Day 301: The forbidden experiment: FACT!

I remember hearing about this when I was in secondary school, no idea what the context was. Obviously having my own baby has made me think of it again. The Forbidden Experiment in essence is trying to find the origin of language. You take a baby/some babies and you do not speak to them or give any form of signs or symbolic language, the theory is they eventually will start speaking in the language man started using at the beginning of language. Cool eh? I remember our teacher however telling us that when these experiments were carried out, the babies died! Not so cool. It’s called the Forbidden Experiment by Roger Shattuck because of it’s need to deprive the subject of basic human contact including love. I have looked online to see any information to support this but haven’t found anything to support the babies dying – phew. The theory is that a child deprived of language is also deprived of emotion and encouragement, I’d say something quite key to a child’s development hence the horrible outcome.

Language deprivation experiments it would seem have been around for some time! However to date, no known cases of The Forbidden Experiment are known to have ever been conducted in a way that specifically eliminates language and symbols while preserving love and social interaction. Historical accounts include:

  • The Egyptian pharaoh Psamtik, through his experiments concluded that the Phrygian race predated Egyptians as the child spoke a word close to bekos, ‘bread’ in Phrygian.
  • Allegedly the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II (13th C) raised young infants without human interaction in an attempt to discover the language of Adam and Eve. Was it Hebrew? Or Greek, Latin, Arabic? But he laboured in vain, for the children could not live without clappings of the hands, and gestures, and gladness of countenance, and blandishments.”
  • James IV of Scotland had 2 children raised by a mute woman on the isolated island of Inchkeith. The children were reported to have spoken good Hebrew
  • The same experiment repeated by Mughal emperor Akbar, held that speech arose from hearing, thus children raised without hearing human speech would become mute.
  • Sadly language and social deprivation experiments on non-human primates (labelled the “Pit of despair”) resulted in psychosis!
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