He is the former Executive Officer of the Cheiron Society and former President of the Society for the History of Psychology. One of his interests is the portrayal of psychology in radio, television, and motion pictures. He has served as consultant to the BBC and WGBH (Boston) on projects in the history of psychology.
Letting go of little Albert: Disciplinary memory, history, and the uses of myth†
Version of Record online: 4 JAN 2011
© 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 1–17, Winter 2011
How to Cite
Harris, B. (2011), Letting go of little Albert: Disciplinary memory, history, and the uses of myth. J. Hist. Behav. Sci., 47: 1–17. doi: 10.1002/jhbs.20470
This is an expanded version of a talk given to the History and Philosophy of Science Department of Indiana University. The author thanks James Capshew and the many colleagues who have provided reactions to these ideas over the years, and one anonymous reviewer who gave helpful advice. He also thanks Hall (“Skip”) Beck, Sharman Levinson, and Gary Irons for their gracious and helpful responses to inquiries about their work.
- Issue online: 4 JAN 2011
- Version of Record online: 4 JAN 2011
In 2009 American Psychologist published the account of an attempt to identify the infant “Albert B.,” who participated in Watson and Rayner's study of the conditioning of human fears. Such literal interpretations of the question “Whatever happened to Little Albert?” highlight the importance of historical writing that transcends the narrowly biographical and that avoids the obsessive hunt for “facts.” The author of a 1979 study of how secondary sources have told the story of Little Albert relates his attempts to purge incorrect accounts of that story from college textbooks. He renounces such efforts as misguided and suggests that myths in the history of psychology can be instructive, including the myth that the identity of Little Albert has been discovered. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.