THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE MONSTER STUDY 5
TheTransformation of the Monster Study
TheTransformation of the Monster Study
Theimportance of ethics cannot be gainsaid as far as enhancing thesafety of participants in any research is concerned. Indeed, thereare numerous guidelines pertaining to the manner in which subjects orparticipants in any experiment should be treated. This is especiallyin instances where the research uses human subjects. Unfortunately,there have been cases where researchers do not pay attention to theseguidelines, thereby endangering the lives of their human subjects.This was the case in a research project that came to be known as “TheMonster Study”.
Thename “The Monster Study” was given to a stuttering experimentthat was carried out on 22 orphan children in 1939 in Davenport, Iowaby a researcher called Wendell Johnson from University of Iowa.Wendell chose Mary Tudor, one of his graduate students to carry outthe experiment while he undertook the supervisory role (Gregory,2003).These children were put in experimental and control groups, afterwhich Mary gave half of them positive speech therapy by praising andcomplimenting their fluency of speech, while she offered negativespeech therapy to the remaining children by belittling them everytime they were unable to make a perfect speech. Of particular note isthe impact of this experiment or rather the methods used in theresearch on the children especially those who had to endure thenegative comments or speech therapy (Birchet al, 2002).A large number of the normal speaking orphan children who endured thenegative therapy in the study suffered devastating psychologicaleffects with some of them retaining the speech problems andimperfections for the rest of their lives. The name “Monster Study”was given by some of the researcher’s peers horrified at theprospects of an individual to carry out an experiment on orphans inan effort to prove a certain hypothesis.
Oneof the key ethical issues pertaining to the study revolves around theuse of human subjects in the experiment. Indeed, the use of orphansin the study without informing them or even their guardians that theywere taking part in the study was simply unethical (Birchet al, 2002).It is understandable, however, that the experiment was carried out ata time when there never existed strict regulations pertaining tohuman subjects. Indeed, scholars have noted that at the same time,the University of Iowa was carrying out a study where gunshot noisewould be used to determine the effects of startle on stutteringstudents (Gregory,2003).This raises the question on the absolute or relative nature of ethicsor rather, whether there should be consideration on the acceptablecontext, mindframe and standards at the time that the study iscarried out.
Second,there were ethical concerns pertaining to the settings in which thestudy was conducted. It is well noted that the experiment was done inan orphanage in which case it was unnecessary and impossible toobtain parental consent (Miller,2012).As much as the practice was common and often authorized by theauthorities, it is troubling to note that the investigators failed todisclose the real study objectives and even gave erroneousinformation to the staff.
Further,there were questions pertaining to the actions and behaviors of thirdparties in reporting the findings of the study. This is especiallythe release of personal information pertaining to nine identifiableparticipants irrespective of whether they had been granted permissionto identify them (Miller,2012).The participants may not even have been aware of the fact that therelease of this information allowed readers to access any personalinformation pertaining to them.
Therewere varied harmful effects on the subjects. First, it is well notedthat some of the children who, prior to the study, were notstuttering but were subjected to negative therapy when they mademistakes, permanently became stutters. In this regard, the study washarmful to the participant’s wellbeing (Birchet al, 2002).This may also have been the result of the lying done by theinvestigators. In addition, the fact that the researchers lied to thestaff about the essence of the study and the nature of the orphansput the children in danger.
Thestudy would have been carried out using animals rather than humanbeings. In this case, animals of the same species and with similarcharacter traits would be divided into two groups. Negative andpositive reinforcements would be used on the two groups so as todetermine the effects of either of the reinforcement on theirbehavior and nature. If human subjects were to be used, it would haveto be individuals who can comprehend the requirements of theexperiment (Miller,2012).In this regard, the subjects or their guardians would have tounderstand the requirements of the experiment and sign an “informedconsent form”. On the same note, other techniques would be used soas to prevent the harmful effects of the experiment on theparticipants (Birchet al, 2002).In this case, harsh language would be limited even when the subjectsmake a mistake. Instead, the researchers would withhold complimentsand give them only when the children perform exemplarily.
Gregory,I. (2003). Ethicsin research.London: Continuum.
Birch,M., Jessop, J., Mauthner, M., & Miller, T. (2002). Ethicsin qualitative research.London:SAGE.
Miller,T. (2012). Ethicsin qualitative research.London: SAGE.