Sunday, April 10, 2016

Behave: a story of an unsung pioneer in behavioral psychology

Behave by Andromeda Romano-Lax is a fictionalized story of an unsung figure in early American psychological fields, Rosalie Rayner Watson. She was a part of the famous and controversial “Little Albert” study at John Hopkins by Dr. John B. Watson.

The story opens with Rosalie as a student at Vassar College 1916 where she is taking classes from Dr. Margaret Washburn, the first female to receive a Ph.D. in psychology. In 1919, she attends a lecture where she would meet Dr. Watson which would lead her on a path to working with him at John Hopkins. She becomes a part of his study on babies in early environment and basic emotions: fear, rage, love. Soon, the attraction between the two is evident. Their love affair would lead to scandal and their marriage would lead to some of his greatest successes. As they married and had children, would she agree with his psychological theories and parenting style?

When I started this book, I didn’t recognize the names until I got to the part of the little Albert study. I realized that the name John b. Watson sounded awfully familiar. I stopped reading briefly to look up the name and, of course, it’s familiar. As a psychology student who studied early childhood development, the Little Albert study was covered prominently. Then I returned to the book with eagerness. Eager to learn more about the woman who helped in the study, who would become his wife and the life she would lead. It was interesting to see more, albeit fictionalized, version of some of the pioneers in American psychology. It is an excellent view into the life of a woman who, even in life, remains in the shadows of the psychology field but whose contributions are still studied today. I highly recommend Behave