Genie, as she was later dubbed to protect her privacy by the psycholinguists who tested her, could not stand erect.
Genie, as she was later dubbed to protect her privacy by the psycholinguists who tested her, could not stand erect.At the time, she was unable to speak: she could only whimper.She has inspired a California researcher who worked with her, Susan Curtiss, to develop a controversial hypothesis about how language learning affects the two hemispheres of the brain.
When Curtiss started working with Genie, she began by simply spending time with her or taking her to visit places, in order to establish a relationship.
She took Genie to the supermarket, where Genie walked around the store and examined the meats and the plastic containers with some curiosity.
Nor did they know how to evaluate whatever language she had: to what degree did it deviate from the standard pattern? Fromkin, a UCLA psycholinguist, to study Genies language abilities.
Fromkin brought along a graduate student, Susan Curtiss (now an assistant professor of linguistics at UCLA), who became so fascinated by Genie that she devoted much of the next seven years of her life to researching the girls linguistic development. Although she had learned to walk with a jerky motion and became more or less toilet trained during her first seven months at Childrens Hospital, Genie still had many disconcerting habits.
From the age of 20 months, when her family moved into her grandmothers house, until she was 13 and a half, Genie lived in nearly total isolation. At night, when she was not forgotten, she was put into a sort of straitjacket and caged in a crib that had wire-mesh sides and an overhead cover. When Genie arrived in Childrens Hospital in November 1970, she was a pitiful, malformed, incontinent, unsocialized, and severely malnourished creature. She salivated a great deal and spent much of her time spitting. Various physicians, psychologists, and therapists were brought in to examine her during those first months.
Curtiss book and newspaper reports describe Genies life at the time: naked and restrained by a harness that her father had fashioned, she was left to sit on her potty seat day after day. Although she was beginning to show signs of pubescence, she weighed only 59 pounds. Shortly after Genie was admitted as a patient, she was given the Vineland Social Maturity Scale and the Preschool Attainment Record, on which she scored as low as normal one-year-olds.Although the boy was not deaf, and despite Itards work, the child never learned to speak.In 1970, a wild child was found in California: a girl of 13 who had been isolated in a small room and had not been spoken to by her parents since infancy.She salivated and spat constantly, so much so that her body and clothing were filled with spit and reeked of a foul odor, as Curtiss recounts.When excited or agitated, she urinated, leaving her companion to deal with the results. Nevertheless, Genie was decidedly human, and her delight at discovering the worldas well as her obvious progressmade the struggle worthwhile.Its a terribly important case, says Harlan Lane, a psycholinguist at Northeastern University who wrote The Wild Boy of Aveyron.Since our morality doesnt allow us to conduct deprivation experiments with human beings, these unfortunate people are all we have to go on.Since the book was published in 1977, additional studies have brought into focus some of the issues raised by Genies case.Far from settling any scientific controversies, she has provided fresh ammunition for arguments on both sides of a major issue: is there a critical period in a childs development during which, if language acquisition is not stimulated or encouraged, it may be impaired later on or not emerge at all?The social worker in the welfare office took one look at Genie and called her supervisor, who called the police.Genie was sent to the Los Angeles Childrens Hospital for tests.