Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 76: Experimental Ethics, Babies and Russia

We had a guest lecture about Experimental Ethics in our Research Principles course. Which led to discussions about unethical experiments and their results, including the Stanford Prison Experiment and one I'd never heard of before...


Lesson 72: "The Russian Baby Experiment". Terrible, if true... But possibly just a widespread misinterpretation cobbled together from multiple sources...

"The Russian Baby Experiment" was described as an experiment in which orphan infants were taken into a lab environment and raised without human contact. They were physically very well cared for, but without communication or touch, and all the babies died.

But in trying to find details about it to share in this blog post, I couldn't find any such experiment... I found René Spitz, who came upon the same basic conclusions through observing infants in foundling homes. And I found information about parental deprivation (originally stated as maternal deprivation by Bowlby, who drew from Spitz). I even found a snopes message board thread trying to do the same thing I was.

But no reference to the actual, terribly unethical, experiment. So I can only hope that it didn't ever happen, and that it just grew out of statements as to why you'd never be able to do such an experiment.

May just be an extrapolation of towel monkeys.

Let me know if you know otherwise!

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