General Psychology

Published 22 Feb 2017

The experiment conducted on Albert if done in the present day can be in different ways or can be not as harsh as compared to what had been done to the child. The test on the emotions of the child particularly the determination of fear by observing his reaction from making a sharp noise could be traumatic for a child and could have complex effects on him in the future. The determination of fear from Albert’s reaction to the stimuli cannot be used to generalize the reactions of babies for some babies have a unique psychological make-up. This, therefore, limits the experiment and is not really designed to “provide empirical generalizations to a larger population.

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The thing learned about these subjects cannot be used to describe parameters for any population. The small size of experimental and control groups also limits generalizing from the experimental results.” (Methods for Social Researchers in Developing Countries, Chapter 9) The size of the experimental group is so limited and could have done to a larger group in order to arrive in a general conclusion. If the experiment will be conducted in the present day, there are high-tech equipments that can be used. Electronic devices can now be attached to the person to determine his psychological reaction to stimuli and may not be so harsh for the subject to have complex effects in the future. In the case of Albert, psychologists were not able to remove or detach the conditioned emotional responses from Albert since he was taken from the hospital hence, this will be affecting him the rest of his life. This could be done better in the present time with all the state-of-the art and complicated equipments. However, psychologists should be cognizant that subjecting human beings to an experiment nowadays is a violation of a person’s rights to self-determination. In subjecting human beings to an experiment “Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of all people, and the rights to privacy, confidentiality, and self-determination. “ (Ethical Principles, 2003) Albert’s reaction of fear in experimental stimuli had deprived him of his natural development of feeling this fear in a certain period of his life. And this is a conspicuous violation of his right’s and dignity.

Furthermore, in subjecting more babies to this similar experimentation is hardly possible and would be a violation of the ethical principles. Another ethical principle to be considered in this case is that “Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons…” (Ethical Principles, 2003) In case of Albert, psychologists were not able to condition him back to his normal state because he was taken out from the hospital. This for sure will affect his behavior for the rest of his life. This is again a violation of the ethical Principle on Beneficence and Nonmaleficence. If similar experiment would be conducted in the present time, this can be avoided by getting a proper agreement and consent from the parents stating the period of the consummation of the experiment. In this way, psychologist will be able to have ample time to correct any harm done to the subject of the experiment.

In Harlow’s Nature of love, he attempted to study the behavior of the monkeys particularly their development and love with their mother. This was an attempt to understand how the human beings particularly the children would behave in the same situation. However, there may be a problem in utilizing monkeys in the depiction of human feelings for the question arises if animals like monkeys actually depict human feelings. In the article “A Critique on Maternal Deprivation Experiments on Primates” it states that “One of the difficulties in modeling human behavior through monkey behavior is that the latter varies significantly among different species, as can be seen in “depression-like,” social status, aggressive, and child-care behaviors.” It is therefore difficult to find subjects to an experimental research that can actually present human tendencies and behavior. In the same article it continued by asserting that “given the considerable difficulty in determining which species and which experimental manipulation most clearly resemble human depression, it is hardly surprising that researchers have had difficulty in choosing a model on a scientific basis and have rather relied on non-scientific factors such as availability, expedience, convenience, and personal experience.” (State University of New York Science Health Center)

In the present day, a continued search for animals which can really depict human behavior must be conducted but the use of these animals must conform to the standards set by the American Psychological Association or APA. The use of monkeys in continuing the experiment in relation to this must be justified but only if “the research should be undertaken with a clear scientific purpose. There should be a reasonable expectation that the research will increase knowledge of the process underlying the evolution, development, maintenance, alteration, control, or biological significance of behavior.”(Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Animals)

Harlow’s objective in studying monkeys was to understand the behavior of the children based on the outcome of the study that would provide additional knowledge particularly in development and behavior. And in order to continue the justification of the research the psychologist should keep an eye on the research and the condition of the animals in the duration of an investigation. In the present day, the use of animals in any endeavor is guided by law on animal rights making sure that they are not subjected to cruelty and harm. Harlow in his experiment deprived monkeys of maternal love which could be emotionally harmful if viewed in animal rights’ perspective. If monkeys do not totally depict human behavior, then the use of monkeys in an experiment should be minimized if not totally stopped. The study of the human behavior should rely on human personal experiences with the use of confiscated technologies and not harming them at the same time. However, if similar experiment is to be conducted in the present day, the use of high-tech observation tools and gadgets will surely minimize emotional harm and trauma to the subjects of an experiment.

Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment on humans to determine their obedience to authority. He posted an ad to a newspaper and when these people agreed to be Milgram’s subjects they also had to follow what he had to say. In his experiment it was noted that Milgram used only men as subjects. This may not be a representative sample of the population as Gary Sturt in his article said that “the sample was self-selecting. We must question whether or not Milgram had a representative sample, by using this study. Milgram chose to study only men, but from a variety of backgrounds and different ages. You might say that by using men this produced a sample that was biased, or did not reflect the general population. Men are thought to be more aggressive than women, so it would make sense to begin a series of experiments with them.” (Sturt) However, in later time he conducted another study with women and got the same result. There was also a question on the fact that the men were paid to be the subjects of the experiment and gives an idea that they are only obeying because they were paid for the experiment and the feeling that they cannot withdraw from the experiment because they did not have a choice could affect the outcome of the study. If a study is to be conducted today, the subjects must be informed properly of the experiment and their rights in undergoing it. An experiment must not violate some ethical guidelines such deceiving the subject, by not telling them about the real objective of the investigation. In this regards, an article on

“A Level of Psychology” states in its analysis of Milgram’s experiment that, “we would have to balance any criticisms with a consideration as to the necessity of deception. The main problem is one of demand characteristics, whereby if a subject knows the true purpose of an experiment, he might behave differently.”(Sturt). In this article, the author also presented the ethical considerations on Milgram’s work such as deception, protection of participants, consent, withdrawal from the investigation, and observation. And if another experiment is to be conducted today these ethical issues must be appropriately addressed so as to make the investigation flawless and can be indeed considered as the basis for further studies. The issue on deception can be addressed by informing the subjects on the real purpose of the investigation and their consent must be freely given to the point that they can withdraw anytime from the experiment if they want to. However, the same experiment can be done and resolved in the present day by utilizing the prisoners in penitentiary, correctional, and others including men and women as subjects of the experiment by using observation method. In this way, psychologist can obtain real life observations and knowledge relative to obedience to authority. Subjecting the prisoners in the study can be a good representative sample of the population considering the fact that they all acted in their own free will in disobeying authority.


  • ETHICAL PRINCIPLES OF PSYCHOLOGISTS AND CODE OF CONDUCT Effective date June 1, 2003.Copyright © 2002 American Psychological Association.
  • Harlow, Harry F., Monkey Love Experiments. The Adoption History Project.
  • Harlow, Harry F. The Nature of Love (1958)[1].University of Wisconsin Christopher D. Green ‘York University, Toronto, Ontario.ISSN 1492-3173 <>
  • Guidelines for Ethical Conduct in the Care and Use of Animals. APA Board of Scientific Affairs Committee on Animal Research and Ethics
  • Medical Research Modernization Committee. A Critique of Maternal Deprivation Experiment on Primates<>
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