Here There Be “Monsters”

You are an orphan…nobody loves you, right? That’s what the team of students and researchers believed when they started one of the most infamous studies in the history of the United States. Plucked from their orphanage, the children were only told they would be used for the benefit of society, and they should be excited of the “therapy” they are about to receive. In 1939, at the University of Iowa, under the careful eye of Dr. Wendell Johnson, the Monster Study was born.


The “Monster Study” as it was so dubbed, was an experiment on 22 orphans to study the cause and effects of stuttering. 10 were chosen specifically because they were stutterers, 12 had otherwise healthy and normal speech patterns. These 22 orphans were split into 2 groups at random (unless they were related, then they were split into opposing groups), but each group did have 5 stutterers. Group one received positive messages and were told their speech was going to improve. The other group, were reprimanded and told they may never get over their affliction; remember that some in this group were normal speakers with no stuttering problems.

Dr. Wendell Johnson: “Stuttering begins, not in the child’s mouth but in the parent’s ear”

The results of the study was disastrous to the orphanage and to the medical community’s reputation.  Not only was it discovered that they had deceived the children about the study taking place, but the ones who received negative feedback never recovered from the trauma and most were stutters (even if the hadn’t been before hand) until the end of their lives.

The sad thing is, these type of experiments are still around today. This idea of human experimentation is usually done on those with nobody. Orphans, The poor, Minorities…these are the people being targeted by these studies. The are hidden under the veil of “The Greater Good” but what is that? There are many examples of horrific human experimentation done, sometimes by the most prestigious universities.


Yale University: 1961. Psychologist, and genuine asshole, Stanley Milgram separates 3 people. One is the “experimenter”, the one running the whole experiment; the other two draw 2 cards, both say teacher. Here’s the catch, one of the remaining two is an actor who pretends to receive the “Learner” card (in the Diagram above they are called the student).
Here is how the test works:

The teacher and learner are placed in separate rooms. The ‘learner’ is to be given a series of word pairs by the ‘teacher’. For every wrong answer, the ‘teacher’ is supposed to shock the ‘learner’ at increasing voltages for every answer they get wrong. What the ‘teacher’ does not know is that the ‘learner’ is an actor and receives no shocks at all. The question Milgram wanted to answer is, how high of a voltage would the ‘teachers’ be willing to go if they do not personally know their subject. While the experiment was taking place, the ‘teachers’ were coaxed by the experimenters to continue the study  and under no circumstances were they to stop unless otherwise instructed. The ‘learners’ were often instructed to inform the ‘teachers’ that they have a heart condition, to try and sway the ‘teachers’ favor. Milgram surmised that very few of the teachers would induce the maximum voltage on their subject…but was elated to discover that he was wrong. Over 65% of the ‘teachers’ went all the way up to 450 volts of electricity, simply because they were coaxed by the Experimenter, and had little to no interaction with their ‘learner’ other than giving them their test words. How was this experiment ethical? They lied to the ‘teachers’ about what was being studied, and they were verbally coaxed into intentionally harming another human being.

These types of psychological/medical studies are still being done today. The statement that always seems to arise from these situations is that “It’s for the Greater Good.”  The ‘Monster Study’ that I described in the original did put down concrete evidence that stuttering was a mental disorder not necessarily a physical disorder. The questions that you, and the medical field as a whole, has to answer is….is it worth it to greatly harm a few, in order to potentially help the many? You decide, but beware…one day, the test subject might be you.

-Matthew J. Schiesl-


4 thoughts on “Here There Be “Monsters”

  1. Your post brings up several interesting points. In particular, the fact that these children were essentially experimented on without proper knowledge of the situation, and gave no real consent to do so are two very disturbing realities exposed by this experiment. It is harsh to think about how people who are conducting the studies abuse their power against unknowing “victims”. Another important point you brought up was the types of people who researchers seem to be targeting: minorities, low income households, etc… Unfortunately it seems as though they are preying on the week and vulnerable, which clearly is an abuse of power. Good post!

    -Drew Sliger


  2. I like different experiments but when using humans, especially children who do not have their medical background, we begin to have a lot of confounding variables. These studies are interesting in the fact that the experimenters are almost using their power and knowledge for the bad and not expressing their intentions to the subjects being used.
    -Alli Stamper


  3. Well this took my day to a dark turn. I can’t believe they experimented on orphans over stuttering, seems a bit over kill. And the teachers that went all the way in “shocking” people. Why? What did they have to gain that they “would” do that without a second thought?

    Danny Wells


  4. It is a sad day in our history when we have to admit that we were experimenting on children, let alone orphans! Human experimentation brings up so many topics and arguments. Using children just because of their medical history is just ethically wrong in every way.

    -Matthew Wurzelbacher


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