The Conditioning of Pearl

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Emotion Pages: 4 (1339 words) Published: January 26, 2014
While growing up in a stable environment, children are often exposed to influences which gradually change their behavior and their way of thinking. This is known as conditioning and was a concept that explained how children can be influenced to act a certain way around stimuli, such as a person or object. John B. Watson originally founded the idea of behaviorism and conditioning. His ideas explained how people act in certain situations and what events may have influenced a person to act in that way. In The Scarlet Letter, conditioning is a key element in many parts of the story. Hester’s reactions to different characters influence her daughter, Pearl, to act in similar ways around each character. Hawthorne's character Pearl shows evidence of being conditioned to react to various stimuli, such as her mother's scarlet letter, a key characteristic of John B. Watson's theory of behaviorism and conditioning. John B. Watson’s theory of behaviorism and conditioning explains how humans learn to react in certain ways when presented with various stimuli, often learning by watching the reactions of other people around them. This is especially evident in younger children, as they are more easily influenced into thinking in a certain way. In 1920, Watson published his work on one of his experiments known as the “Little Albert” study. This study was intended to demonstrate how conditioning can affect a person’s reactions to various stimuli, in this case, a white rat. Watson was able to condition fear of a white rat into a child by using a loud clanging sound whenever a white rat was presented to the boy. Eventually, this caused the child to react in fear and begin crying whenever he saw a white, furry object (muskingum). This shows how a human mind can be conditioned into reacting a certain way when exposed to stimuli. Watson’s early theories explain how children have three main emotional responses: fear, anger, and love. However, these responses can be manipulated through the...
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