Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment Coursework

Exploring Genie case that attracted attention in 1970, the scientists found and opportunity to test the unique situation. A girl who was imprisoned in a home by her father was not able to interact with the world. Due to enormous specific and significance, Genie case gave the possibility to make a research. However, this situation has raised “serious questions about the validity and ethics” (Jones, 1995, p. 261).

We will write a custom Coursework on Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment specifically for you for only $11.00 $9.35/page

807 certified writers online

Genie case can be considered as an ethical dilemma, where, from one point of view, the scientist can investigate the important issues of the human nature, but, from another side, the scientific approach seems inhuman and doubtful. As the scientists explore the problem of human communication, interaction and learning process, they found this situation as a natural experiment.

According to the Belmont Report that describes the basic ethical principles for research, it is highly important to respect the personal rights. The person who is an object of investigation should have the freedom of choice. In case of the person with diminished autonomy, there must be provided protection. All information about the research should be provided in order to follow the respect of person (“The Belmont Report”, 1979).

The research must do not harm an object and benefit as much as possible. In case of Genie, we can conclude that the girl could not get the information about the research and her autonomy was not protected. It was the experiment on human nature where the respect of person was neglected in order to get the scientific results. Beneficence as one of the basic issues of the Belmont report was not provided.

Obviously, Genie as an object of the research did not get any benefits. The Nuremberg Code emphasizes an importance of the voluntary consent. In case of Genie, this code was not considered.

Genie did not provide an affirmative decision. Exhausted by testing girl did not get any benefits from the experiment. Moreover, an object of this experiment was a girl, not an adult person. As the result, when the scientists received the information, they stopped the experiment and leaved girl.

The Milgram study provided another type of the research. The purpose of this work was the exploration of human reaction on a force by an authoritative person. The object of this experiment had to obey in spite of one’s own moral principle and desires. This method was considered as antihuman and similar to the Nazi’s experiments. Three basic codes of the Belmont report were neglected.

It is a lack of the respect for persons, when the person cannot choose the way of behavior and forced to perform the commands. Obviously, in this situation, we cannot talk about the beneficence. The main idea of the experiment consists in the physical and even moral injury of the object. The results of the experiment cannot be considered as a vital truth due to its harmful nature, emotional distress and conflict.

For Milgram, the exploration was not completely unethical. Although the objects were put at risk, the scientist did not mention it as the basic idea. Such experiment was new; therefore, it was difficult to predict the possible consequences. Despite of the doubtful methods, conclusions of the experiment have been praised by many scientists.

However, the statement that the basement of Holocaust, as well as the Milgram experiment, was a will to obey the authorities seems absolutely inhumane. According, to the Belmont Report, the scientific research should provide the benefits for each person such as an equal share, respect of the individual needs, efforts and social contribution (1979).

Nevertheless, in spite of Genie case, the participants of the Milgram experiment were volunteers. But, trying to prevent the persons from leaving, Milgram placed them in a stressful situation. This part can be considered as a violation.

According to the Nuremberg Code, “the experiment should be such as to yield fruitful results for the good of society, unprocurable by other methods or means of study, and not random and unnecessary in nature” (“The Nuremberg Code”, 1947). Moreover, the Code says that all the participants should be free to stop the experiment. Those parts of the Code apply to such experiments as the Milgram.

In case of the Milgram experiment we can find the nonobservance of those statements. The Belmont Report, as well as the Nuremberg Code, indicates an importance of the personal freedom within the research. The principle of justice as a fairness distribution is also applies to such experiments as the Milgram, emphasizing an importance of the equal treatment of all participants of the experiment.

Informed Consent also indicates the necessity of the equal treatment and the importance of protection of mentally and physically ill people. The consent of the experiment was not informed. Thus, the participants agreed to take part in the learning program, not the obedience.

An adequate protection was not provided; thereby, some of the participants demonstrated symptoms of a nervous breakdown. Another important issue of the Informed Consent is that everyone should be informed about the recording. In case of the Milgram experiment, the subjects were filmed without consent.

The ethical issues involving research participants include the protection, Informed Consent, privacy and confidentiality (Neuman, 2012, pp. 55-64). Exploring the implication of the privacy and confidentiality within the library and information science, we can find that this issue contains a significant value due to the right of the participant to stop or continue the research.

According to Neuman, “experimental researchers sometime use two-way mirrors or hidden microphones to “spy” on research participants (2012, p. 61). Such methods of the research can be treated as antihuman and illegal. The ethical codes forbid a use of the methods and technologies which can harm, injure or abuse the participants of the research.

For instance, the researcher wants to investigate behavior of the emotionally ill person. He/she comes to the home of that person and speaks with the member of family. However, the researcher hid a small camera or microphone. Thus, the members of family as the participants do not give the consent to be filmed.

They suppose that this research is absolutely confidential and do not want to provide any information that can be recorded. If the participants of the research get learn that the scientist requires such kind of materials, they can easily refuse him. As the result, the researcher would not get some important elements for his work.

The details of the personal life cannot be shared with public within the library and information science without the knowledge of the participants. Therefore, the researchers have to produce an adequate protection of the identity of the participants of the research, for instance, by electing the anonymous responses. Such methods help participants be sure of their physical and legal protection.

Reference List

Jones, P. E. (1995). Contradictions and Unanswered Questions in the ‘Genie’ Case: A Fresh Look at the Linguistic Evidence. Language & Communications , vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 261-280.

Neuman, W. L. (2012). Basics of Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches (3 rd ed.).Boston: Pearson; Prentice Hall.

National Institutes of Health. (1947). Nuremberg Code . Web.

The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. (1979). The Belmont Report . Web.

Need a custom Coursework sample written from scratch by professional specifically for you?

IvyPanda. (2019, June 3). Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment.

IvyPanda. (2019, June 3). Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment. Retrieved from

"Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment." IvyPanda , 3 June 2019,

1. IvyPanda . "Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment." June 3, 2019.


IvyPanda . "Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment." June 3, 2019.

IvyPanda . 2019. "Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment." June 3, 2019.

IvyPanda . (2019) 'Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the Milgram Experiment'. 3 June.

The Story of Genie Wiley

What her tragic story revealed about language and development

Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the " Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition) " and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.

ethical issues with genie case study

Emily is a board-certified science editor who has worked with top digital publishing brands like Voices for Biodiversity,, GoodTherapy, Vox, and Verywell.

ethical issues with genie case study

Ethics Concerns

There have been a number of cases of feral children raised in social isolation with little or no human contact. Few have captured public and scientific attention like that of a young girl called Genie Wiley. She spent almost her entire childhood locked in a bedroom, isolated and abused for over a decade.

Genie's case was one of the first to put the critical period theory to the test. Could a child reared in utter deprivation and isolation develop language? Could a nurturing environment make up for a horrifying past?

This article discusses Genie's life, her treatment, and the impact that abuse and deprivation had on her language development. It also covers the ethical problems with her case.

Genie's Story

In order to understand Genie's story, it is important to look at what is known about her early life, the discovery of the abuse she had endured, and the subsequent efforts to treat and study her.

Early Life (1957-1970)

Genie's life prior to her discovery was one of utter deprivation. She spent most of her days tied naked to a potty chair, only able to move her hands and feet. When she made noise, her father would beat her. The rare times her father did interact with her, it was to bark or growl. Genie Wiley's brother, who was five years older than Genie, also suffered abuse under their father.

Discovery and Study (1970-1975)

Genie's story came to light on November 4, 1970, in Los Angeles, California. A social worker discovered the 13-year old girl after her mother sought out services for her own health. The social worker soon discovered that the girl had been confined to a small room, and an investigation by authorities quickly revealed that the child had spent most of her life in this room, often tied to a potty chair.

A Genie Wiley documentary was made in 1997 called "Secrets of the Wild Child." In it, Susan Curtiss, PhD, a linguist and researcher who worked with Genie, explained that the name Genie was used in case files to protect the girl's identity and privacy.

Susan Curtiss, PhD

"The case name is Genie. This is not the person's real name, but when we think about what a genie is, a genie is a creature that comes out of a bottle or whatever but emerges into human society past childhood. We assume that it really isn't a creature that had a human childhood.”

Both parents were charged with abuse , but Genie's father died by suicide the day before he was due to appear in court, leaving behind a note stating that "the world will never understand."

The story of Genie's case soon spread, drawing attention from both the public and the scientific community. The case was important, said psycholinguist and author Harlan Lane, PhD, because "our morality doesn’t allow us to conduct deprivation experiments with human beings; these unfortunate people are all we have to go on."

With so much interest in her case, the question became what should be done to help her. A team of psychologists and language experts began the process of rehabilitating Genie.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provided funding for scientific research on Genie’s case. Psychologist David Rigler, PhD, was part of the "Genie team" and he explained the process.

David Rigler, PhD

"I think everybody who came in contact with her was attracted to her. She had a quality of somehow connecting with people, which developed more and more but was present, really, from the start. She had a way of reaching out without saying anything, but just somehow by the kind of look in her eyes, and people wanted to do things for her.”

Genie's rehabilitation team also included graduate student Susan Curtiss and psychologist James Kent. Upon her initial arrival at UCLA, Genie weighed just 59 pounds and moved with a strange "bunny walk." She often spat and was unable to straighten her arms and legs. Silent, incontinent, and unable to chew, she initially seemed only able to recognize her own name and the word "sorry."

After assessing Genie's emotional and cognitive abilities, Kent described her as "the most profoundly damaged child I've ever seen … Genie's life is a wasteland." Her silence and inability to use language made it difficult to assess her mental abilities, but on tests, she scored at about the level of a one-year-old.

She soon began to make rapid progression in specific areas, quickly learning how to use the toilet and dress herself. Over the next few months, she began to experience more developmental progress but remained poor in areas such as language. She enjoyed going out on day trips outside of the hospital and explored her new environment with an intensity that amazed her caregivers and strangers alike.

Curtiss suggested that Genie had a strong ability to communicate nonverbally , often receiving gifts from total strangers who seemed to understand the young girl's powerful need to explore the world around her.

Psychiatrist Jay Shurley, MD, helped assess Genie after she was first discovered, and he noted that since situations like hers were so rare, she quickly became the center of a battle between the researchers involved in her case. Arguments over the research and the course of her treatment soon erupted. Genie occasionally spent the night at the home of Jean Butler, one of her teachers.

After an outbreak of measles, Genie was quarantined at her teacher's home. Butler soon became protective and began restricting access to Genie. Other members of the team felt that Butler's goal was to become famous from the case, at one point claiming that Butler had called herself the next Anne Sullivan, the teacher famous for helping Helen Keller learn to communicate.

Eventually, Genie was removed from Butler's care and went to live in the home of psychologist David Rigler, where she remained for the next four years. Despite some difficulties, she appeared to do well in the Rigler household. She enjoyed listening to classical music on the piano and loved to draw, often finding it easier to communicate through drawing than through other methods.

After Genie was discovered, a group of researchers began the process of rehabilitation. However, this work also coincided with research to study her ability to acquire and use language. These two interests led to conflicts in her treatment and between the researchers and therapists working on her case.

State Custody (1975-Present)

NIMH withdrew funding in 1974, due to the lack of scientific findings. Linguist Susan Curtiss had found that while Genie could use words, she could not produce grammar. She could not arrange these words in a meaningful way, supporting the idea of a critical period in language development.

Rigler's research was disorganized and largely anecdotal. Without funds to continue the research and care for Genie, she was moved from the Riglers' care.

In 1975, Genie returned to live with her birth mother. When her mother found the task too difficult, Genie was moved through a series of foster homes, where she was often subjected to further abuse and neglect .

Genie’s situation continued to worsen. After spending a significant amount of time in foster homes, she returned to Children’s Hospital. Unfortunately, the progress that had occurred during her first stay had been severely compromised by the subsequent treatment she received in foster care. Genie was afraid to open her mouth and had regressed back into silence.

Genie’s birth mother then sued the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and the research team, charging them with excessive testing. While the lawsuit was eventually settled, it raised important questions about the treatment and care of Genie. Did the research interfere with the girl's therapeutic treatment?

Psychiatrist Jay Shurley visited her on her 27th and 29th birthdays and characterized her as largely silent, depressed , and chronically institutionalized. Little is known about Genie's present condition, although an anonymous individual hired a private investigator to track her down in 2000 and described her as happy. But this contrasts with other reports.

Genie Wiley Today

Today, Genie Wiley's whereabouts are unknown; though, if she is still living, she is presumed to be a ward of the state of California, living in an adult care home. As of 2022, Genie would be 65 years old.

Genie and Language Development

Part of the reason why Genie's case fascinated psychologists and linguists so deeply was that it presented a unique opportunity to study a hotly contested debate about language development.

Essentially, it boils down to the age-old nature versus nurture debate. Does genetics or environment play a greater role in the development of language?

Nativists believe that the capacity for language is innate, while empiricists suggest that environmental variables play a key role. Nativist Noam Chomsky suggested that acquiring language could not be fully explained by learning alone.

Instead, Chomsky proposed that children are born with a language acquisition device (LAD), an innate ability to understand the principles of language. Once exposed to language, the LAD allows children to learn the language at a remarkable pace.

Critical Periods

Linguist Eric Lenneberg suggests that like many other human behaviors, the ability to acquire language is subject to critical periods. A critical period is a limited span of time during which an organism is sensitive to external stimuli and capable of acquiring certain skills.

According to Lenneberg, the critical period for language acquisition lasts until around age 12. After the onset of puberty, he argued, the organization of the brain becomes set and no longer able to learn and use language in a fully functional manner.

Genie's case presented researchers with a unique opportunity. If given an enriched learning environment, could she overcome her deprived childhood and learn language even though she had missed the critical period?

If Genie could learn language, it would suggest that the critical period hypothesis of language development was wrong. If she could not, it would indicate that Lenneberg's theory was correct.

Despite scoring at the level of a 1-year-old upon her initial assessment, Genie quickly began adding new words to her vocabulary. She started by learning single words and eventually began putting two words together much the way young children do. Curtiss began to feel that Genie would be fully capable of acquiring language.

Genie's Language Development

After a year of treatment, she even started putting three words together occasionally. In children going through normal language development, this stage is followed by what is known as a language explosion. Children rapidly acquire new words and begin putting them together in novel ways.

Unfortunately, this never happened for Genie. Her language abilities remained stuck at this stage and she appeared unable to apply grammatical rules and use language in a meaningful way. At this point, her progress leveled off and her acquisition of new language halted.

While Genie was able to learn some language after puberty, her inability to use grammar (which Chomsky suggests is what separates human language from animal communication) offers evidence for the critical period hypothesis.

Of course, Genie's case is not so simple. Not only did she miss the critical period for learning language, but she was also horrifically abused. She was malnourished and deprived of cognitive stimulation for most of her childhood.

Researchers were also never able to fully determine if Genie had any pre-existing cognitive deficits. As an infant, a pediatrician had identified her as having some type of mental delay. So researchers were left to wonder whether Genie had experienced cognitive deficits caused by her years of abuse or if she had been born with some degree of intellectual disability.

There are many ethical concerns surrounding Genie's story. Arguments among those in charge of Genie's care and rehabilitation reflect some of these concerns.

"If you want to do rigorous science, then Genie's interests are going to come second some of the time. If you only care about helping Genie, then you wouldn't do a lot of the scientific research," suggested psycholinguist Harlan Lane in the NOVA documentary focused on her life.

In Genie's case, the role of researcher and therapist were combined in one person. While Genie's story may be studied for its implications in our understanding of language acquisition and development, it is also a case that will continue to be studied over its serious ethical issues.

"I think future generations are going to study Genie's case not only for what it can teach us about human development but also for what it can teach us about the rewards and the risks of conducting 'the forbidden experiment,'" Lane explained.

Frequently Asked Questions

Genie, now in her 60s, is believed to be living in an adult care facility in California. Efforts by journalists to learn more about her location and current condition have been rejected by authorities due to confidentiality rules. Curtiss has also reported attempting to contact Genie without success.

Along with her husband, Irene Wiley was charged with abuse, but these charges were eventually dropped. Irene was blind and reportedly mentally ill, so it is believed that Genie's father was the child's primary caretaker. Genie's father, Clark Wiley, also abused his wife and other children. Two of the couple's children died in infancy under suspicious circumstances.

Genie's story suggests that the acquisition of language has a critical period of development. Her case is complex, however, since it is unclear if her language deficits were due to deprivation or if there was an underlying mental disability that played a role. The severe abuse she experienced may have also affected her mental development and language acquisition.

A Word From Verywell

Genie Wiley's story perhaps leaves us with more questions than answers. Though it was difficult for Genie to learn language, she was able to communicate through body language, music, and art once she was in a safe home environment. Unfortunately, we don't know what her progress could have been had adequate care not been taken away from her.

Genie's story raises questions about how we can better address the needs of child abuse survivors, as well as how we can learn from them without exploiting their cases or disrupting their care.

Collection of research materials related to linguistic-psychological studies of Genie (pseudonym) (collection 800) . UCLA Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles.

Schoneberger T. Three myths from the language acquisition literature . Anal Verbal Behav. 2010;26(1):107–131. doi:10.1007/bf03393086

APA Dictionary of Psychology. Language acquisition device . American Psychological Association.

Vanhove J. The critical period hypothesis in second language acquisition: A statistical critique and a reanalysis .  PLoS One . 2013;8(7):e69172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069172

Carroll R. Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers . The Guardian .

James SD. Raised by a tyrant, suffering a sibling's abuse . ABC News .

  NOVA . The secret of the wild child [transcript]. PBS,

Pines M. The civilizing of Genie. In: Kasper LF, ed., Teaching English Through the Disciplines: Psychology . Whittier.

Rolls G.  Classic Case Studies in Psychology (2nd ed.). Hodder Arnold.

Rymer R. Genie: A Scientific Tragedy.  Harper-Collins.

By Kendra Cherry Kendra Cherry, MS, is the author of the "Everything Psychology Book (2nd Edition)" and has written thousands of articles on diverse psychology topics. Kendra holds a Master of Science degree in education from Boise State University with a primary research interest in educational psychology and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Idaho State University with additional coursework in substance use and case management.

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.


Just another site, genie – research or exploitation.

Feral Children – “lost or abandoned human children raised in extreme social isolation” (Carl Linnaeus 1758)

Genie was locked up by her father to keep her away from what he considered to be the dangers of the outside world. Strapped to a seat 24 hours a day from the age of 2 to 13, Genie missed out on imperative early attachments, turning her into a ‘feral’ child. Unable to speak or walk properly, she was for all purposes an infant trapped in the body of a 13 year old girl. (NOVA: Secret of the Wild Child Documentary)

Genie was an extremely interesting case and was considered a ‘natural experiment’. Researchers from all around the country were eager to study her, Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Linguistics all used her as a human guinea pig for studies into language development.

If participants do not refuse to be involved in studies, then is it okay for experiments to go ahead? When an ambulance is called out to an emergency, they must ask if the patient would like their help. If for any reason no answer is given then this is taken as consent. If Genie didn’t refuse the researchers, then did this make it acceptable?  Because Genie was unable to speak, she could not physically express consent. However, verbal communication wasn’t the most important part of her understanding. The APA standards for consent for a participant stress competency for understanding. (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct). Because Genie was brought up in a situation where she was not exposed to any human language, she did not have the capacity to understand what the researchers were asking her to do. Therefore, she could not be classified as competent by any standard and subsequently should not have been used in the experiment? It is clear that Genie also suffered from extreme psychological harm after the experiments were conducted, such as refusing to open her mouth after being abused and refusing to show any interest in other people (Susan Curtiss, 1971).

Although experiments conducted on Genie offered detail into an exceptional mind, it is unclear how the research benefited society. With it being such a rare case, it is hardly representative of a wider population.  However, at the time Genie’s case had the perceived ability to reveal critical insights into language development and linguistics. In the 1970’s research upon this topic was so uncommon, to find Genie was a phenomenon. Genie was a prize, and it was a competition to see who would get to study her. Being a case study, this research was incredibly interesting and in depth, providing detail like no other. However, it is difficult to generalise from individual cases as each one has unique characteristics.

Ultimately, the interests of science were put before the best interests of a child. Today, this case remains famous for its interesting insights into the horrific account of an isolated child. The psychologists involved took advantage of Genie’s under developed mental state and used her for their own gain. These psychologists were later sued by Genie’s mother for outrageous and excessive testing (Russ Rymer, 1994).

1 – Carl Linnaeus 1758

2 – NOVA: Secret of the Wild Child. (Documentary about Genie), March 4, 1997

3 – American Psychological Association Guidelines, Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.

4 – Susan Curtiss, 1977. Researcher of Genie. Psychology AS, The Complete Companion.

5 – Russ Rymer, “Genie, A scientific Tragedy” 1993

Share this:

11 responses ».

As you mentioned, the case study of Genie was unethical due to her inability to provide fully informed consent. However, the findings allowed psychologists to understand more about the critical stages of language development and how progression through these stages can be influenced by our immediate environment. Despite the fact that case studies can never be accurately replicated due to the range of extraneous variables that impact on the results, similar studies can be compared to assess any similarities and/or differences. For example, Genie never progressed beyond the acquisition of basic language; conversely Isabelle, a child who also suffered severe social isolation, was able to obtain normal use of language (R. Brown, 1958; K. Davis, 1947). The difference between these two cases being that Genie was not discovered until the age of thirteen, whereas Isabelle was discovered at the age of six – before she reached puberty. However, based on such little evidence it would be deterministic to assume that language development is not possible after puberty, as cause and effect cannot be established.

References: R. Brown (1958) & K. Davis (1947) – as cited in Gleitman: p405

Super inorfmative writing; keep it up.

Although the Genie experiment offered understanding of the critical stages of development, Genie was an incredibly rare case, and therefore her results cannot be generalisable to anybody else. As you have stated, it would be deterministic to assume that language development is not possible after puberty, however, at a very young age Genie was diagnosed with a mental disorder, which clearly would have affected her brain. Studies on Genie in her teenage years showed that the whole left side of her brain was not functioning at all, but we are not to know whether this is unique to Genie or true of all feral children.

1. Russ Rymer, “Genie, A scientific Tragedy” 1993

2. NOVA: Secret of the Wild Child. (Documentary about Genie), March 4, 1997

Poor Genie was the victim of the most serve case of child isolation in America. She was born in 1957 with only 14-20 months into her life; just learning how to speak, doctors told her family that she seemed delayed, possibly retarded (Susan Curtiss, 1977). It was her father who became convinced that she was retarded and excluded her from the family at around 5 months old.

It is quite distressing that a medical professional, quite openly diagnosed Genie at such an early age, when the reality was, he was unable to correctly diagnose her because she had a fever. It’s sad to think that down to her fathers illness, Genie suffered this terrible trauma.

Although psychologies all jumped on the band wagon to study Genie, when news broke out. Given the circumstances, Genie was finally free from her abusive family; which had to be a good thing. Although she was studied, she was socialised into families who did try to help.

It’s true that Psychologists were probably thinking more about themselves, than the actual welfare of Genie. But one psychologist in particular (Jean Butler, 1971) became an attachment for Genie and started to progress well. Sadly it is thought that Jean butler had alternative motives and just wanted to become famous. No-one will know her true intentions as she died in 1988. Genie was then passed around foster homes and became inverted once again until settling at a elderly residential home.

There was a film made about Genie called Mocking birds don’t sing. This was directed by Harry Bromley in 2001. The link to the trailer can be found on you tube:

The case of this extremely unfortunate child is not a black and white one: it is both research AND exploitation. Although the initial psychologists who conducted their tests on her may have had ulterior motives such as fame and professional recognition, they were still doing research, not parading her around as a circus freak. This then comes under the umbrella of ethics and the debate between Virtue and Consequentialism ethics. Virtue ethics would argue that although good has come out of the research into Genie, because the good intention of the researchers is questionable then it is indeed unethical. However, consequentialism would argue that although the actions against her were not kind or loving, the direct affect was a benefit in psychological understanding and therefore it was ethical. To take the view point of the Consequentialists, this research could be viewed as ethical as it allowed Psychologists the rare opportunity to test theories about child development, and compare them with a ‘natural, live’ situation, such as Lorenz’s (1935) theory of a critical period of social bonding and McGraw’s similar critical period theory for motor development (two factors that were severely impaired with Genie)

References: Lorenz, K. (1935), and McGraw, M. (circa 1943) as cited by Scott, J.P., (1962). Critical Periods in Behaviour Development, Science Vol 138, 949-958.

I feel the same way about knitting. I just learnt how and I’m getting better but at the same time – I’m content just lying back, relaxing and knitting scarves. I don’t want to comitpcale things and going on about patterns and such. It’s so much nicer when it’s simple and still pretty.I love the first photo you posted – it looks like lovely yarn.

There is also a similar case study looking into privation, however the study showed a completely different outcome than Genie. Koluchova (1972) reported the case of two identical twin boys in Czechoslovkia, who lived in an institution for 18 months before going to live with their father and stepmother. They were found in 1967, when they 7 years old and had grown up in a small, unheated closet and had also often been locked in the cellar and been harshly beaten. After their discovery, the twins spent time in a children’s home and a school for the mentally retarded before being fostered in 1969. At first, they were terrified and communicated mostly through gestures (they had little spontaneous speech), however both made steady progress, both socially and intellectually. A follow-up study, in 1976, showed that when they were 14 years old, they showed no psychopathic symptoms or unusual behaviour. By the age of 20, they had both completed an apprenticeship, were of an above average intelligence and still had good relationships with their foster mother, her relatives and their adoptive sisters. There are obvious differences between this study and the one of Genie; one being that the twins were never really alone, as they always had each other, whereas Genie was on her own. They were also at different ages when they were found, with Genie having gone through more critical development periods than the twins. There was also the difference that when both were discovered, Genie still had an unstable life, as her new attachment figure was taken away, whilst the twins had new stable one.

Hauska miten sanoilla on eri merkitys eri ihmisille. Mielenkiintoista oli tuo sinun virta-sanaan liittyvä pohdinta valtavirrasta ja että sanasta Tiibet voi tietenkin ensimmäisenä tulla mieleen koiramuistot. Hento-sanasta ajattelin itsekin tuota samaa Dave Lindholmin hienoa kappaletta "Hento otaqkuot;…Mu&avet tarinat loit noista sanoista!

Of course this case will appear as unethically, mainly due to the lack of informed consent, however studies that were conducted on Genie, such as language development, were also conducted in order to help Genie, not harm her. I would like to highlight the point “It is clear that Genie also suffered from extreme psychological harm after the experiments were conducted, such as refusing to open her mouth after being abused” – This was not due to psychological experiments, this was because of the abuse she received whilst living with a foster family. It is true that it is unclear how the research benefited society, although case studies provide researches with rich in-depth data, it is difficult to generalise these results to others. It is also stated that research is unethical if the harm to those involved is greater than the benefit of the results on society. One thing that will remain a mystery is whether or not Genie’s mental and physical retardation was due to her upbringing or whether she was in fact born with it. Even after the years of study involving things such as brain scans, doctors and psychologists have been unable to determine which were the cause and the effect.

Of course, it would be highly unethical if a psychologist were to carry out a study on a child by keeping them in a cellar for the first few years of their life. Therefore, when Gene was found, psychologists jumped at the chance to study her as her unfortunate ‘upraising’ (or lack of) was purely natural. Thus, the researchers knew that the data they collected would be away from the risk of any experimenter bias.

Overall, Gene was exploited. Even though the findings have helped the progression of understanding human behaviour and the effects of privation, as samanthakatepsychology points out, we can’t generalise the findings as it was a case study. This leads us to the argument of individual differences. Thus, can we really look at Gene as ‘way forward’ or is she being exploited? I believe it to be the latter.

I am normally to blogging and i genuinely appreciate your web site content material. This content material has genuinely peaks my interest. I’m going to bookmark your internet internet site and maintain checking choosing infaomrtion.

Leave a Reply Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:


You are commenting using your account. (  Log Out  /  Change  )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. (  Log Out  /  Change  )


You are commenting using your Facebook account. (  Log Out  /  Change  )

Connecting to %s

Notify me of new comments via email.

Notify me of new posts via email.

' src=

Genie Wiley, the Feral Child

Tom Need / Getty Images

ethical issues with genie case study

Genie Wiley (born April 1957) was a severely neglected and abused child who was discovered and taken into custody by authorities when she was 13 years old. While her circumstances until that point were undeniably tragic, they also presented an opportunity for psychologists, linguists, and other researchers to study psychosocial, emotional, and cognitive development in an individual who had suffered from severe social isolation and deprivation. In particular, the discovery of Genie presented an opportunity to study whether a child who was past the so-called "critical period" for language acquisition could learn to speak a first language.

Key Takeaways: Genie Wiley

Early Life and Discovery

The case of Genie Wiley came to light on November 4, 1970. Genie was discovered by a social worker when her mother, who was partially blind, went to apply for social services. Genie had been isolated in a small room starting at the age of 20 months until her discovery at 13 years and 9 months old. She spent most of her time naked and tied to a potty chair where she was given limited use of her hands and feet. She was completely cut off from any kind of stimulation. The windows were curtained and the door was kept closed. She was only fed cereal and baby food and wasn’t spoken to. Although she lived with her father, mother, and brother, her father and brother would only bark or growl at her and her mother was only permitted very brief interactions. Genie’s father was intolerant of noise, so no TV or radio was played in the house. If Genie made any noise, she was physically beaten.

ethical issues with genie case study

Upon her discovery, Genie was admitted to Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles for evaluation. She was severely underdeveloped. She was thin and looked like a child of six or seven. She couldn’t stand up straight and could only walk with a hunched “bunny walk.” She was unable to chew, had trouble swallowing, and spat frequently. She was incontinent and mute. At first, the only words she recognized were her name and “sorry.” Testing shortly after she came to the hospital revealed that her social maturity and mental abilities were at the level of a one-year-old.

Genie didn’t walk at a normal age, so her father came to believe she was developmentally disabled. However, the researchers brought onto the case after Genie’s discovery found little evidence of this in her early history. It appeared she never suffered from brain damage, mental disability, or autism. Therefore, the impairments and developmental delays Genie exhibited upon being assessed were the result of the isolation and deprivation she was subjected to.

Both of Genie’s parents were charged with abuse , but Genie’s 70-year-old father committed suicide the day he was supposed to appear in court. The note he left said, “The world will never understand.”

The Rush to Research

Genie’s case drew media attention as well as great interest from the research community, which considered it a rare opportunity to discover whether it was possible for Genie to mentally develop after such severe deprivation. Researchers would never deliberately conduct deprivation experiments with people on moral grounds. So, Genie’s sad case was ripe for study. Genie was not the child’s real name, but the name given to the case in order to protect her privacy.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) provided funding for research and a team was assembled whose goal was to rehabilitate and study Genie’s progress. Genie soon learned basic social skills like using the toilet and dressing herself. She was fascinated by her environment and would study it intensely. She especially enjoyed visiting places outside the hospital. She was talented at nonverbal communication, but her ability to use language did not proceed rapidly. As a result, psychologist David Rigler decided to focus the research on Genie's language acquisition.

Language Acquisition

The discovery of Genie coincided with a debate about language acquisition in the scholarly community. Linguist Noam Chomsky, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claimed humans are born with an innate ability to develop language. He believed language isn’t acquired because we learn it, but because it’s part of our genetic inheritance. Then, neuropsychologist Eric Lenneberg added a caveat to Chomsky’s ideas. Lenneberg agreed that humans are born with the ability to develop language, but suggested that if a language wasn’t acquired by puberty, it might never be. Lenneberg’s proposal was called the “critical period hypothesis.” Yet, there was no ability to test the theory until Genie came along.

Within the first seven months after her discovery, Genie learned many new words . She had even begun to speak but only in single words. By July 1971, Genie could put two words together and by November she could put together three. Despite signs of progress, Genie never learned to ask questions and she didn’t seem to understand the rules of grammar.

After beginning to speak in two-word phrases, normal children experience a language “explosion” a few weeks later in which speech develops quickly. Genie never experienced such an explosion. Her speech seemed to plateau at creating two to three-word strings, despite four years of additional work and research with her.

Genie demonstrated that it’s possible for an individual to learn some language after the critical period. Yet, her inability to learn grammar, which Chomsky believed was key to human language, indicated that passing the critical period was detrimental to the complete acquisition of a first language.

Arguments and Ethical Considerations

During Genie’s treatment, there were disputes amongst the members of her team. In the early days after her discovery, she entered her first foster home with her teacher Jean Butler. Butler claimed she felt that Genie was being subject to too many tests and attempted to make changes to Genie’s treatment. She wouldn’t allow the linguist Susan Curtiss or the psychologist James Kent into her house to see Genie. Other team members claimed Butler thought she could become famous through her work with Genie and didn’t want anyone else to get credit. Butler’s application to become Genie’s permanent foster parent was rejected about a month later.

Psychologist David Rigler and his wife Marilyn stepped in and fostered Genie for the next four years. They continued to work with her and let others continue their research throughout that time. However, Genie left the Riglers’ home after NIMH stopped funding the project due to problems with data collection.

Throughout the four years in which Genie was being tested and studied, there was debate about whether she could be a research subject and a rehabilitation patient at the same time. The ethics of the situation were murky.

In 1975, Genie’s mother regained custody after being acquitted of all charges of child abuse. Genie’s care quickly became too much for her to handle, though, so Genie began to bounce from foster home to foster home. She was once again subjected to abuse in those homes. Soon, she stopped talking and refused to open her mouth entirely.

Meanwhile, Genie’s mother filed a lawsuit against Genie’s team and the Children's Hospital alleging that the researchers prioritized testing Genie over her welfare. She contended that they pushed Genie to the point of exhaustion. The case was eventually settled but the debate continues. Some believe the researchers exploited Genie, and therefore, didn’t help her as much as they could have. However, the researchers say they treated Genie to the best of their ability.

Historian and psychologist Harlan Lane points out that “there's an ethical dilemma in this kind of research. If you want to do rigorous science, then Genie's interests are going to come second some of the time. If you only care about helping Genie, then you wouldn't do a lot of the scientific research. So, what are you going to do?”

Genie Today

Genie is believed to be alive and living in an adult foster home as a ward of the state of California. While the linguist who worked with Genie, Susan Curtiss, has attempted to get in touch with her, she’s been repeatedly rebuffed. However, she said that when she calls the authorities, they inform her that Genie is well. Yet, when journalist Russ Rymer saw Genie at her 27 th birthday party, he painted a much bleaker picture. Similarly, psychiatrist Jay Shurley, who was at Genie’s 27 th and 29 th birthdays, claimed Genie was depressed and had withdrawn into herself.

ethical issues with genie case study

By clicking “Accept All Cookies”, you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance site navigation, analyze site usage, and assist in our marketing efforts.

ethical issues with genie case study

Provide details on what you need help with along with a budget and time limit. Questions are posted anonymously and can be made 100% private.

ethical issues with genie case study

Studypool matches you to the best tutor to help you with your question. Our tutors are highly qualified and vetted.

ethical issues with genie case study

Your matched tutor provides personalized help according to your question details. Payment is made only after you have completed your 1-on-1 session and are satisfied with your session.

Souther New Ethical Principles and Standards Genie Wiley Video Discussion

User Generated

Souther New Hampshire University


Watch the video on Genie Wiley . You may also find this interview with researcher Susan Curtiss about her experiences with Genie interesting. What ethical considerations do you think apply to the research conducted on Genie (consider the APA's ethical principles and standards when answering)? Compare and contrast these ethical considerations to the ones most relevant to the classic examples of ethically dubious psychological research: the Stanford Prison simulation and Milgram's learning experiments.

To complete this assignment, review the Discussion Rubric document (attached).



The ethical considerations I think apply to research conducted on Genie based on the APA's ethical principals and standards is all of them. The researchers that provided the treatment for Genie followed all the principals, they attempted to make the child's situation better without harming Genie. They stared with trust so that Genie can learn, they pursued justice for Genie by making sure that they used their expertise the the best of their knowledge as possible. and respected Genie's human rights. The standards that stood out in this case such as avoiding harm, cooperating with professionals from the different fields in order to help with the research and treatment. The documentation of their work was done in professional manner and informed consent based on the recordings. Even though the treatment that was provided for Genie didn't accomplish all the goals they had set out but still had a big improvement.

One of the issues that I thought of was that Genie lived with several of the researchers during the treatment. Presenting the case for a dual relationship because many of the researchers had to care for Genie like she was their own child and they provided shelter in their personal homes and provided her treatment and the research at the same time.

This experiment and Milgram's learning experiments violated all of the APA principles and Standards due to violating the participants welfare through tacticts that were not disclosed to the participants. The Stanford prison experiment was dishonorable because of the fact that the researchers allowed harsh treatment of the prisoners.


Some of the ethical considerations regarding the research conducted on Genie are quite simple. For the first one, avoiding harm as per Standard 3.04 (American Psychological Association, 2017) was very important for this case because she had already been through so much neglect and abuse, the researchers took special care in making sure further harm did not happen. In association with that standard, Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence also plays an important role since the psychologists should ensure that no more physical or mental health harm was brought upon Genie. There was also a conflict of interest (Standard 3.06) (APA, 2017) going on with Susan Curtiss, and she even stated that it was evident, and that's why she was eventually prevented from seeing or calling Genie (TLC, 2003). One last ethical concern was based on Curtiss' first encounters with Genie while she was still a graduate student (Thinking and Language, 2006). In being a student, that raises questions on her competency to conduct that research. Standard 2.01 ensures that researchers are aware of their boundaries of competence while conducting research (APA, 2017). Hopefully, she had been trained appropriately and had the knowledge needed for it.

Compared to Milgram's experiment, both cases have ethical concerns associated with them. In Milgram's learning study, deception was regularly used, and participants were made to believe that they were inflicting harm to others, although that wasn't the case (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 2013). As in Genie's case, there wasn't an informed consent obtained, and in Milgram's case, not all the information was given to the study subjects because that would have potentially negative effects on the results (Rosnow & Rosenthal, 2013).

APA. (2017). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Codes of Conduct. Retrieved from:

Rosnow, R. L., & Rosenthal, R. (2013). Beginning Behavioral Research: A Conceptual Primer. (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Thinking and Language. (2006). Genie. PSY-510. Retrieved from:

TLC. (2003). "Genie Wiley- TLC Documentary." [Youtube]. amara. Retrieved from:

Unformatted Attachment Preview

ethical issues with genie case study

Explanation & Answer

ethical issues with genie case study

Attached. Running Head: ETHICAL PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS Ethical Principles and Standards Student’s Name: University Affiliation: Date: 1 ETHICAL PRINCIPLES AND STANDARDS 2 Ethical Principles and Standards There are several APA’s ethical principles and standards that apply to the research that was conducted on Genie. First, psychologists must avoid causing harm to their research participants and also ensure there is minimal harm in cases where they are foreseeable and cannot be avoided. Genie was a victim of abuse, and she had been equally neglected. The researchers exercised professionalism to ensure these standards were achieved. Secondly, researchers are expected to refrain from undertaking a professional duty in incidences where personal interests or relationships have the potential to affect their objectivity or effectiveness in fulfilling their functions (American Psychological Association, 2017). The participation in the research process by Susan Curtis would amount to a violation of this standard. The necessary precaution was therefore taken by preventing her from communicating to or having physical contacts with Genie. According to APA stan...

ethical issues with genie case study

24/7 Homework Help

Stuck on a homework question? Our verified tutors can answer all questions, from basic  math  to advanced rocket science !

ethical issues with genie case study

Similar Content

Related tags.

PSY210 A01 Psychological Statistics Scholarly References Testing z test psychology pyschology psychology psychology psychology psychology paper PSY210 A01 Psychological Statistics

The Aftermath

by Rhidian Brook

by Jack London

by Franz Kafka

Into the Wild

by Jon Krakauer

The Magic Mountain

by Thomas Mann

Ethan Frome

by Edith Wharton

Catching Fire

by Suzanne Collins

The Book Thief

by Markus Zusak

ethical issues with genie case study

working on a homework question?

Studypool, Inc., Tutoring, Mountain View, CA

Studypool is powered by Microtutoring TM

Copyright © 2023. Studypool Inc.

Studypool is not sponsored or endorsed by any college or university.

Ongoing Conversations

ethical issues with genie case study

Access over 20 million homework documents through the notebank

ethical issues with genie case study

Get on-demand Q&A homework help from verified tutors

ethical issues with genie case study

Read 1000s of rich book guides covering popular titles

ethical issues with genie case study

Sign up with Google

ethical issues with genie case study

Sign up with Facebook

Already have an account? Login

Login with Google

Login with Facebook

Don't have an account? Sign Up


  1. (PDF) A Case study on the ethical issues in MFIs

    ethical issues with genie case study

  2. Write My Essay : 100% Original Content

    ethical issues with genie case study

  3. Ethical Case Study

    ethical issues with genie case study

  4. Ethical issues of genie case study

    ethical issues with genie case study

  5. Case Study (ethical issues)

    ethical issues with genie case study

  6. Ethical case studies

    ethical issues with genie case study


  1. कमाल के Life Hacks || 😱 देख लो बोहोत काम आयेगा || 😍 #shorts #viral #ytshorts

  2. Ethics in Research and Programming with Adolescents

  3. Ethics

  4. AI Ethics and Regulation 20220330

  5. Ethics

  6. Ethics


  1. Ethics in Social Research: Peculiarities of the Genie Case and the

    Genie case can be considered as an ethical dilemma, where, from one point of view, the scientist can investigate the important issues of the

  2. Case 4 Genie, The Wild Child Research or Exploitation? (sample)

    Was there an inherent conflict between the goals of research and Genie's need to receive treatment and care? Did harm come out of the researchers' good

  3. Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies a

    Another ethical issue that can be seen is how Genie was not able to withdraw from the study due to her limited use of language and mental state. And another

  4. Ethical considerations related to research studies Flashcards

    Genie wasn't able to consent, quite intrusive, while she was kept confidential, her case was made known to the world. Genie may have backtracked since

  5. The Story of Genie Wiley, an Abused, Feral Child

    There are many ethical concerns surrounding Genie's story. Arguments among those in charge of Genie's care and rehabilitation reflect some of

  6. Genie

    As you mentioned, the case study of Genie was unethical due to her inability to provide fully informed consent. However, the findings allowed

  7. Genie Wiley, the Feral Child

    Researchers would never deliberately conduct deprivation experiments with people on moral grounds. So, Genie's sad case was ripe for study.

  8. Genie: The Story of an Isolated Child Identify some of the

    Many ethical issues can relate to Genies case management. For instance, there is the ethical issue of lack of consent. Genie cannot give consent properly as she

  9. Souther New Ethical Principles and Standards Genie Wiley Video

    Compared to Milgram's experiment, both cases have ethical concerns associated with them. In Milgram's learning study, deception was regularly used, and

  10. Discuss ethical considerations related to research studies at the

    Her identity was kept anonymous as 'Genie' is not her real name. ○ Although her real name was not revealed, her case was exposed to the world