Genie Wiley Case Study Psychology

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On November 4, 1970 thirteen year-old Genie Wiley was rescued from a life of extreme

neglect. She wore diapers when they rescued her, as she spent her days locked away in a dark

room, strapped to a training potty. Genies’ nights were spent tied up in a sleeping bag within a

crib enclosed with chicken wire. Beyond all of that, Genies’ father forbade the rest of the Wiley

family from speaking to her. It was also apparent that she had been beaten for making noise. As a

result, Genie had not learned to speak and initially remained silent. Considering case was so rare,

Genie provided the perfect opportunity to research the validity of a hypothesis which stated that

“young children can only learn certain things at certain times called critical periods”
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Furthermore, a brain study done while she slept showed abnormal brain activity indicative of mental retardation. Strangely enough, this did not correlate with evidence that her mental development progressed every year. All of these experiments led to future research involving brain scans which revealed that the left part of the brain cortex had shrunk and disconnected due to lack of stimulation. It was also revealed that the brains of feral children were shrunken and malformed. It was also apparent that the severity of this malformation directly correlated with the age of the child at which the neglect began, and length of time the abuse went on. While Genies’ story is tragic, her case greatly improved scientific understanding of the human brain as it relates to basic childhood development and the need for human interaction. It also helped to show that gaining skills during the critical periods is indeed necessary to at least learn language. Furthermore, the research helped scientists understand brain formation and how neglect affects that process. Finally, the end of Genies’ story showed that even in the face of extreme neglect it is possible to achieve some level of

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