Harris, B. (in press). Editors, Referees and Gatekeepers in the Dispute over Little Albert, 2009-2014.

Academic Article


  • In this article I examine the rise and fall of recent claims about the identity of John B. Watson and Rosalie Rayner’s subject “Albert B.” Using medical records from 1919-1920 and close readings of published work, I argue that articles by Beck, Fridlund et. al. were based on questionable logic and selective reporting of data to support the authors’ hypotheses. Using unpublished correspondence and editorial exchanges I offer a backstage look at the process by which problematic scholarship was published and then contradicted by new research. In publicizing the case against Fridlund et. al. (2012), textbook authors and journalists played a more constructive role than critics of popularization might expect. Rather than a simple case of truth winning over falsehood, this seems to have been a clash of rhetorical styles and sources of authority. That clash complicated the process of peer review, which became a negotiation over conflicting criteria from different disciplines.
  • Publication Date

  • October 2, 2018
  • Published In


  • History of Psychology; John B. Watson; Little Albert; Historiography; Peer Review.