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Behaviorism is the science of behavior. It focuses solely on observable behavior. It is a major perspective in today's psychology, and also aided in the development of other perspectives, such as cognitive psychology. John Broadus Watson is known as the "father of behaviorism" due to his research associated with behaviorism in the early 1900s.

Watson had read Ivan Pavlov's work and believed that conditioning may form the basis of his new perspective. He was also aware of Sigmund Freud's work, but Watson believed that behavior is learned, not stemmed from unconscious motivation. Watson believed that phobias are learned through conditioning, and he wanted to prove this. He took a baby named "Little Albert," who was taught to fear a white rat. Watson successfully achieved this reaction by making a loud noise every time the infant saw the rat. Finally, the mere sight of the rat caused Little Albert to cry. The baby later appeared to fear other fuzzy things such as a rabbit, a dog, and a coat.[1]

Watson was determined to prove that all behavior was a result of a stimulus-response relationship. A student replicated this experiment with another child, "Little Peter." This student, Mary Cover Jones, under Watson's supervision, successfully conditioned the baby to be afraid of a white rabbit. She then counterconditioned Peter by exposing him to the rabbit at a distance while he was eating food that he liked. Each day, they continued this, but instead bringing the rabbit closer each time until Peter was no longer fearful of it.[2]


  1. Ciccarelli, Saundra K., and J. Noland White. Psychology. 3rd ed., Pearson, 2012.
  2. Jones M.C. (1924). A laboratory study of fear: The case of Peter. Pedagogical Seminary, 31, 308-315.