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'Ethics: A case study from fluency', R. Goldfarb (Ed.)

Pete Howell | 01.06.2006

Book review by Pete Howell, Professor of experimental psychology, University College London.

Cover: 'Ethics: A Case Study From Fluency'Mary Tudor did her masters research under the supervision of Wendell Johnson in 1939. Johnson was one of the founding fathers of speech pathology in the US and author of the diagnosogenic theory of stuttering. This theory maintains that stuttering is a result of the misdiagnosis by the parent of their child's speech. The parent communicates the anxiety about speech to the child, which accelerates the problem and ultimately results in stuttering. From this point of view, stuttering is a learned response. Consequently, it should be possible to train a fluent child to become a stutterer. This was the hypothesis that Mary Tudor tested. She used children from an orphanage.

The study was never published, though we learn in this book that Wendell Johnson spoke to his students (Bloodstein and Perkins) about it. Allegedly, a newspaper reporter consulted the thesis, contacted Tudor and some of the participants who were still living and spoke to other academics (Yairi). The outcome was a newspaper report which received national exposure in the US. The study itself is now referred to as the 'monster study'.

This book documents the background to these issues and the events that followed after the expose that eventually culminated in the 'resignation' of James Dyer from the San Jose Mercury News in 2001. In this book general ethical issues, as well as issues about this particular study, are discussed.

The Tudor study is very old and emanated from a different culture to the UK. For these reasons, I approached reading it with some scepticism. I was surprised, then, to find this a stimulating read with much relevance for contemporary approaches to research in the UK.

'Ethics: A case study from fluency', R. Goldfarb (Ed.), Plural Publishing, pp 216

From the Summer 2006 issue of 'Speaking Out', page 22