“The grainy, black-and-white footage, filmed in 1919 and 1920, documents what has become a classic psychology experiment, described again and again in articles and books. The idea is that the baby [in the experiment] was conditioned to be afraid, instilled with a phobia of all things furry.
“The man in the tie is John Watson, the father of behaviorism, a foundational figure in psychology, a Johns Hopkins University researcher [whose] legacy is forever entwined with the baby nicknamed Little Albert.
“The real identity of that baby has long intrigued students of psychology. Who was he? What happened to him? Did Watson really saddle the poor kid with a lifelong terror of animals?…
“Watson burned his papers before his death, leaving the curious without much to go on. Then, in 2009, Hall Beck, a professor of psychology at Appalachian State University, published a paper that shed new light on the case….
“What [Beck and his fellow researchers] found cast an even darker shadow over Watson’s flawed, ethically dubious experiment. The history of psychology would need to be rewritten…. No one would be able to look at the film, or think about Little Albert, in quite the same way again.
“That is, unless Beck got it wrong….”