the
case of sensation. A sensation is defined in terms of its attributes.
One psychologist will state with readiness that the attributes
of a visual sensation are quality, extension, duration,
and intensity. Another will add clearness. Still another
that of order. I doubt if any one psychologist can draw
up a set of statements describing what he means by sensation which
will be agreed to by three other psychologists of different training.
Turn for a moment to the question of the number of isolable sensations.
Is there an extremely large number of color sensations — or only
four, red, green, yellow and blue? Again, yellow, while psychologically
simple, can be obtained by superimposing red and green spectral
rays upon the same diffusing surface! If, on the other hand, we
say that every just noticeable difference in the spectrum is a
simple sensation, and that every just noticeable increase in the
white value of a given colour gives simple sensations, we are
forced to admit that the number is so large and the conditions
for obtaining them so complex that the concept of sensation is
unusable, either for the purpose of analysis or that of synthesis.
Titchener, who has fought
the most valiant fight in this country for a psychology based
upon introspection, feels that these differences of opinion as
to the number of sensations and their attributes; as to whether
there are relations (in the sense of elements) and on the many
others which seem to be fundamental in every attempt at analysis,
are perfectly natural in the present undeveloped state of psychology.
While it is admitted that every growing science is full of unanswered
questions, surely only those who are wedded to the system as we
now have it, who have fought and suffered for it, can confidently
believe that there will ever be any greater uniformity than there
is now in the answers we have to such questions. I firmly believe
that two hundred years from now, unless the introspective method
is discarded, psychology will still be divided on the question
as to whether auditory sensations have the quality of ‘extension’,
whether intensity is an attribute which can be applied to color,
whether there is a difference in ‘texture’ between image and sensation
and upon many hundreds of others of like character.

The condition in regard to other mental processes is just as chaotic.
Can image type be experimentally tested and verified? Are recondite
thought processes dependent mechanically upon imagery at all?
Are psychologists agreed upon what feeling is? One states that
feelings are attitudes. Another finds them to be groups of organic
sensations possessing a certain solidarity. Still another and
larger group finds them to be new elements correlative with and
ranking equally with sensations.

My psychological quarrel is not with the systematic and structural
psychologist alone. The last fifteen years have seen the growth
of what is called functional psychology.
This type of psychology decries the use of elements in the static
sense of the structuralists. It throws emphasis upon the biological
significance of conscious processes instead of upon the analysis
of conscious states into introspectively isolable elements. I
have done my best to understand the difference between functional
psychology and structural psychology. Instead of clarity, confusion
grows upon me. The terms sensation, perception, affection, emotion,
volition are used as much by the functionalist as by the structuralist.
The addition of the word ‘process’ (‘mental act as a whole’, and
like terms are frequently met) after each serves in some way to
remove the corpse of content’ and to leave ‘function’ in its
stead. Surely if these concepts are elusive when looked at from
a content standpoint, they are still more deceptive when viewed
from the angle of function, and especially so when function is
obtained by the introspection method. It is rather interesting
that no functional psychologist has carefully distinguished between
‘perception’ (and this is true of the other psychological terms
as well) as employed by the systematist, and cperceptual process’
as used in functional psychology. It seems illogical and hardly
fair to criticize the psychology which the systematist gives us,
and then to utilize his terms without carefully showing the changes
in meaning which are to be attached to them. I was greatly surprised
some time ago when I opened Pillsbury‘s
book and saw psychology defined as the ‘science of behavior’.
A still more recent text states that psychology is the ‘science
of mental behavior’. When I saw these promising statements I thought,
now surely we will have texts based upon different lines. After
a few pages the science of behavior is dropped and one finds the
conventional treatment of sensation, perception, imagery, etc.,
along with certain shifts in emphasis and additional facts which
serve to give the author’s personal imprint.

One of the difficulties in the way of a consistent functional
psychology is the parallelistic hypothesis.
If the functionalist attempts to express his formulations in terms
which make mental states really appear to function, to play some
active role in the world of adjustment, he almost inevitably lapses
into terms which are connotative of interaction.
When taxed with this he replies that it is more convenient to
do so and that he does it to avoid the circumlocution and clumsiness
which are inherent in any thoroughgoing parallelism.3
As a matter of fact I believe the functionalist
actually thinks in terms of interaction and resorts to parallelism
only when forced to give expression to his views. I feel that
behaviorism is the only consistent and logical functionalism.
In it one avoids both the Scylla of parallelism and the Charybdis
of interaction. Those time-honored relics of philosophical speculation
need trouble the student of behavior as little as they trouble
the student of physics. The consideration of the mind-body problem
affects neither the type of problem selected nor the formulation
of the solution of that problem. I can state my position here
no better than by saying that I should like to bring my students
up in the same ignorance of such hypotheses as one finds among
the students of other branches of science.

This leads me to the point where I should like to make the argument
constructive. I believe we can write a psychology, define it as
Pillsbury, and never go back
upon our definition: never use the terms consciousness, mental
states, mind, content, introspectively verifiable, imagery, and
the like. I believe that we can do it in a few years without running
into the absurd terminology of Beer, Bethe, Von Uexküll, Nuel,
and that of the so-called objective schools generally. It can
be done in terms of stimulus and response, in terms of
habit formation, habit integrations and the like. Furthermore,
I believe that it is really worth while to make this attempt now.

The psychology which I should attempt to build up would take as
a starting point, first, the observable fact that organisms, man
and animal alike, do adjust themselves to their environment by
means of hereditary and habit equipments. These adjustments may
be very adequate or they may be so inadequate that the organism
barely maintains its existence; secondly, that certain stimuli
lead the organisms to make the responses. In a system of psychology
completely worked out, given the response the stimuli can be predicted;
given the stimuli the response can be predicted. Such a set of
statements is crass and raw in the extreme, as all such generalizations
must be. Yet they are hardly more raw and less realizable than
the ones which appear in the psychology texts of the day. I possibly
might illustrate my point better by choosing an everyday problem
which anyone is likely to meet in the course of his work. Some
time ago I was called upon to make a study of certain species
of birds. Until I went to Tortugas
I had never seen these birds alive. When I reached there I found
the animals doing certain things: some of the acts seemed to work
peculiarly well in such an environment, while others seemed to
be unsuited to their type of life. I first studied the responses
of the group as a whole and later those of individuals. In order
to understand more thoroughly the relation between what was habit
and what was hereditary in these responses, I took the young birds
and reared them. In this way I was able to study the order of
appearance of hereditary adjustments and their complexity, and
later the beginnings of habit formation. My efforts in determining
the stimuli which called forth such adjustments were crude indeed.
Consequently my attempts to control behavior and to produce responses
at will did not meet with much success. Their food and water,
sex and other social relations, light and temperature conditions
were all beyond control in a field study. I did find it possible
to control their reactions in a measure by using the nest and
egg (or young) as stimuli. It is not necessary in this
paper to develop further how such a study should be carried out
and how work of this kind must be supplemented by carefully controlled
laboratory experiments. Had I been called upon to examine the
natives of some of the Australian tribes, I should have gone about
my task in the same way. I should have found the problem more
difficult: the types of responses called forth by physical stimuli
would have been more varied, and the number of effective stimuli
larger. I should have had to determine the social setting of their
lives in a far more careful way. These savages would be more influenced
by the responses of each other than was the case with the birds.
Furthermore, habits would have been more complex and the influences
of past habits upon the present responses would have appeared
more clearly. Finally, if I had been called upon to work out the
psychology of the educated European, my problem would have required
several lifetimes. But in the one I have at my disposal I should
have followed the same general line of attack. In the main, my
desire in all such work is to gain an accurate knowledge of adjustments
and the stimuli calling them forth. My final reason for this is
to learn general and particular methods by which I may control
behavior. My goal is not ‘the description and explanation of states
of consciousness as such’, nor that of obtaining such proficiency
in mental gymnastics that I can immediately lay hold of a state
of consciousness and say, ‘this, as a whole, consists of gray
sensation number 350, Of such and such extent, occurring in conjunction
with the sensation of cold of a certain intensity; one of pressure
of a certain intensity and extent,’ and so on ad infinitum.
If psychology would follow the plan I suggest, the educator,
the physician, the jurist and the business man could utilize our
data in a practical way, as soon as we are able, experimentally,
to obtain them. Those who have occasion to apply psychological
principles practically would find no need to complain as they
do at the present time. Ask any physician or jurist today whether
scientific psychology plays a practical part in his daily routine
and you will hear him deny that the psychology of the laboratories
finds a place in his scheme of work. I think the criticism is
extremely just. One of the earliest conditions which made me dissatisfied
with psychology was the feeling that there was no realm of application
for the principles which were being worked out in content terms.

What gives me hope that the behaviorist’s position is a defensible
one is the fact that those branches of psychology which have already
partially withdrawn from the parent, experimental psychology,
and which are consequently less dependent upon introspection are
today in a most flourishing condition. Experimental pedagogy,
the psychology of drugs, the psychology of advertising, legal
psychology, the psychology of tests, and psychopathology are all
vigorous growths. These are sometimes wrongly called ‘practical’
or ‘applied’ psychology. Surely there was never a worse misnomer.
In the future there may grow up vocational bureaus which really
apply psychology. At present these fields are truly scientific
and are in search of broad generalizations which will lead to
the control of human behavior. For example, we find out by experimentation
whether a series of stanzas may be acquired more readily if the
whole is learned at once, or whether it is more advantageous to
learn each stanza separately and then pass to the succeeding.
We do not attempt to apply our findings. The application of this
principle is purely voluntary on the part of the teacher. In the
psychology of drugs we may show the effect upon behavior of certain
doses of caffeine. We may reach the conclusion that caffeine has
a good effect upon the speed and accuracy of work. But these are
general principles. We leave it to the individual as to whether
the results of our tests shall be applied or not. Again, in legal
testimony, we test the effects of recency upon the reliability
of a witness’s report. We test the accuracy of the report with
respect to moving objects, stationary objects, color, etc. It
depends upon the judicial machinery of the country to decide whether
these facts are ever to be applied. For a ‘pure’ psychologist
to say that he is not interested in the questions raised in these
divisions of the science because they relate indirectly to the
application of psychology shows, in the first place, that he fails
to understand the scientific aim
in such problems, and secondly, that he is not interested in a
psychology which concerns itself with human life. The only fault
I have to find with these disciplines is that much of their material
is stated in terms of introspection, whereas a statement in terms
of objective results would be far more valuable. There is no reason
why appeal should ever be made to consciousness in any of them.
Or why introspective data should ever be sought during the experimentation,
or published in the results. In experimental pedagogy especially
one can see the desirability of keeping all of the results on
a purely objective plane. If this is done, work there on the human
being will be comparable directly with the work upon animals.
For example, at Hopkins, Mr. Ulrich
has obtained certain results upon the distribution of effort in
learning — using rats as subjects. He is prepared to give comparative
results upon the effect of having an animal work at the problem
once per day, three times per day, and five times per day. Whether
it is advisable to have the animal learn only one problem at a
time or to learn three abreast. We need to have similar experiments
made upon man, but we care as little about his ‘conscious processes’
during the conduct of the experiment as we care about such processes
in the rats.

I am more interested at the present moment in trying to show the
necessity for maintaining uniformity in experimental procedure
and in the method of stating results in both human and animal
work, than in developing any ideas I may have upon the changes
which are certain to come in the scope of human psychology. Let
us consider for a moment the subject of the range of stimuli to
which animals respond. I shall speak first of the work upon vision
in animals. We put our animal in a situation where he will respond
(or learn to respond) to one of two monochromatic lights. We feed
him at the one (positive) and punish him at the other (negative).
In a short time the animal learns to go to the light at which
he is fed. At this point questions arise which I may phrase in
two ways: I may choose the psychological way and say ‘does the
animal see these two lights as I do, i.e., as two distinct
colors, or does he see them as two grays differing in brightness,
as does the totally color blind?’ Phrased by the behaviorist,
it would read as follows: ‘Is my animal responding upon the basis
of the difference in intensity between the two stimuli, or upon
the difference in wavelengths?’ He nowhere thinks of the animal’s
response in terms of his own experiences of colors and grays.
He wishes to establish the fact whether wave-length is a factor
in that animal’s adjustment.4 If
so, what wave-lengths are effective and what differences in wave-length
must be maintained in the …

Classics in the History of Psychology

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Christopher D. Green

York University, Toronto, Ontario

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TRANSMISSION OF AGGRESSION THROUGH IMITATION

OF AGGRESSIVE MODELS [1]

Albert Bandura, Dorothea Ross, and Sheila A. Ross [2] (1961)

First published in Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 575-582.

A previous study, designed to account for the phenomenon of identification in terms of incidental learning, demonstrated that children readily imitated behavior exhibited by an adult model in the presence of the model (Bandura & Huston, 1961). A series of experiments by Blake (1958) and others (Grosser, Polansky, & Lippitt, 1951; Rosenblith, 1959; Schachter & Hall, 1952) have likewise shown that mere observation responses of a model has a facilitating effect on subjects’ reactions in the immediate social influence setting.

While these studies provide convincing evidence for the influence and control exerted on others by the behavior of a model, a more crucial test of imitative learning involves the generalization of imitative response patterns new settings in which the model is absent.

In the experiment reported in this paper children were exposed to aggressive and nonaggressive adult models and were then tested amount of imitative learning in a new situation on in the absence of the model. According the prediction, subjects exposed to aggressive models would reproduce aggressive acts resembling those of their models and would differ in this respect both from subjects who served nonaggressive models and from those ho had no prior exposure to any models. This hypothesis assumed that subjects had learned imitative habits as a result of prior reinforcement, and these tendencies would generalize to some extent to adult experimenters (Miller & Dollard, 1941).

It was further predicted that observation of subdued nonaggressive models would have generalized inhibiting effect on the subjects’ subsequent behavior, and this effect would be reflected in a difference between the nonaggressive and the control groups, with subjects in the latter group displaying significantly more aggression.

Hypotheses were also advanced concerning the influence of the sex of model and sex of subjects on imitation. Fauls and Smith (1956) have shown that preschool children perceive their parents as having distinct preferences regarding sex appropriate modes of behavior for their children. Their findings, as well as informal observation, suggest that parents reward imitation of sex appropriate behavior and discourage or punish sex inappropriate imitative responses, e.g., a male child is unlikely to receive much reward for performing female appropriate activities, such as cooking, or for adopting other aspects of the maternal role, but these same behaviors are typically welcomed if performed by females. As a result of differing reinforcement histories, tendencies to imitate male and female models thus acquire differential habit strength. One would expect, on this basis, subjects to imitate the behavior of a same-sex model to a greater degree than a model of the opposite sex.

Since aggression, however, is a highly masculine-typed behavior, boys should be more predisposed than girls toward imitating aggression, the difference being most marked for subjects exposed to the male aggressive model.

METHOD

Subjects

The subjects were 36 boys and 36 girls enrolled in the Stanford University Nursery’ School. They ranged in age from 37 to 69 months, with a mean age of 52 months.

Two adults, a male and a female, served in the role of model, and one female experimenter conducted the study for all 72 children.

Experimental Design

Subjects were divided into eight experimental groups of six subjects each and a control group consisting of 24 subjects. Half the experimental subjects were exposed to aggressive models and half were exposed to models that were subdued and nonaggressive in their behavior. These groups were further subdivided into male and female subjects. Half the subjects in the aggressive and nonaggressive conditions observed [p. 576] same-sex models, while the remaining subjects in each group viewed models of the opposite sex. The control group had no prior exposure to the adult models and was tested only in the generalization situation.

It seemed reasonable to expect that the subjects’ level of aggressiveness would be positively related to the readiness with which they imitated aggressive modes of behavior. Therefore, in order to increase the precision of treatment comparisons, subjects in the experimental and control groups were matched individually on the basis of ratings of their aggressive behavior in social interactions in the nursery school.

The subjects were rated on four five-point rating scales by the experimenter and a nursery school teacher, both of whom were well acquainted with the children. These scales measured the extent to which subjects displayed physical aggression, verbal aggression, aggression toward inanimate objects, and aggressive inhibition. The latter scale, which dealt with the subjects’ tendency to inhibit aggressive reactions in the face of high instigation, provided a measure of aggression anxiety.

Fifty-one subjects were rated independently by both judges so as to permit an assessment of interrater agreement. The reliability of the composite aggression score, estimated by means of the Pearson product-moment correlation, was .89.

The composite score was obtained by summing the ratings on the four aggression scales; on the basis of these scores, subjects were arranged in triplets and assigned at random to one of two treatment conditions or to the control group.

Experimental Conditions

In the first step in the procedure subjects were brought individually by the experimenter to the experimental room and the model who was in the hallway outside the room, was invited by the experimenter to come and join in the game. The experimenter then escorted the subject to one corner of the room, which was structured as the subject’s play area. After seating the child at a small table, the experimenter demonstrated how the subject could design pictures with potato prints and picture stickers provided. The potato prints included a variety of geometrical forms; the stickers were attractive multicolor pictures of animals, flowers, and Western figures to be pasted on a pastoral scene. These activities were selected since they had been established, by previous studies in the nursery school, as having high interest value for the children.

After having settled the subject in his corner, the experimenter escorted the model to the opposite corner of the room which contained a small table and chair, a tinker toy set, a mallet, and a 5-foot inflated Bobo doll. The experimenter explained that these were the materials provided for the model to play with and, after the model was seated, the experimenter left the experimental room.

With subjects in the nonaggressive condition, the model assembled the tinker toys in a quiet subdued manner totally ignoring the Bobo doll.

In contrast, with subjects in the aggressive condition, the model began by assembling the tinker toys but after approximately a minute had elapsed, the model turned to the Bobo doll and spent the remainder of the period aggressing toward it.

Imitative learning can be clearly demonstrated if a model performs sufficiently novel patterns of responses which are unlikely to occur independently of the observation of the behavior of a model and if a subject reproduces these behaviors in substantially identical form. For this reason, in addition to punching the Bobo doll, a response that is likely to be performed be children independently of a demonstration, the model exhibited distinctive aggressive acts which were to be scored as imitative responses. The model laid the Bobo doll on its side, sat on it and punched it repeatedly in the nose. The model then raised the Bobo doll, pick up the mallet and struck the doll on the head. Following the mallet aggression, the model tossed the doll up in the air aggressively and kicked it about the room. This sequence of physically aggressive acts was repeated approximately three times, interspersed with verbally aggressive responses such as, “Sock him in the nose…,” “Hit him down…,” “Throw him in the air…,” “Kick him…,” “Pow…,” and two non-aggressive comments, “He keeps coming back for more” and “He sure is a tough fella.”

Thus in the exposure situation, subjects were provided with a diverting task which occupied their attention while at the same time insured observation of the model’s behavior in the absence of any instructions to observe or to learn the responses in question. Since subjects could not perform the model’s aggressive behavior, any learning that occurred was purely on an observational or covert basis.

At the end of 10 minutes, the experimenter entered the room, informed the subject that he would now go to another game room, and bid the model goodbye.

Aggression Arousal

Subjects were tested for the amount of imitative learning in a different experimental room that was set off from the main nursery school building, The two experimental situations were thus clearly differentiated; in fact, many subjects were under the impression that they were no longer on the nursery school grounds.

Prior to the test for imitation, however, all subjects, experimental and control, were subjected to mild aggression arousal to insure that they were under some degree of instigation to aggression. The arousal experience was included for two main reasons. In the first place, observation of aggressive behavior exhibited by others tends to reduce the probability of aggression on the part of the observer (Rosenbaum & deCharms, 1960). Consequently, subjects in the aggressive condition, in relation both to the nonaggressive and control groups, would he under weaker instigation following exposure to the models. Second, if subjects in the nonaggressive condition expressed little aggression in the face of appropriate instigation, the presence of an inhibitory process would seem to be indicated.

Following the exposure experience, therefore, the experimenter brought the subject to an anteroom that contained these relatively attractive toys: a fire engine, a locomotive, a jet fighter plane, a cable car, a colorful spinning top, and a doll set complete with wardrobe, doll carriage, and baby crib. The experimenter [p. 577] explained that the toys were for the subject to play with but, as soon as the subject became sufficiently involved with the play material (usually in about 2 minutes), the experimenter remarked that these were her very best toys, that she did not let just anyone play with them, and that she had decided to reserve these toys for the other children. However, the subject could play with any of the toys that were in the next room. The experimenter and the subject then entered the adjoining experimental room.

It was necessary for the experimenter to remain in the room during the experimental session; otherwise a number of the children would either refuse to remain alone or would leave before the termination of the session. However, in order to minimize any influence her presence might have on the subject’s behavior, the experimenter remained as inconspicuous as possible by busying herself with paper work at a desk in the far corner of the room and avoiding any interaction with the child.

Test for Delayed Imitation

The experimental room contained a variety of toys including some that could be used in imitative or nonimitative aggression, and others that tended to elicit predominantly nonaggressive forms of behavior. The aggressive toys included a 3-foot Bobo doll, a mallet and peg board, two dart guns, and a tether ball with a face painted on it which hung from the ceiling. The nonaggressive toys, on the other hand, included a tea set, crayons and coloring paper, a ball, two dolls, three bears, cars and trucks, and plastic farm animals.

In order to eliminate any variation in behavior due to mere placement of the toys in the room, the play material was arranged in a fixed order for each of the sessions.

The subject spent 20 minutes in this experiments room during which time his behavior was rated in terms of predetermined response categories by judges who observed the session though a one-way mirror in an adjoining observation room. The 20 minute session was divided into 5-second intervals by means of at electric interval timer, thus yielding a total number of 240 response units for each subject.

The male model scored the experimental sessions for all 72 children. Except for the cases in which he, served as the model, he did hot have knowledge of the subjects’ group assignments. In order to provide an estimate of interscorer agreement, the performance of half the subjects were also scored independently by second observer. Thus one or the other of the two observers usually had no knowledge of the conditions to which the subjects were assigned. Since, however, all but two of the subjects in the aggressive condition performed the models’ novel aggressive responses while subjects in the other conditions only rarely exhibited such reactions, subjects who were exposed to the aggressive models could be readily identified through the distinctive behavior.

The responses scored involved highly specific concrete classes of behavior and yielded high interscorer reliabilities, the product-moment coefficients being in the .90s.

Response Measures

Three measures of imitation were obtained:

Imitation of physical aggression: This category included acts of striking the Bobo doll with the mallet, sitting on the doll and punching it in the nose, kicking the doll, and tossing it in the air.

Imitative verbal aggression: Subject repeats the phrases, “Sock him,” “Hit him down,” “Kick him,” “Throw him in the air,” or “Pow”

Imitative nonaggressive verbal responses: Subject repeats, “He keeps coming back for more,” or “He sure is a tough fella.”

During the pretest, a number of the subjects imitated the essential components of the model’s behavior but did not perform the complete act, or they directed the imitative aggressive response to some object other than the Bobo doll. Two responses of this type were therefore scored and were interpreted as partially imitative behavior.

Mallet aggression: Subject strikes objects other than the Bobo doll aggressively with the mallet.

Sits on Bobo doll: Subject lays the Bobo doll on its side and sits on it, but does not aggress toward it.

The following additional nonimitative aggressive responses were scored:

Punches Bobs doll: Subject strikes, slaps, or pushes the doll aggressively.

Nonimitative physical and verbal aggression: This category included physically aggressive acts directed toward objects other than the Bubo doll and any hostile remarks except for those in the verbal imitation category; e.g., “Shoot the Bobo,” “Cut him,” “Stupid ball,” “Knock over people,” “Horses fighting, biting”

Aggressive gun play: Subject shoots darts or aims the guns and fires imaginary shots at objects in the room.

Ratings were also made of the number of behavior units in which subjects played nonaggressively or sat quietly and did not play with any of the material at all.

RESULTS

Complete Imitation of Models’ Behavior

Subjects in the aggression condition reproduced a good deal of physical and verbal aggressive behavior resembling that of the models, and their mean scores differed markedly from those of subjects in the nonaggressive and control groups who exhibited virtually no imitative aggression (See Table 1).

Since there were only a few scores for subjects in the nonaggressive and control conditions (approximately 70% of the subjects had zero scores), and the assumption of homogeneity of variance could not be made, the Friedman two-way analysis of variance by ranks was employed to test the significance of the obtained differences.

The prediction that exposure of subjects to aggressive models increases the probability [p. 578] of aggressive behavior is clearly confirmed (see Table 2). The main effect of treatment conditions is highly significant both for physical and verbal imitative aggression. Comparison of pairs of scores by the sign test shows that the obtained over-all differences were due almost entirely to the aggression displayed by subjects who had been exposed to the aggressive models. Their scores were significantly higher than those of either the nonaggressive or control groups, which did not differ from each other (Table 2).

Imitation was not confined to the model’s aggressive responses. Approximately one-third of the subjects in the aggressive condition also repeated the model’s nonaggressive verbal responses while none of the subjects in either the nonaggressive or control groups made such remarks. This difference, tested by means of the Cochran Q test, was significant well beyond the .001 level (Table 2).

Partial Imitation of Models’ Behavior

Differences in the predicted direction were also obtained on the two measures of partial imitation.

Analysis of variance of scores based on the subjects’ use of the mallet aggressively toward objects other than the Bobo doll reveals that treatment conditions are a statistically significant source of variation (Table 2). In addition, individual sign tests show that both the aggressive and the control groups, relative to subjects in the nonaggressive condition, produced significantly more mallet aggression, the difference being particularly marked with regard to female subjects. Girls who observed nonaggressive model performed a mean number of 0.5 mallet aggression responses as compared to mean values of 18.0 and 13.1 for girls in the aggressive and control groups, respectively.

Although subjects who observed aggressive models performed more mallet aggression (M = 20.0) than their controls (M = 13.3), the difference was not statistically significant.

[p. 579] With respect to the partially imitative response of sitting on the Bobo doll, the over-all group differences were significantly beyond the .01 level (Table 2). Comparison of pairs of scores by the sign test procedure reveals that subjects in the aggressive group reproduced this aspect of the models’ behavior to a greater extent than did the nonaggressive (p = .018) or the control (p = .059) subjects. The latter two groups, on the other hand, did not differ from each other.

Nonimitative Aggression

Analyses of variance of the remaining aggression measures (Table 2) show that treatment conditions did not influence the extent to which subjects engaged in aggressive gun play or punched the Bobo doll. The effect of conditions is highly significant (c 2r = 8.96, p < .02), however in the case of the subjects’ expression of nonimitative physical and verbal aggression. Further comparison of treatment pairs reveals that the main source of the over-all difference was the aggressive and nonaggressive groups which differed significantly from each other (Table 2), with subjects exposed to the aggressive models displaying the greater amount of aggression.

Influence of Sex of Model and Sex of Subjects on Imitation

The hypothesis that boys are more prone than girls to imitate aggression exhibited by a model was only partially confirmed. t tests computed for the subjects in the aggressive condition reveal that boys reproduced more imitative physical aggression than girls (t = 2.50 p < .01). The groups do not differ, however, in their imitation of verbal aggression.

The use of nonparametric tests, necessitated by the extremely skewed distributions of scores for subjects in the nonaggressive and control conditions, preclude an over-all test of the influence of sex of model per se, and of the various interactions between the main effects. Inspection of the means presented in Table 1 for subjects in the aggression condition, however, clearly suggests the possibility of a Sex x Model interaction. This interaction effect is much more consistent and pronounced for the male model than for the female model. Male subjects, for example, exhibited more physical (t = 2.07, p < .05) and verbal imitative aggression (t = 2.51, p < .05), more non-imitative aggression (t = 3.15, p < .025), and engaged in significantly more aggressive gun play (t = 2.12, p < .05) following exposure to the aggressive male model than the female subjects. In contrast, girls exposed to the female model performed considerably more imitative verbal aggression and more non-imitative aggression than did the boys (Table 1). The variances, however, were equally large and with only a small N in each cell the mean differences did not reach statistical significance.

Data for the nonaggressive and control subjects provide additional suggestive evidence that the behavior of the male model exerted a greater influence than the female model on the subjects’ behavior in the generalization situation.

It will be recalled that, except for the greater amount of mallet aggression exhibited by the control subjects, no significant differences were obtained between the nonaggressive and control groups. The data indicate, however, that the absence of significant differences between these two groups was due primarily to the fact that subjects exposed to the nonaggressive female model did not differ from the controls on any of the measures of aggression. With respect to the male model, on the other hand, the differences between the groups are striking. Comparison of the sets of scores by means of the sign test reveals that, in relation to the control group, subjects exposed to the nonaggressive male model performed significantly less imitative physical aggression (p = .06), less imitative verbal aggression (p = .002), less mallet aggression (p = .003), less nonimitative physical and verbal aggression (p = .03), and they were less inclined to punch the hobo doll (p = .07).

While the comparison of subgroups, when some of the over-all tests do not reach statistical significance, is likely to capitalize on chance differences, nevertheless the consistency of the findings adds support to the interpretation in terms of influence by the model.

Nonaggressive Behavior

With the exception of expected sex differences, Lindquist (1956) Type III analyses of variance of the nonaggressive response scores yielded few significant differences.

Female subjects spent more time than boys [p. 580] playing with dolls (p < .001), with the tea set (p < .001), and coloring (p < .05). The boys, on the other hand, devoted significantly more time than the girls to exploratory play with the guns (p < .01). No sex differences were found in respect to the subjects [sic] use of the other stimulus objects, i.e., farm animals, cars, or tether ball.

Treatment conditions did produce significant differences on two measures of nonaggressive behavior that are worth mentioning. Subjects in the nonaggressive condition engaged in significantly more nonaggressive play with dolls than either subjects in the aggressive group (t = 2.67, p < .02), or in the control group (t = 2.57, p < .02).

Even more noteworthy is the finding that subjects who observed nonaggressive models spent more than twice as much time as subjects in aggressive condition (t = 3.07, p <.01) in simply sitting quietly without handling any of the play material.

DISCUSSION

Much current research on social learning is focused on the shaping of new behavior through rewarding and punishing consequences. Unless responses are emitted, however, they cannot be influenced. The results of this study provide strong evidence that observation of cues produced by the behavior of others is one effective means of eliciting certain forms of responses for which the original probability is very low or zero. Indeed, social imitation may hasten or short-cut the acquisition of new behaviors without the necessity of reinforcing successive approximations as suggested by Skinner (1953).

Thus subjects given an opportunity to observe aggressive models later reproduced a good deal of physical and verbal aggression (as well as nonaggressive responses) substantially identical with that of the model. In contrast, subjects who were exposed to nonaggressive models and those who had no previous exposure to any models only rarely performed such responses.

To the extent that observation of adult models displaying aggression communicates permissiveness for aggressive behavior, such exposure may serve to weaken inhibitory responses and thereby to increase the probability of aggressive reactions to subsequent frustrations. The fact, however, that subjects expressed their aggression in ways that clearly resembled the novel patterns exhibited by models provides striking evidence for the occurrence of learning by imitation.

In the procedure employed by Miller and Dollard (1941) for establishing imitative behavior, adult or peer models performed discrimination responses following which they were consistently rewarded, and the subjects were similarly reinforced whenever, matched the leaders’ choice responses. While these experiments have been widely accepted as demonstrations of learning by means of imitation, in fact, they simply involve a special case of discrimination learning in which the behavior of others serves as discriminative stimuli for responses that are already part of the subject’s repertoire. Auditory or visual environmental cues could easily have been substituted for the social stimuli to facilitate the discrimination learning. In contrast, the process of imitation studied in the present experiment differed in several important respects from the one investigated by Miller and Dollard in that subjects learned to combine fractional responses into relatively complex novel patterns solely by observing the performance of social models without any opportunity to perform the models’ behavior m the exposure setting, and without any reinforcers delivered either to the models or to the observers.

An adequate theory of the mechanisms underlying imitative learning is lacking. The explanations that have been offered (Logan, Olmsted, Rosner, Schwartz, & Stevens, 1955; Maccoby, 1959) assume that the imitator performs the model’s responses covertly. If it can be assumed additionally that rewards and punishments are self-administered in conjunction with the covert responses, the process of imitative learning could be accounted for in terms of the same principles that govern instrumental trial-and-error learning. In the early stages of the developmental process, however, the range of component responses in the organism’s repertoire is probably increased through a process of classical conditioning (Bandura & Huston,; 1961; Mowrer, 1950).

The data provide some evidence that the male model influenced the subjects’ behavior [p. 581] outside the exposure setting to a greater extent than was true for the female model. In the analyses of the Sex x Model interactions, for example, only the comparisons involving the male model yielded significant differences. Similarly, subjects exposed to the nonaggressive male model performed less aggressive behavior than the controls, whereas comparisons involving the female model were consistently nonsignificant.

In a study of learning by imitation, Rosenblith (1959) has likewise found male experimenters more effective than females in influencing childrens’ [sic] behavior. Rosenblith advanced the tentative explanation that the school setting may involve some social deprivation in respect to adult males which, in turn, enhances the male’s reward value.

The trends in the data yielded by the present study suggest an alternative explanation. In the case of a highly masculine-typed behavior such as physical aggression, there is a tendency for both male and female subjects to imitate the male model to a greater degree than the female model. On the other hand, in the case of verbal aggression, which is less clearly sex linked, the greatest amount of imitation occurs in relation to the same-sex model. These trends together with the finding that boys in relation to girls are in general more imitative of physical aggression but do not differ in imitation of verbal aggression, suggest that subjects may be differentially affected by the sex of the model but that predictions must take into account tie degree to which the behavior in question is sex-typed.

The preceding discussion has assumed that maleness-femaleness rather than some other personal characteristics of the particular models involved, is the significant variable — an assumption that cannot be tested directly with the data at hand. It was clearly evident, however, particularly from boys’ spontaneous remarks about the display of aggression by the female model, that some subjects at least were responding in terms of a sex discrimination and their prior learning about what is sex appropriate behavior (e.g., “Who is that lady. That’s not the way for a lady to behave. Ladies are supposed to act like ladies. . .” “You should have seen what that girl did in there. She was just acting like a man. I never saw a girl act like that before. She was punching and fighting but no swearing.”). Aggression by the male model, on the other hand, was more likely to be seen as appropriate and approved by both the boys (“Al’s a good socker, he beat up Bobo. I want to sock like Al.”) and the girls (“That man is a strong fighter, he punched and punched and he could hit Bobo right down to the floor and if Bobo got up he said, ‘Punch your nose.’ He’s a good fighter like Daddy.”).

The finding that subjects exposed to the quiet models were more inihibited and unresponsive than subjects in the aggressive condition, together with the obtained difference on the aggression measures, suggests that exposure to inhiibited models not only decreases the probability of occurrence of aggressive behavior but also generally restricts the range of behavior emitted by the subjects.

“Identification with aggressor” (Freud, 1946) or “defensive identification” (Mowrer, 1950), whereby a person presumably transforms himself from object to agent of aggression by adopting the attributes of an aggressive threatening model so as to allay anxiety, is widely accepted as an explanation of the imitative learning of aggression.

The development of aggressive modes of response by children of aggressively punitive adults, however, may simply reflect object displacement without involving any such mechanism of defensive identification. In studies of child training antecedents of aggressively antisocial adolescents (Bandura & Walters, 1959) and of young hyperaggressive boys (Bandura, 1960), the parents were found to be nonpermissive and punitive of aggression directed toward themselves. On the other hand, they actively encouraged and reinforced their sons aggression toward persons outside the home. This pattern of differential reinforcement of aggressive behavior served to inhibit the boys’ aggression toward the original instigators and fostered the displacement of aggression toward objects and situations eliciting much weaker inhibitory responses.

Moreover, the findings from an earlier study (Baudura & Huston, 1961), in which children imitated to an equal degree aggression exhibited by a nurturant and a nonnurturant model, together with the results [p. 582] of the present experiment in which subjects readily imitated aggressive models who were more or less neutral figures suggest that mere observation of aggression, regardless of the quality of the model-subject relationship, is a sufficient condition for producing imitative aggression in children. A comparative study of the subjects’ imitation of aggressive models who are feared, who are liked and esteemed, or who are essentially neutral figures would throw some light on whether or not a more parsimonious theory than the one involved in “identification with the aggressor” can explain the modeling process.

SUMMARY

Twenty-four preschool children were assigned to each of three conditions. One experimental group observed aggressive adult models; a second observed inhibited non-aggressive models; while subjects in a control group had no prior exposure to the models. Half the subjects in the experimental conditions observed same-sex models and hall viewed models of the opposite sex. Subjects were then tested for the amount of imitative as well as nonimitative aggression performed in a new situation in the absence of the models.

Comparison of the subjects’ behavior in the generalization situation revealed that subjects exposed to aggressive models reproduced a good deal of aggression resembling that of the models, and that their mean scores differed markedly from those of subjects in the nonaggressive and control groups. Subjects in the aggressive condition also exhibited significantly more partially imitative and nonimitative aggressive behavior and were generally less inhibited in their behavior than subjects in the nonaggressive condition.

Imitation was found to be differentially influenced by the sex of the model with boys showing more aggression than girls following exposure to the male model, the difference being particularly marked on highly masculine-typed behavior.

Subjects who observed the nonaggressive models, especially the subdued male model, were generally less aggressive than their controls.

The implications of the findings based on this experiment and related studies for the psychoanalytic theory of identification with the aggressor were discussed.

REFERENCES

BANDURA, A. Relationship of family patterns to behavior disorders. Progress Report, 1960, Stanford University, Project No. M-1734, United States Public Health Service.

BANDURA, A., & HUSTON, ALETHA C. Identification as a process of incidental learning. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1961, 63, 311-318.

BANDURA, A., & WALTERS, R. H. Adolescent aggrersion. New York: Ronald, 1959.

BLAKE, R. R. The other person in the situation. In R. Tagiuri & L. Petrullo (Eds.), Person perception and interpersonal behavior. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Univer. Press, 1958. Pp. 229-242.

FAULS, LYDIA B., & SMITH, W. D. Sex-role learning of five-year olds. J. genet. Psychol., 1956, 89, 105-117

FREUD, ANNA. The ego and the mechanisms of defense. New York: International Univer. Press, 1946.

GROSSER, D., POLANSKY, N., & LIPPIT, R. A laboratory study of behavior contagion. Hum. Relat 1951, 4, 115-142.

LINDQUIST, E. F. Design and analysis of experiments. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956.

LOGAN, F., OLMSTED, O. L., ROSNER, B. S., SHWARTZ, R. D., & STEVENS, C. M. Behavior theory and social science. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press, 1955.

MACCOBY, ELANOR E. Role-taking in childhood and its consequences for social learning. Child Develpm.,

1959, 30, 239-252.

MILLER, N. F., & DOLLARD, J. Social learning and imitation. New Haven: Yale Univer. Press, 1941.

MOWRER, O. H. (Ed.) Identification: A link between learning theory and psychotherapy. In, Learning theory and personality dynamics. New York: Ronald, 1950. Pp.69-94.

ROSENBAUM, M. E., & DERCHARMS, R. Direct and vicarious reduction of hostility. J. abnorm. soc. Psychol., 1960, 60, 105-111.

ROSENBLITH, JUDY F. Learning by imitation in kindergarten children. Child Develpm., 1959, 30, 69-80.

SCHACTER, S., & HALL, R. Group-derived restraints and audience persuasion. Hum. Relat., 1952, 5, 397-406.

SKINNER, B. F. Science and human behavior. New York: Macmillan, 1953.

(Received December 2, 1960)

Footnotes

[1] This investigation was supported by Research MA398 from the National Institute of Health, United States Public Health Service.



[2] The authors wish to express their appreciation to Edith Dowley, Director, and Patricia Rowe, Head Teacher, Stanford University Nursery School for their assistance throughout this study.


Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by

Christopher D. Green

York University, Toronto, Ontario

(Return to Classics Index)

Psychology as the Behaviorist Views it.

John B. Watson (1913).

First published in Psychological Review, 20,
158-177

Psychology as the behaviorist views it is a purely objective experimental
branch of natural science. Its theoretical goal is the prediction
and control of behavior. Introspection
forms no essential part of its methods, nor is the scientific
value of its data dependent upon the readiness with which they
lend themselves to interpretation in terms of consciousness. The
behaviorist, in his efforts to get a unitary scheme of animal
response, recognizes no dividing line between man and brute.
The behavior of man, with all of its refinement and complexity,
forms only a part of the behaviorist’s total scheme of investigation.

It has been maintained by its followers generally that
psychology is a study of the science of the phenomena of consciousness.
It has taken as its problem, on the one hand, the analysis of
complex mental states (or processes) into simple elementary constituents,
and on the other the construction of complex states when the elementary
constituents are given. The world of physical objects (stimuli,
including here anything which may excite activity in a receptor),
which forms the total phenomena of the natural scientist, is looked
upon merely as means to an end. That end is the production of
mental states that may be ‘inspected’ or ‘observed’. The psychological
object of observation in the case of an emotion, for example,
is the mental state itself. The problem in emotion is the determination
of the number and kind of elementary constituents present, their
loci, intensity, order of appearance, etc. It is agreed
that introspection is the method par excellence by means
of which mental states may be manipulated for purposes of psychology.
On this assumption, behavior data (including under this term everything
which goes under the name of comparative psychology)
have no value per se. They possess significance only in
so far as they may throw light upon conscious states.1
Such data must have at least an analogical
or indirect reference to belong to the realm of psychology.

Indeed, at times, one finds psychologists who are sceptical of
even this analogical reference. Such scepticism is often shown
by the question which is put to the student of behavior, ‘what
is the bearing of animal work
upon human psychology?’ I used to have to study over this question.
Indeed it always embarrassed me somewhat. I was interested in
my own work and felt that it was important, and yet I could not
trace any close connection between it and psychology as my questioner
understood psychology. I hope that such a confession will clear
the atmosphere to such an extent that we will no longer have to
work under false pretences. We must frankly admit that the facts
so important to us which we have been able to glean from extended
work upon the senses of animals by the behavior method have contributed
only in a fragmentary way to the general theory of human sense
organ processes, nor have they suggested new points of experimental
attack. The enormous number of experiments which we have carried
out upon learning have likewise contributed little to human psychology.
It seems reasonably clear that some kind of compromise must be
affected: either psychology must change its viewpoint so as to
take in facts of behavior, whether
or not they have bearings upon the problems of ‘consciousness’;
or else behavior must stand alone as a wholly separate and independent
science. Should human psychologists fail to look with favor upon
our overtures and refuse to modify their position, the behaviorists
will be driven to using human beings as subjects and to employ
methods of investigation which are exactly comparable to those
now employed in the animal work.

Any other hypothesis than that which admits the independent value
of behavior material, regardless of any bearing such material
may have upon consciousness, will inevitably force us to the absurd position
of attempting to construct the conscious content of the
animal whose behavior we have been studying. On this view, after
having determined our animal’s ability to learn, the simplicity
or complexity of its methods of learning, the effect of past habit
upon present response, the range of stimuli to which it ordinarily
responds, the widened range to which it can respond under experimental
conditions — in more general terms, its various problems and
its various ways of solving them — we should still feel that
the task is unfinished and that the results are worthless, until
we can interpret them by analogy in the light of consciousness.
Although we have solved our problem we feel uneasy and unrestful
because of our definition of psychology: we feel forced to say
something about the possible mental processes of our animal. We
say that, having no eyes, its stream of consciousness cannot contain
brightness and color sensations as we know them — having no taste
buds this stream can contain no sensations of sweet, sour, salt
and bitter. But on the other hand, since it does respond to thermal,
tactual and organic stimuli, its conscious content must be made
up largely of these sensations; and we usually add, to protect
ourselves against the reproach of being anthropomorphic,
‘if it has any consciousness’. Surely this doctrine which calls
for an anological interpretation of all behavior data may be shown
to be false: the position that the standing of an observation
upon behavior is determined by its fruitfulness in yielding results
which are interpretable only in the narrow realm of (really human)
consciousness.

This emphasis upon analogy in psychology has led the behaviorist
somewhat afield. Not being willing to throw off the yoke of consciousness
he feels impelled to make a place in the scheme of behavior where
the rise of consciousness can be determined. This point has been
a shifting one. A few years ago certain animals were supposed
to possess ‘associative memory‘,
while certain others were supposed to lack it. One meets this
search for the origin of consciousness under a good many disguises.
Some of our texts state that consciousness arises at the moment
when reflex and instinctive activities fail properly to conserve
the organism. A perfectly adjusted organism would be lacking in
consciousness. On the other hand whenever we find the presence
of diffuse activity which results in habit formation, we are justified
in assuming consciousness. I must confess that these arguments
had weight with me when I began the study of behavior. I fear
that a good many of us are still viewing behavior problems with
something like this in mind. More than one student in behavior
has attempted to frame criteria of the psychic
— to devise a set of objective, structural and functional criteria
which, when applied in the particular instance, will enable us
to decide whether such and such responses are positively conscious,
merely indicative of consciousness, or whether they are purely
‘physiological’. Such problems as these can no longer satisfy
behavior men. It would be better to give up the province altogether
and admit frankly that the study of the behavior of animals has
no justification, than to admit that our search is of such a ‘will
o’ the wisp’ character. One can assume either the presence or
the absence of consciousness anywhere in the phylogenetic scale
without affecting the problems of behavior by one jot or one tittle;
and without influencing in any way the mode of experimental attack
upon them. On the other hand, I cannot for one moment assume that
the paramecium responds
to light; that the rat learns a problem more quickly by working
at the task five times a day than once a day, or that the human
child exhibits plateaux in his learning curves. These are questions
which vitally concern behavior and which must be decided by direct
observation under experimental conditions.

This attempt to reason by analogy from human conscious processes
to the conscious processes in animals, and vice versa:
to make consciousness, as the human being knows it, the center
of reference of all behavior, forces us into a situation similar
to that which existed in biology in Darwin‘s
time. The whole Darwinian movement was judged by the bearing it
had upon the origin and development of the human race. Expeditions
were undertaken to collect material which would establish the
position that the rise of the human race was a perfectly natural
phenomenon and not an act of special creation. Variations were
carefully sought along with the evidence for the heaping up effect
and the weeding out effect of selection; for in these and the
other Darwinian mechanisms were to be found factors sufficiently
complex to account for the origin and race differentiation of
man. The wealth of material collected at this time was considered
valuable largely in so far as it tended to develop the concept
of evolution in man. It is strange that this situation should
have remained the dominant one in biology for so many years. The
moment zoology undertook the experimental study of evolution and
descent, the situation immediately changed. Man ceased to be the
center of reference. I doubt if any experimental biologist today,
unless actually engaged in the problem of race differentiation
in man, tries to interpret his findings in terms of human evolution,
or ever refers to it in his thinking. He gathers his data from
the study of many species of plants and animals and tries to work
out the laws of inheritance in the particular type upon which
he is conducting experiments. Naturally, he follows the progress
of the work upon race differentiation in man and in the descent
of man, but he looks upon these as special topics, equal in importance
with his own yet ones in which his interests will never be vitally
engaged. It is not fair to say that all of his work is directed
toward human evolution or that it must be interpreted in terms
of human evolution. He does not have to dismiss certain of his
facts on the inheritance of coat color in mice because, forsooth,
they have little bearing upon the differentiation of the genus homo
into separate races, or upon the descent of the genus homo
from some more primitive stock.

In psychology we are still in that stage of development where
we feel that we must select our material. We have a general place
of discard for processes, which we anathematize so far as their
value for psychology is concerned by saying, ‘this is a reflex’;
‘that is a purely physiological fact which has nothing to do with
psychology’. We are not interested (as psychologists) in getting
all of the processes of adjustment which the animal as a whole
employs, and in finding how these various responses are associated,
and how they fall apart, thus working out a systematic scheme
for the prediction and control of response in general. Unless
our observed facts are indicative of consciousness, we have no
use for them, and unless our apparatus and method are designed
to throw such facts into relief, they are thought of in just as
disparaging a way. I shall always remember the remark one distinguished
psychologist made as he looked over the color apparatus designed
for testing the responses of animals to monochromatic light in
the attic at Johns Hopkins. It
was this: ‘And they call this psychology!’

I do not wish unduly to criticize psychology. It has failed
signally, I believe, during the fifty-odd years of its existence
as an experimental discipline to make its place in the world as
an undisputed natural science. Psychology, as it is generally
thought of, has something esoteric in its methods. If you fail
to reproduce my findings, it is not due to some fault in your
apparatus or in the control of your stimulus, but it is due to
the fact that your introspection is untrained.2
The attack is made upon the observer and
not upon the experimental setting. In physics and in chemistry
the attack is made upon the experimental conditions. The apparatus
was not sensitive enough, impure chemicals were used, etc. In
these sciences a better technique will give reproducible results.
Psychology is otherwise. if you can’t observe 3-9 states of clearness
in attention, your introspection is poor. if, on the other hand,
a feeling seems reasonably clear to you, your introspection is
again faulty. You are seeing too much. Feelings are never clear.

The time seems to have come when psychology must discard all reference
to consciousness; when it need no longer delude itself into thinking
that it is making mental states the object of observation. We
have become so enmeshed in speculative questions concerning the
elements of mind, the nature of conscious content (for example,
imageless thought, attitudes,
and Bewusstseinslage, etc.) that
I, as an experimental student, feel that something is wrong
with our premises and the types of problems which develop from
them. There is no longer any guarantee that we all mean the same
thing when we use the terms now current in psychology. Take the
case of sensation. A sensation is defined in terms of its attributes.
One psychologist will state with readiness that the attributes
of a visual sensation are quality, extension, duration,
and intensity. Another will add clearness. Still another
that of order. I doubt if any one psychologist can draw
up a set of statements describing what he means by sensation which
will be agreed to by three other psychologists of different training.
Turn for a moment to the question of the number of isolable sensations.
Is there an extremely large number of color sensations — or only
four, red, green, yellow and blue? Again, yellow, while psychologically
simple, can be obtained by superimposing red and green spectral
rays upon the same diffusing surface! If, on the other hand, we
say that every just noticeable difference in the spectrum is a
simple sensation, and that every just noticeable increase in the
white value of a given colour gives simple sensations, we are
forced to admit that the number is so large and the conditions
for obtaining them so complex that the concept of sensation is
unusable, either for the purpose of analysis or that of synthesis.
Titchener, who has fought
the most valiant fight in this country for a psychology based
upon introspection, feels that these differences of opinion as
to the number of sensations and their attributes; as to whether
there are relations (in the sense of elements) and on the many
others which seem to be fundamental in every attempt at analysis,
are perfectly natural in the present undeveloped state of psychology.
While it is admitted that every growing science is full of unanswered
questions, surely only those who are wedded to the system as we
now have it, who have fought and suffered for it, can confidently
believe that there will ever be any greater uniformity than there
is now in the answers we have to such questions. I firmly believe
that two hundred years from now, unless the introspective method
is discarded, psychology will still be divided on the question
as to whether auditory sensations have the quality of ‘extension’,
whether intensity is an attribute which can be applied to color,
whether there is a difference in ‘texture’ between image and sensation
and upon many hundreds of others of like character.

The condition in regard to other mental processes is just as chaotic.
Can image type be experimentally tested and verified? Are recondite
thought processes dependent mechanically upon imagery at all?
Are psychologists agreed upon what feeling is? One states that
feelings are attitudes. Another finds them to be groups of organic
sensations possessing a certain solidarity. Still another and
larger group finds them to be new elements correlative with and
ranking equally with sensations.

My psychological quarrel is not with the systematic and structural
psychologist alone. The last fifteen years have seen the growth
of what is called functional psychology.
This type of psychology decries the use of elements in the static
sense of the structuralists. It throws emphasis upon the biological
significance of conscious processes instead of upon the analysis
of conscious states into introspectively isolable elements. I
have done my best to understand the difference between functional
psychology and structural psychology. Instead of clarity, confusion
grows upon me. The terms sensation, perception, affection, emotion,
volition are used as much by the functionalist as by the structuralist.
The addition of the word ‘process’ (‘mental act as a whole’, and
like terms are frequently met) after each serves in some way to
remove the corpse of content’ and to leave ‘function’ in its
stead. Surely if these concepts are elusive when looked at from
a content standpoint, they are still more deceptive when viewed
from the angle of function, and especially so when function is
obtained by the introspection method. It is rather interesting
that no functional psychologist has carefully distinguished between
‘perception’ (and this is true of the other psychological terms
as well) as employed by the systematist, and cperceptual process’
as used in functional psychology. It seems illogical and hardly
fair to criticize the psychology which the systematist gives us,
and then to utilize his terms without carefully showing the changes
in meaning which are to be attached to them. I was greatly surprised
some time ago when I opened Pillsbury‘s
book and saw psychology defined as the ‘science of behavior’.
A still more recent text states that psychology is the ‘science
of mental behavior’. When I saw these promising statements I thought,
now surely we will have texts based upon different lines. After
a few pages the science of behavior is dropped and one finds the
conventional treatment of sensation, perception, imagery, etc.,
along with certain shifts in emphasis and additional facts which
serve to give the author’s personal imprint.

One of the difficulties in the way of a consistent functional
psychology is the parallelistic hypothesis.
If the functionalist attempts to express his formulations in terms
which make mental states really appear to function, to play some
active role in the world of adjustment, he almost inevitably lapses
into terms which are connotative of interaction.
When taxed with this he replies that it is more convenient to
do so and that he does it to avoid the circumlocution and clumsiness
which are inherent in any thoroughgoing parallelism.3
As a matter of fact I believe the functionalist
actually thinks in terms of interaction and resorts to parallelism
only when forced to give expression to his views. I feel that
behaviorism is the only consistent and logical functionalism.
In it one avoids both the Scylla of parallelism and the Charybdis
of interaction. Those time-honored relics of philosophical speculation
need trouble the student of behavior as little as they trouble
the student of physics. The consideration of the mind-body problem
affects neither the type of problem selected nor the formulation
of the solution of that problem. I can state my position here
no better than by saying that I should like to bring my students
up in the same ignorance of such hypotheses as one finds among
the students of other branches of science.

This leads me to the point where I should like to make the argument
constructive. I believe we can write a psychology, define it as
Pillsbury, and never go back
upon our definition: never use the terms consciousness, mental
states, mind, content, introspectively verifiable, imagery, and
the like. I believe that we can do it in a few years without running
into the absurd terminology of Beer, Bethe, Von Uexküll, Nuel,
and that of the so-called objective schools generally. It can
be done in terms of stimulus and response, in terms of
habit formation, habit integrations and the like. Furthermore,
I believe that it is really worth while to make this attempt now.

The psychology which I should attempt to build up would take as
a starting point, first, the observable fact that organisms, man
and animal alike, do adjust themselves to their environment by
means of hereditary and habit equipments. These adjustments may
be very adequate or they may be so inadequate that the organism
barely maintains its existence; secondly, that certain stimuli
lead the organisms to make the responses. In a system of psychology
completely worked out, given the response the stimuli can be predicted;
given the stimuli the response can be predicted. Such a set of
statements is crass and raw in the extreme, as all such generalizations
must be. Yet they are hardly more raw and less realizable than
the ones which appear in the psychology texts of the day. I possibly
might illustrate my point better by choosing an everyday problem
which anyone is likely to meet in the course of his work. Some
time ago I was called upon to make a study of certain species
of birds. Until I went to Tortugas
I had never seen these birds alive. When I reached there I found
the animals doing certain things: some of the acts seemed to work
peculiarly well in such an environment, while others seemed to
be unsuited to their type of life. I first studied the responses
of the group as a whole and later those of individuals. In order
to understand more thoroughly the relation between what was habit
and what was hereditary in these responses, I took the young birds
and reared them. In this way I was able to study the order of
appearance of hereditary adjustments and their complexity, and
later the beginnings of habit formation. My efforts in determining
the stimuli which called forth such adjustments were crude indeed.
Consequently my attempts to control behavior and to produce responses
at will did not meet with much success. Their food and water,
sex and other social relations, light and temperature conditions
were all beyond control in a field study. I did find it possible
to control their reactions in a measure by using the nest and
egg (or young) as stimuli. It is not necessary in this
paper to develop further how such a study should be carried out
and how work of this kind must be supplemented by carefully controlled
laboratory experiments. Had I been called upon to examine the
natives of some of the Australian tribes, I should have gone about
my task in the same way. I should have found the problem more
difficult: the types of responses called forth by physical stimuli
would have been more varied, and the number of effective stimuli
larger. I should have had to determine the social setting of their
lives in a far more careful way. These savages would be more influenced
by the responses of each other than was the case with the birds.
Furthermore, habits would have been more complex and the influences
of past habits upon the present responses would have appeared
more clearly. Finally, if I had been called upon to work out the
psychology of the educated European, my problem would have required
several lifetimes. But in the one I have at my disposal I should
have followed the same general line of attack. In the main, my
desire in all such work is to gain an accurate knowledge of adjustments
and the stimuli calling them forth. My final reason for this is
to learn general and particular methods by which I may control
behavior. My goal is not ‘the description and explanation of states
of consciousness as such’, nor that of obtaining such proficiency
in mental gymnastics that I can immediately lay hold of a state
of consciousness and say, ‘this, as a whole, consists of gray
sensation number 350, Of such and such extent, occurring in conjunction
with the sensation of cold of a certain intensity; one of pressure
of a certain intensity and extent,’ and so on ad infinitum.
If psychology would follow the plan I suggest, the educator,
the physician, the jurist and the business man could utilize our
data in a practical way, as soon as we are able, experimentally,
to obtain them. Those who have occasion to apply psychological
principles practically would find no need to complain as they
do at the present time. Ask any physician or jurist today whether
scientific psychology plays a practical part in his daily routine
and you will hear him deny that the psychology of the laboratories
finds a place in his scheme of work. I think the criticism is
extremely just. One of the earliest conditions which made me dissatisfied
with psychology was the feeling that there was no realm of application
for the principles which were being worked out in content terms.

What gives me hope that the behaviorist’s position is a defensible
one is the fact that those branches of psychology which have already
partially withdrawn from the parent, experimental psychology,
and which are consequently less dependent upon introspection are
today in a most flourishing condition. Experimental pedagogy,
the psychology of drugs, the psychology of advertising, legal
psychology, the psychology of tests, and psychopathology are all
vigorous growths. These are sometimes wrongly called ‘practical’
or ‘applied’ psychology. Surely there was never a worse misnomer.
In the future there may grow up vocational bureaus which really
apply psychology. At present these fields are truly scientific
and are in search of broad generalizations which will lead to
the control of human behavior. For example, we find out by experimentation
whether a series of stanzas may be acquired more readily if the
whole is learned at once, or whether it is more advantageous to
learn each stanza separately and then pass to the succeeding.
We do not attempt to apply our findings. The application of this
principle is purely voluntary on the part of the teacher. In the
psychology of drugs we may show the effect upon behavior of certain
doses of caffeine. We may reach the conclusion that caffeine has
a good effect upon the speed and accuracy of work. But these are
general principles. We leave it to the individual as to whether
the results of our tests shall be applied or not. Again, in legal
testimony, we test the effects of recency upon the reliability
of a witness’s report. We test the accuracy of the report with
respect to moving objects, stationary objects, color, etc. It
depends upon the judicial machinery of the country to decide whether
these facts are ever to be applied. For a ‘pure’ psychologist
to say that he is not interested in the questions raised in these
divisions of the science because they relate indirectly to the
application of psychology shows, in the first place, that he fails
to understand the scientific aim
in such problems, and secondly, that he is not interested in a
psychology which concerns itself with human life. The only fault
I have to find with these disciplines is that much of their material
is stated in terms of introspection, whereas a statement in terms
of objective results would be far more valuable. There is no reason
why appeal should ever be made to consciousness in any of them.
Or why introspective data should ever be sought during the experimentation,
or published in the results. In experimental pedagogy especially
one can see the desirability of keeping all of the results on
a purely objective plane. If this is done, work there on the human
being will be comparable directly with the work upon animals.
For example, at Hopkins, Mr. Ulrich
has obtained certain results upon the distribution of effort in
learning — using rats as subjects. He is prepared to give comparative
results upon the effect of having an animal work at the problem
once per day, three times per day, and five times per day. Whether
it is advisable to have the animal learn only one problem at a
time or to learn three abreast. We need to have similar experiments
made upon man, but we care as little about his ‘conscious processes’
during the conduct of the experiment as we care about such processes
in the rats.

I am more interested at the present moment in trying to show the
necessity for maintaining uniformity in experimental procedure
and in the method of stating results in both human and animal
work, than in developing any ideas I may have upon the changes
which are certain to come in the scope of human psychology. Let
us consider for a moment the subject of the range of stimuli to
which animals respond. I shall speak first of the work upon vision
in animals. We put our animal in a situation where he will respond
(or learn to respond) to one of two monochromatic lights. We feed
him at the one (positive) and punish him at the other (negative).
In a short time the animal learns to go to the light at which
he is fed. At this point questions arise which I may phrase in
two ways: I may choose the psychological way and say ‘does the
animal see these two lights as I do, i.e., as two distinct
colors, or does he see them as two grays differing in brightness,
as does the totally color blind?’ Phrased by the behaviorist,
it would read as follows: ‘Is my animal responding upon the basis
of the difference in intensity between the two stimuli, or upon
the difference in wavelengths?’ He nowhere thinks of the animal’s
response in terms of his own experiences of colors and grays.
He wishes to establish the fact whether wave-length is a factor
in that animal’s adjustment.4 If
so, what wave-lengths are effective and what differences in wave-length
must be maintained in the …

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