Agreed in terms of not oversimplifying the “instincts=good/science or expertise=questionable”. Clay, you may already be familiar with Watson’s early and limited baby experiments, but in case not: the problem was that they weren’t examples of good science. But it’s always to criticize in the present, without remembering that pioneers didn’t have today’s standards, both for methods and for ethics, or the insights gleaned from many more decades of psychological research. Especially while he was still at Johns Hopkins, Watson was doing his best to lead psychology away from its philosophical foundations and into the experimental age. If he had stayed active in the field, instead of getting derailed by scandal and joining the world of advertising, he might have overturned his own earlier ideas and contributed much to the field. I question some of Watson’s theories and even more, his non-science-based parenting advice, developed for a popular audience. But I still respect his original aspirations. In ways not explained in my article — for example, his refusal to believe in race-based differences— he was ahead of his times.

Book coach and author of ANNIE AND THE WOLVES and four other novels, published in 11 languages.

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