This is Little Albert.
If speaking English makes your heart beat fast, your hands sweat, and your head ache, maybe Albert can help you.
Let me explain.
In 1920, psychologist J.B. Watson was working at Johns Hopkins University (located in the town I was just living in, Baltimore)
He was studying human behavior and chose Albert because he was such a calm baby; Albert almost never cried.
But he was about to start crying. A lot.
Here’s what happened in the experiment.
First, Watson introduced Albert to white rat.
Albert liked the rat. He was not afraid of the rat. Why would he be afraid? So he petted the furry rat and played with it.
Then, while Little Albert was happily playing with his new friend, Watson snuck behind him, and with a hammer in one hand and a steel bar in the other, made such a loud BANG that Albert started to cry.
And he did that over and over, every time Albert played with the rat.
And soon, just like Pavlov’s dogs, just seeing the rat would send Albert into a panic.
He had been conditioned — trained — to fear a harmless rat.
And what about you?
Did someone condition you?
When you use English do you feel relaxed?
Or does it feel like someone is standing behind you beating a steel rod?
Maybe, years ago, a teacher said some not-too-nice words to you.
Maybe a classmate laughed.
Maybe a parent punished you.
And now, just like Little Albert, a harmless conversation can send you into a panic.
The good news is, one generation later, another psychiatrist read Dr. Watson’s work and decided to reversed it.
He discovered a practical cure for fear, which doesn’t require years lying on a couch and talking about your childhood.