Mary Cover Jones (September 1, 1896 - July 22, 1987) was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Within psychology, a scientific field dominated throughout much of the 20th century by male scientists, Mary Cover Jones stands out as a pioneer of behavior therapy.

Mary Cover Jones studied psychology at Vassar College, from which she graduated in 1919, after which she went on to work with noted behaviorist John Broadus Watson during the 1920s.

Her study of unconditioning a fear of rabbits, which she conducted at the Institute of Educational Research, Columbia University Teachers’ College on a three-year-old named Peter, is her most often cited work. Jones treated Peter’s fear of a white rabbit by “direct conditioning,” in which a pleasant stimulus (food) was associated with the rabbit. As the rabbit was gradually brought closer to him in the presence of his favorite food, Peter grew more tolerant, and was able to touch it without fear.

In the late 1920s Jones assumed a position as research associate at the Institute for Child Welfare at the University of California, Berkeley where she became involved in the longitudinal Oakland Growth Study (OGS). In 1952, Jones was appointed Assistant Professor of Education at Berkeley and in 1959, one year before her retirement, she became full professor. In 1968, Jones received the prestigious G. Stanley Hall Award from the American Psychological Association (APA).

Mary Cover Jones died in Santa Barbara, California on July 22, 1987.

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