The Who, What, When and Where of the “Monster” Study


By Gina Vaci and Elizabeth Thorson


·   1939 at the Stuttering Research Program at the University of Iowa by Mary Tudor, and Wendell Johnson

·   Tudor conducted her study at an Iowa orphanage, and screened normally fluent children 

·   She chose six children who were normal speakers but were told that they stutter

·   Tudor’s hypothesis was that labeling a child’s normal speech as disfluent could emit stuttering


Controversial Issues of the Study

·   There are many ethical issues that have been discussed since the study was conducted 

·   Use of human subjects 

·   Setting of the study

·   Instructions to orphanage staff

·   Children unaware of study

·   Professionals still disagree on its efficacy today

                  --Franklin Silverman—believed study’s findings were strong                 

                  --Many researchers disagree after reexamination of the study


To Children:

           “The staff has come to the conclusion that you have a great deal of trouble with your speech.  The types of interruptions indicate stuttering.  You have many of the symptoms of a child who is beginning to stutter.  You must try to stop yourself immediately.  Use your will power.  Make up your mind that you are going to speak without a single interruption.  It’s absolutely necessary that you do this.  Do anything to keep from stuttering.  Try harder to speak fluently and evenly.  If you have interruptions, stop and begin again.  Take a deep breath whenever you feel like you are going to stutter. Don’t even speak unless you can do it right.  You can see how (name) stutters don’t you!  Well, he undoubtedly started the same way you are starting.  Watch your speech every minute and try to do something to improve it.  Whatever you do, speak fluently and avoid any interruptions whatsoever in your speech.”


To Staff:

           “The staff has come to the conclusion that these children show definite symptoms of stuttering.  The types of interruptions they are having very frequently turn into stuttering.  We have handled a number of cases very similar to these children.  You should impress upon them the value of good speech, and that in order to have good speech one has to speak fluently.  Watch their speech all the time very carefully and stop them when they have interruptions; stop them and have them say it over.  Don’t allow them to speak unless they can say it right.  They should be made very conscious of their speech, and also they should be given opportunities to talk so that their mistakes can be pointed out to them.  It is very important to watch for any changes in the child’s personality, in his attitude towards school work, and toward his playmates.”





                                      Results of the Study                                                                   

·   Reduced speech for all 6 subjects

·   Rate of speaking was decreased

·   Length of replies was shorter

·   They were more aware and embarrassed

·   They accepted the fact that there was something wrong with their speech

·   Every child reacted to his/her speech interruptions in some way (Silverman)


                  Tudor concluded that her findings supported the hypothesis that “evaluative labeling can influence behavior” (Tudor 1939).  A few months after Tudor left the orphanage, the orphanage contacted her to voice their concerns about the children’s speech.  She then returned to the orphanage, as she felt remorseful about the worsening of their speech, and attempted to use positive therapy to improve their speech.