Fear of predators, we all have it. Some have it more than others. Some deal with it better than others. Is this fear of predators an instinct, or is it a learned response?
In the early 1900s, American psychologist John Watson wanted to see if he could teach an 11-month-old baby named Albert to become scared of arbitrary things. He presented Albert with a rat, and every time the baby reached out to touch it, Watson hit a steel bar with a hammer, producing a horrendous clang. After several rounds with the rat and the bar, Watson then brought out the rat on its own. “The instant the rat was shown, the baby began to cry. The “little Albert” study, besides being cruel, was badly designed. Watson did not control it carefully to rule out a wide range of possible interpretations.
Later experiments used rats rather than people as their test subjects. In one such experiment, a rat was placed in a cage with a light. The light came on a few times so the animal could get accustomed to it, then the scientists would turn on the light and then give the rats a little electric shock. After a few rounds, the rats would respond fearfully to the light, even if no shock came.
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