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Monday, October 10, 2011

Little Albert

Just a reminder to go to my Giveaway page to enter into the contest.

This next study was conducted by Watson & Rayner (1920).  They were wanting to find out where emotions come from and so they setup a study to find out. They proposed that behavior is generated outside the person (these are your nature folks). Further, they proposed that we learn our emotions. In fact he made a statement that said that everything is learned, "Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own special world to bring them up in, and I'll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, chief, and, yes, beggar man and thief" (Watson, 1913). Watson theorized that if presented with a stimulus that produced an emotion and then coupled with another stimulus the person would start to equate to the new stimulus (Just like pavlov's dog but with emotions this time).

In the experiment they put a rabbit with Albert and he was not afraid of it but then they coupled it with something that Albert was scared of (a loud noise) and soon Albert was afraid of the rabbit. This proved two of Watson's thoughts first that all human behavior stems from learning and conditioning and second that behavior stems from unconscious processes. This was done in part of course as we have looked at our nature vs. nurture already.

So how does this apply to writing? I think that once again it goes along with how does our characters become who they are? Did they learn it or were they born with it? Do they have a strange response to something because of a past stimuli? What about smells do they get happy when they smell Christmas smells (I know I do)?

How does your character react?


  1. Now that some of life's twists and turns have straightened out, it's a joy to cruise along and park at your doorstep for a bit - always much to think about here - inherited behavior traits - what was once thought to be not much gains these days with research coming in - but I think rudeness, for example, remains a learned response...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree - but what about a character who can't help stealing??? Hmmm!

  2. It has been said that we are what we are from the influence of our parents. Up to a point I can believe, as my mother taught me honesty, and to respect others. I in turn taught this to my 3 children yet one has turned out a rotter.
    His late father would be so upset if he knew how I have suffered these past months.
    Most interesting post,

  3. i see this play out a lotin the families i work with...learned behavior comes too not just in seeing it done...if they do the behav and get away with it (no consequence) they learn it is ok

  4. I think that in many cases, the emotional tie is something that we can really utilize in our stories. You see this a lot in movies where something stimulates a happy memory. For example in the Disney movie Anastasia, the smell of the perfume and her happy childhood. There are probably plenty of other examples, but that is the only one that currently comes to mind. I have a character that this would work well on when it comes to smelling fire. Great post.

  5. Interesting to see how this relates to Pavlov's Dog, particularly the difference between the two--emotions can be powerful.

    And I always feel happy when I smell something Christmas-y, too. :)

  6. My characters learned how to be who they are for the most part (their environment). Cool post!


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