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The Monster Study
Transcript of The Monster Study
Beginning of testing
THE MONSTER STUDY
PROJECT BY: Elizabeth Wilson
Wendell Johnson thought that negative reinforcement had the ability to induce stuttering based on his own struggle with a violent stutter. Johnson then came up with a hypothesis that if a child had negative reinforcement towards their speech it would make them develop a stutter.
In the fall of 1938, Johnson decided that he was finally ready to test his hypothesis. So, Johnson recruited one of his clinical psychology graduate students, Mary Tudor, to conduct the experiment.
In January of the following year, Mary Tudor began the experiment, that would serve as her master's thesis, in an Iowa orphanage that would become known as the ethical nightmare nicknamed "The Monster Study".
Mary Tudor and her colleagues (other graduate students as well as staff from the orphanage) chose 22 children from ages 5-15 from the orphanage. Ten of these children had been marked as stutterers by teachers/matrons before the study began. Mary first tested each child’s handedness and their I.Q. Since there was a theory that stuttering was caused by a cerebral imbalance at the time, Johnson instructed Tudor to test the correlation between handedness and speech within the group. Tudor found that
there was no correlation in the subject
group, so she continued with the study.
Tudor had to conduct the experiment with the goal of not only testing if stammering could be induced in children, but also testing if positive reinforcement could reduce a stammer. The children were initially split into two categories, stutterers (10) and non-stutterers (12). Tudor, along with five other graduate students, served as judges who listened to the children’s speech and graded them on a scale from
1 (poor) to 5 (fluent).
All six children in both control groups had stutters develop, worsen, and some children would cease speaking altogether.
The ten children who had a stutter were divided into two groups. Half were assigned to the experimental set, group 1A. They were given positive reinforcement such as “You do not stutter, your speech is fine.” The other half was assigned to group 1B, the control group. They were told “Your speech is as bad as people say.” and this was reinforced frequently.
The remaining twelve children were randomly chosen from the children who spoke regularly. Again, half were assigned to an experimental group, group 2A. They were told that they were showing signs of a stutter and this thought was constantly reinforced. The others were put into a control group, group 2B. This group of normal speakers were praised for their diction and enunciation.
Some of the children grew up and reported that the study ruined their lives. It had caused them severe distress in relationships as well as day-to-day activities.
Even Mary herself did not go untouched by the study. She visited the orphanage three more times after the official end of the experiment to provide voluntary follow-up care.
Dyer, Jim. "Ethics and Orphans: The `Monster Study'" Stanford EDU. Mercury News, 10 June 2001. Web. 13 May 2015.
Keen, Judy. "Legal Battle Ends over Stuttering Experiment." USA Today. USA Today, 27 Aug. 2007. Web. 14 May 2015. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-08-26-stuttering_N.htm>.
Reynolds, Gretchen. "The Stuttering Doctor's 'Monster Study'" The New York Times. The New York Times, 15 Mar. 2003. Web. 13 May 2015.
The University of Iowa issued a public apology in 2001. A lawsuit (Nixon et al. vs. State of Iowa) from the participants and their heirs against the state of Iowa concluded in August 2007 after a four year lawsuit. Three women and the estates of three others (deceased) shared a $925,000 settlement from the state.
Iowa Soldiers and Sailors Orphans' Home
in Davenport, Iowa
January 17, 1939 - Late May, 1939
Wendell Johnson grew up in Roxbury, Kansas before attending college at the University of Iowa in 1926 to study English. Johnson was very interested in writing because of his speech impediment that he had developed when he was about 5 or 6. Johnson attributed his stutter to a teacher mentioning to his parents that he was developing a stutter. He then became obsessed with his speech, he self-consciously began repeating sounds and his voice grew hesitant. Since a lot of experiments surrounding speech pathology were taking place at the University of Iowa when Johnson arrived, Johnson threw himself into the work and switched his major to psychology for his master's degree.