Ep 223: Little Albert’s Real Identity – Time to Rewrite the Textbooks

[This] dispute … has been settled to the satisfaction of all neutral observers from journal editors to manuscript reviewers to … textbook authors who have seen our articles. The argument is settled…..I would turn to the question of why it took the field of psychology 5+ years to get this sorted out.”

What was the name of that baby in John Watson‘s famous videos in which he attempts to demonstrate that fears can be acquired through conditioning (pairing a loud noise with a furry animal)? A few years ago we were presented with information indicating that a boy named Douglas Merrite was the true identity of “Little Albert“. The data looked pretty convincing at that time. However, a few pieces of that data simply did not fit together for researchers Nancy Digdon, Russell Powell and Ben Harris.
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Ep 215: What Was Life Like in an Asylum?

asylum1Ever wondered what it was like to be a patient in an “insane asylum”? “Asylums” changed names over the years (including “State Hospital” and “Psychiatric Center”) and so did the treatment of the mentally ill. Hear from Dr. Jennifer Bazar how we went from chaining people up to hydrotherapy to sexual surgery and finally to what is called “moral treatment“. A fascinating walk down the history of psychology with an engaging psychology historian.
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Ep 191: What Was B. F. Skinner Really Like?

Would you be surprised to learn that B.F. Skinner was a very likable guy and that you may actually be very much in agreement with his ideas? Many people who study psychology have a negative impression of Skinner. Well, I’m about to challenge those impressions by presenting a side of Skinner you probably haven’t been exposed to. In these sound bytes you’ll hear his ideas about learning to play music, about discovery, having fun and becoming the most that you can be.
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Ep 173: An Interactive Neuron and Map Using ThingLink


Every once in a while a really cool tool comes along and I like to show everyone the fun I had with it. In this video episode I show how I easily made an interactive image of a neuron and an interactive map containing videos and locations for some of the major studies in psychology. Do you know where, for example, “Bobo doll” study was done? How about the spot where “Marion Keech” received her message from the alien race called the “Clarion” which revealed the inner workings of cognitive dissonance? Find out how to make your own fun and easy interactive image in this episode of The Psych Files.
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Episode 134: Hypnosis – Myth and Reality

What do you think of hypnosis? Might you be surprised to hear that hypnosis has been accepted by the American Psychological Association? And that there is recent research that strongly supports the so-called trance stare? Hypnosis has a fascinating and controversial history but today it deserves some respect. Still, it’s not a cure-all. Take a trip with me through the history of this fascinating topic on The Psych Files.

It is clear that the main interest of film and television is in hypnosis as absolutecontrol over others. This obviously plays to popular fears and fantasies…[the purpose of film] is to entertain and it’s not entirely realistic on any subject. But the distortion andvilification of hypnosis go far beyond that of other psychological phenomena…In trying to discourage false beliefs about hypnosis — discounting stage hypnosis, past life and alien abduction phenomena — we may, at times, veer too far toward making hypnosis sound boring. Information on actual dramatic developments within the field and descriptions of how enjoyable and fascinating the experience of hypnosis can be may be more effective at combating false images than is relentless debunking. – Dierdre Barrett, Hypnosis in Film and Television (2006)

Resources on Hypnosis

Episode 127 (video): Phrenology: Maybe They Were On To Something


Everyone can picture one of those phrenology heads with personality traits drawn into different sections of the cranium (you’ll find a bunch of them on this phrenology site). Was there anything to that? Well, not exactly. However, with the use of MRI scans researchers today may have located about where certain personality traits lie in your brain. Travel with me into a 3D brain and let’s find out where your personality may lie.

The Big Five Personality Traits

One of the most popular theories of personality is the so-called Big Five personality traits. Here is a list of those traits along with what we know as to where they may reside in your brain.

  • Openness – dorsolateral PFC, anterior PFC, anterior parietal cortex (research was inconclusive on this personality factor)
  • Conscientiousness – Lateral Profrontal Cortex
  • Extraversion – Orbitofrontal Cortex, Nucleus Accumbens, Amygdala
  • Agreeableness – superior temporal sulcus, posterior cingulate cortex
  • Neuroticism – Medial prefrontal cortex, Amygdala, Hippocampus


Episode 114: Finding Little Albert

This episode of the podcast – first published in Jan of 2010 – summarized the article which details the efforts of researchers to determine the identity of the so-called “Little Albert”:

Beck, H. P., Levinson, S., & Irons, G. (2009). Finding Little Albert: A Journey to John B. Watson’s Infant Laboratory. American Psychologist, 64, 605-614.

However, more recent research conducted by Digdon, Powell and Harris cast serious doubt on the conclusions of Beck et. al and instead point to a boy named William Albert Barger as the boy known as Little Albert.

Please see this episode: Little Albert’s Real Identity: Time to Rewrite the Textbooks for the latest info on Little Albert.

More information on the myths and truths of the famous Little Albert Study can be found in episode 47.

Episode 83: New Year’s Resolutions to Lose Weight: Why So Hard To Keep?


Why is it so hard to keep our new year’s resolutions to lose weight? I explore this question in this episode in which I also take a tour through the various schools of psychology and show how each one would explain why you have trouble keeping your promise to yourself to lose weight (or stay out of debt, or stop smoking).

  • Concept Map – In t his video I refer to the concept mapping program as “MeadMap”. Well, the company “CoMapping” purchased MeadMap. However, the program still looks and runs the same. You’ll see the map below, but you can see it full size by clicking here: Losing Weight and the Schools of Psychology. In addition, feel free to contact me (click on the Contact Michael page to the left) if you would like me to send you a copy of the map which you can import into a MeadMap account and alter it any way you wish.


If you’re old, don’t try to change yourself, change your environment – B.F. Skinner

If you can’t change something, then change the way you think about it – Maya Angelou’s mother

Episode 71: Horse Sense or Nonsense? Clever Hans is Alive and Well

Can horses be used for corporate training or is this nonsense? If you listened to the NPR piece called, “Horse Sense: New Breed Of Executive Training” you might have had the same reaction I did: sounds a little “fishy”. Find out why “Clever Hans” just might be alive and well in the field of management training. You’ll also see some very subtle operant conditioning at work here. Here’s a recent article from the Telegraph – it looks like “Clever Hans” has been reincarnated – this time as a dog: Chinese dog is ‘maths genius,’ according to owner. Watch how the owner changes bodily position (or head position) when the dog reaches the right answer.

Resources for this Episode

Thank you to the following for permission to use their comments:

  • Dr. Debra Briihl, Dept. of Psychology and Counseling, Valdosta State University
  • Dr. Dennis Goff, Chair, Department of Psychology, Randolph College
  • Melissa R. Shyan-Norwalt, PhD, CAAB, Companion Animal Problem Solvers, Inc.
  • Dr. Gerald L. Peterson, Professor of Psychology, Saginaw Valley State University
  • Dr. Carol Devolder, St. Ambrose University

Clever Hans

Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels of Training Evaluation


Episode 70: Coincidence or Synchronicity? You Be The Judge

Have you heard that president Abraham Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy and president John F. Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln? In this episode of The Psych Files we explore strange coincidences like this one and we also examine Carl Jung's concept of Synchronicity. Does it mean that everything happens for a reason – or is the idea more complex than that? Let’s find out. Oh and by the way – turns out Lincoln never had a secretary named Kennedy. Don’t believe me? Find out more in this episode of The Psych Files.

  • Correction: I said in the podcast that it would take only a group of 23 people for you to find someone with your birthday. This is incorrect. Thanks to Doug and Leen for emailing me to remind me that I should have said that it would take only 23 people to find two people in the group who had the same birthday. (Note: this has been corrected in the audio as of 9/11/08)

Resources for this Episode

  • The place to go to examine all sorts of urban myths and to check your facts is a website called Snopes. Here is the link to their page about the Lincoln and Kennedy coincidences. Check it out. Very neat site.
  • Leavy, J. (1992). Our Spooky Presidential Coincidences Contest. The Skeptical Inquirer, 16 (3), 316-320.
  • Martin, B. (1998). Coincidences: Remarkable or Random? The Skeptical Inquirer, 22 (5), 23-27.
  • Carr, N. (2008). Is Google making us stoopid? The Atlantic, July/August.
  • More information about Carl Jung can be found in the journal Quadrant.
  • You can learn more about Carl Jung and the concept of synchronicity on the Carl Jung Resources site.
  • Doug Drinen, a Psych Files listener, sports fan and mathematician, hosts a football blog called Pro Football Reference and in one post he takes a look at the odd number of occurrences of Friday the 13 among football players in 2006. Check it out – very eerie (or just chance).

Similarities Between John McCain and Barack Obama:

  1. They were both born in the month of August
  2. Obama was born on August 4th and McCain on August 29 – 25 days apart
  3. Obama was born in 1961 and McCain on August 29 – 25 years apart
  4. McCain announced his presidency on April 25th of 2007
  5. Time magazine named McCain as one of the “25 Most Influential People in America”
  6. John McCain, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden were named after their fathers and Sarah Palin was named after her mother
  7. Obama wrote a book called Dreams from My Father
  8. McCain wrote a book called Faith of My Fathers
  9. Both Obama’s father and McCain’s father served in World War II.
  10. Barack’s VP candidate’s last name is Biden, McCain’s VP candidate’s last name is Palin. Both of these names have 5 letters and these names rhyme.
  11. Both Obama and McCain have two daughters (of course, McCain also has two sons, but we don’t have to mention that do we?).