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The Monster Study

The ‘Monster Study’ was a psychological experiment conducted by Dr. Wendell Johnson and Mary Tudor on 22 orphan children in 1939.

Amidst the study’s extremely low ethical standards, its results were never published, for Johnson feared that it would be likened to numerous experiments carried out by the Nazi regime.

Dr. Johnson believed that repeatedly telling a child they were ‘a stutterer’ had the potential to give a completely healthy child a stutter.  22 young orphan children were recruited to partake in Johnson’s study. They were split into two groups: stutterers and non-stutterers. The 11 children who actually did have a stutter were told that they were perfectly healthy; whereas the remaining 11, who was stutter-free, were told that they needed severe speech therapy to correct their ‘stuttering’. Quite horrifically, Johnson was trying to induce stuttering into otherwise healthy children.

The stutter-free children were, in part, told: “The staff has come to the conclusion that you have a great deal of trouble with your speech… You must try to stop yourself immediately… Don’t ever speak unless you can do it right.”

And the stuttering children were told: “Pay no attention to what others say about your speaking ability, for undoubtedly they do not realize that this is only a phase.” 

In short: one-half of the children were given positive speech therapy, and the other half were belittled and punished for every small error they made.

What about the results? Of six healthy children exposed to negative speech therapy, five developed a stutter after six months of ‘treatment’. Upon realizing the damage his experiment had caused, Johnson tried desperately to undo his work… but to no avail. Children in the negative therapy group never escaped their problems, carrying to adulthood symptoms of depression and a severe lack of confidence (especially when talking). 

In 2007, seven of the original orphan children were awarded 1.2 million dollars in compensation for the emotional trauma caused by Johnson’s experiment. And it’s for this reason that the ‘Monster Study’ is still considered one of the most twisted experiments of all western culture—its blatant manipulation of the human condition was certainly not within the ethical boundaries of any respected scientific study.

 

Sources

https://www.spring.org.uk/2007/06/monster-study.php

https://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/16/magazine/the-stuttering-doctor-s-monster-study.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/monster-study-still-stings/

 

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