Iowa Soldier's and Orphan's Home

"What’s the most important thing for others to know about your stutter?"

"I want people to know that what I’m saying fluently isn’t more important than what I say with a stutter."

Willemijn in Life with a Stutter and Social Anxiety.


Welcome back to today’s episode. In that introduction, you heard a short intro by Special Books by Special Kids. The video was titled Life with a Stutter and Social Anxiety.

What does it mean to stutter?

According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, to stutter means to speak with involuntary disruption or blocking of speech, as by repetition or prolongation of vocal sounds. For example, a stutterer might repeat syllables, for example, ta ta table, instead of simply saying table. Or perhaps add interjections uhs and ums or pauses more frequently. We also use the term stammer in English to mean the same thing as stutter. She stammers, he stutters. Potato, potato. They’re the same thing.

Now, you clicked on this episode today, probably thinking that you might learn about monsters. Let me be up front, there are no goblins, boogey monsters or big feet – Big foot, big feet – in this episode. What I’ll share with you today is an unethical psychology experiment on orphans called the Tudor study. Now it’s called the Monster Study. And it was designed to discover the long-term effect of positive and negative feedback on an individual’s language development. It was dubbed the Monster Study after its completion because of how cruel it was to those involved.

The Monster Study - Wendell Johnson
Portrait by Cloy Kent of (Wendell Johnson and boy)

Don’t worry, nobody is going to die in this episode. However, you will learn about the individuals who created this experiment, how this experiment was conducted, and the misconduct in it, and what can be deduced based on this experiment’s conclusions.


1% of the U.S. population stutters. That’s about 3 million people. It’s about 3 to 4 times more common in males than in females. And according to the National Institute of Health, stuttering is common among 5 to 10% of children. It’s a natural part of language development. Some theories say that it’s actually the brain working faster than the mouth.

In any case, the majority of children grow out of stuttering. Now that 1% of children do not.

Wendell Johnson, a psychologist that we’re going to learn about, was part of the 1% who did not grow out of stuttering. And he was the helper, the supervisor of the Monster Study. We’ll begin with his story, because it’s essential in understanding how this study was created.

To obtain the rest of the transcript as well as the quiz and Mp3 for this episode, be sure to sign up to Season 3 or All Premium Content below.

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Image by Gretchen Reynolds