Friday, January 20, 2006

The Monster study

Have you read about the Monster study? Check out the wikipedia entry:

In 1939, a controversial study on the possibility of "creating a stutterer" was conducted by University of Iowa speech pathologist Wendell Johnson and his graduate student Mary Tudor. The study tried to create stutterers over the course of 4 months, using 22 unwitting orphans from the Soldiers and Sailors Orphans’ Home in Davenport, Iowa. Ethically acceptable at the time, it was designed to induce stuttering in normally fluent children and to test out Johnson's "diagnosogenic theory"—a theory suggesting that negative reactions to normal speech disfluencies cause stuttering in children. The study divided the orphans into 3 groups: 6 normally fluent orphans would be given negative evaluations and criticisms regarding their speech, another group of 5 orphans who allegedly already stuttered would also receive that treatment, and the remaining 11 would be treated neutrally. The study concluded that the children given negative evaluative labeling went on to develop persistent, permanent stutters. The study was influential at the time, with many speech pathologists and child-health and educational professionals accepting Johnson's theory. In 1988, Silverman first reported the results of this study in the Journal of Fluency Disorders and labeled it "The Monster Study." While the information was well known to professionals in the area of stuttering, it was not until 2001 when the information was distributed to the public in a newspaper article. In June 2001, the San Jose Mercury News revealed this study to the public for the first time, leading to widespread controversy and debate about scientific ethics. Soon after, University of Illinois professors Nicoline Ambrose and Ehud Yairi wrote a paper discrediting the 1939 study, revealing flaws in data collection and method, as well as pointing out that none of the orphans actually did develop a permanent stutter. While criticism of a developing child's speech can certainly make a present stutter worse, it does not create a stutter.
My comments in my next post!


Unknown said...

Yes, I read about this study sometime last year and was pretty shocked. Of course, this was before PC came along...during a time when animals could be tortured and the ends justified the means, mostly. Horrible.

Even though they say it didn't create a permanent stutter...I wouldn't be surprised if it had.

Anonymous said...

Whats strange is i stutter, and i was looking at that exact page on Wikipedia last night also, i figure around 1am EST.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

The New York Times Magazine published a large article on the Monster Study in their March 16, 2003 issue. I think you should check it out.

Von said...

Trust you are not suggesting that
because there was no measurable permanent damage the experiment was ethical and ok to perform on orphans?