10 Disturbing Child Experiments

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From underage electroshock therapy to teaching kids the wonders of violence, we count ten disturbing experiments that children were subjected to!

10 – Broken Toy Experiment,

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  • This experiment was devised by psychologists at the University of Iowa. Their aim was to better understand how young children experience guilt – because apparently that’s an important venture worth sinking money into.
  • In the experiment, an adult gave a toy to a child, explaining that it was very special and warning them to take care. As you’ve no doubt guessed, the rigged toy shattered into a hundred million pieces – (give or take) – when the kid laid their grubby paws on it.
  • Then, following the script, the adult said, ‘Oh my …’ and stared silently at the child for sixty excruciating seconds. Each kid was overcome with shame. They squirmed, looked away, hunched their shoulders, covered their faces and cried.
  • The experiment demonstrated the concept of time dilation, where time seems to pass more slowly because the observer is acutely observing it. It also equipped the children with the shame they’ll need to survive adulthood.

9 – Experimental Spinal Taps on Children,

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  • Lumbar punctures – often referred to as spinal taps – are often necessary procedures for treating neurological and spinal disorders. They involve sticking a giant needle into the patient’s spine and were once believed to be painless.
  • In 1896, paediatrician Arthur Wentworth decided to test this belief by performing unnecessary spinal taps on twenty-nine young children. Each patient winced in pain during the procedure, but Wentworth kept needing more proof.
  • He eventually concluded that, yes, lumbar punctures were painful. Who knew, right? His colleagues criticised the experiment, with one claiming it was ‘human vivisection’.
  • The children’s parents had no idea the experiment was taking place. When news of the experiment hit the public, Wentworth endured huge backlash and was forced to give up his Harvard Medical School teaching position.

8 – Little Albert Experiment,

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  • This famous experiment was conducted by behaviourist John B. Watson and graduate student Rosalie Raynor, and involved conditioning an eleven-month-old infant – “Albert” – to fear several safe stimuli … for some reason.
  • First, the researchers observed Albert’s reactions to a rat, rabbit, monkey, some masks, Santa Claus and some burning newspapers. When he showed no signs of fear, Watson began coupling the unveilings with loud noises caused by banging a hammer and metal pipe together.
  • Naturally, this caused the child to explode into a fit of snot, tears and general hysteria. The cruel and abrasive experiment was repeated so many times that Albert began to associate the sight of these objects with discomfort and cried immediately upon seeing them.
  • Unfortunately Little Albert passed away at age six from a condition called hydrocephalus, so the long-term effects of the experiment are a mystery.

7 – Shock Therapy and LSD Experiment,

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  • In the 1960s, Dr Lauretta Bender of New York’s Creedmoor Hospital began conducting electroshock therapy on kids with social issues. Somehow, she thought this barbaric practice would be revolutionary.
  • Her methods involved interviewing sensitive children in front of a large group, then applying light pressure to the child’s head. Any child who reacted to the pressure was thought to exhibit early signs of schizophrenia and scheduled for electroshock therapy. Foolproof …
  • Bender was apparently cruel and unsympathetic to the kids in her care and administered shock treatment to over a hundred children, the youngest of whom was just three years old.
  • Bender deemed the treatments successful because only a few children went into relapse. She also gave the children weekly adult-sized doses of LSD and the hallucinogen psilocybin – probably from her own personal stash.

6 – Hepatitis in Mentally Ill Children,

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  • In the 1950s, Willowbrook State School, a state-run institute for mentally handicapped children, reported outbreaks of hepatitis.
  • Because of unsanitary conditions, it was considered inevitable that these children would contract the disease, so Dr Saul Krugman came to investigate the outbreak. Hoping for a vaccine, he devised a controversial experiment that involved deliberately infecting the children with the disease.
  • Amazingly, each of the children’s parents agreed to this, and parents who were on this school’s waiting list sent in permission letters confirming they would be okay with a deliberate infection. Apparently offering your child to science was the only way to secure a spot at this overcrowded facility. It’s like the Harvard of mental institutions.

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