The monster experiment

The monster experiment

Of all the cruel and heinous experiments that have happened throughout history, without a doubt the monster experiment or "Monster Study", carried out by pathologist Wendell Johnson was one of the worst, not only in ethics, but also in results.


  • 1 What was the "Monster Study"?
  • 2 What were its consequences in affected children
  • 3 What happened next?

What was the "Monster Study"?

In 1939, Johnson decided to drive a study about stuttering at early ages Because in the past he suffered from severe stuttering when he had been a child himself, he underwent a multitude of tests and studies at the University of Iowa to treat his condition.

Precisely for this reason, he decided to specialize in his studies in speech pathologies, being also encouraged by the rest of colleagues and colleagues to lead this controversial and not at all fruitful study.

To do this, he used a small group of innocent beings: nothing more and nothing less than Children 5 to 15 years of an orphanage close in Iowa. His basic argument for conducting this study was that stuttering was caused by feelings of anguish and nervousness when learning to speak.

Therefore, I wanted to test how some children who had no symptoms of stuttering, if they were externally influenced and pressured in such a way that they felt nervous when speaking, they would eventually end up suffering from stuttering.

On the other hand, I also wanted to demonstrate how other children who already looked like stuttering previously could cure their condition if they were spoken positively and encouraged to remain calm when speaking or preparing their speech.

For this, he had one of his most outstanding students, Mary Tudor. She was in charge of interview with all children for 45 minutes a day, everyday. The children were carefully selected, choosing 10 stutterers and 12 others who were not.

Thus, this experiment was carried out for five months until May 1939. And, in summary, it was definitely Stuttering children who did not suffer from it and healing those who did. Chilling, don't you think?

The methodology was actually very simple: Mary told them the children do not stutter that they were detecting a speech problem and that other stuttering children in the orphanage had begun to suffer stuttering like them.

He kept urging them to think very well before speaking to avoid mistakes and stutter hastily. With this, the children developed a feeling of nervousness, stress and guilt before they could begin to articulate any word.

Conversely, to children who did suffer from stuttering previously, Mary les He spoke very positively and encouraging them to speak, with the aim of empowering them to finally cure their stuttering completely.

However, the experiment was not as good as could be expected, so Mary decided to abandon it. Not so Wendell Jonhson, who was still obsessed with the same idea that stuttering could be cured and provoked with the same ease.

What were its consequences in affected children

As expected, an experiment with so little professionalism, rigor and ethics could not go well, much less children who, involuntarily and unfortunately, were the protagonists.

After a few sessions, children who were not stutterers began to show certain speech problems, feeling extremely nervous when they had to articulate word. In the end, they preferred to remain silent for fear of being wrong.

One of the most affected girls was Mary Korlaske. According to the letter he wrote by hand with countless spelling mistakes in his old age to Mary Tudor, we can already get an idea of ​​how serious the consequences were.

In it, Mary Korlaske reproaches her for disability, fears and blockages that said experiment produced in her. When she had never had speech problems in her childhood and they appeared as a result of the dubious study.

What happened next?

Without a doubt, the children of the orphanage were the worst unemployed in this history, especially those who had not previously shown any problem and spoke fluently, because they eventually destroyed their lives to a greater or lesser extent.

As for Wendell Johnson, he continued to receive awards and prizes throughout his career. In addition, he remained protected and away from the controversy by the rest of his colleagues, despite the resounding failure and lack of morals of his most famous study.

He was especially recognized and honored for his studies on the neurosemantic, writing several books about it. It was not until the beginning of the 21st century that the consequences of this heinous experiment came to light, compensating in 2007 some of the affected orphans with almost a million dollars.

In the end, the only thing that was demonstrated after this experiment is the great influence that we can exert in the little ones during their stages of learning, either for better or for worse. To what extent does it compensate to take these risks?


Reynolds, G. The Stuttering Doctor's' Monster Study. //

Dyer, Jim. Ethic and Orphans: 'The Monster Study. Mercury News Mercury news