In 1920, when she graduated from Vassar College with a degree in psychology, Rosalie Rayner took a coveted position at the Johns Hopkins research lab to assist charismatic John B. Watson, the man who pioneered behaviorist psychology. Together, Watson and Rayner conducted experiments on hundreds of babies to prove behaviorist principles of nurture over nature. One such experiment was the incredibly controversial “Little Albert” study, which which they fear-conditioned an infant.
Watson and Rayner also embarked on a scandalous affair that cost them both their jobs. The Watsons’ parenting book, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, which emphasized emotional detachment, was a bestseller and affected the upbringings of generations of American children—but Rosalie, now a mother herself, had to confront its tenets personally. Check out the trailer for this fascinating book below.