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Genie (feral child)

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Genie
A clearly defined black-and-white close-up photograph of Genie from the chest up against an indeterminate background. Her eyes are focused slightly above and to the right of the camera, and she has an expressionless, vacant, innocent look on her face.
The first publicly released picture of Genie, taken just after California authorities took control of her care at the age of 13.
Born April 18, 1957 (age 59)
Arcadia, California, United States
Known for Victim of severe child abuse and research subject in language acquisition

Genie (born April 18, 1957) is the pseudonym for a feral child who was a victim of severe abuse, neglect, and social isolation. Her circumstances are prominently recorded in the annals of linguistics and abnormal child psychology.[1][2] When Genie was a baby her father concluded that she was severely mentally retarded, a view which intensified as she got older, causing him to dislike her and withhold care and attention. At approximately the time she reached the age of 20 months her father decided to keep her as socially isolated as possible, so from that time until she reached the age of 13 years and 7 months he kept her locked alone in a room. During this time he almost always kept her strapped to a child's toilet or bound her in a crib with her arms and legs completely immobilized, forbade anyone from interacting with her, provided her with almost no stimulation of any kind, and left her severely malnourished.[3][4][5] The extent of Genie's isolation prevented her from being exposed to any significant amount of speech, and as a result she did not acquire language during childhood. Her abuse came to the attention of Los Angeles child welfare authorities on November 4, 1970.[1][3][4]

In the first several years after Genie's early life and circumstances came to light, psychologists, linguists, and other scientists focused a great deal of attention on Genie's case, seeing in her near-total isolation a unique chance to study many aspects of human development. Upon finding that Genie had not yet learned a language, linguists saw Genie as providing an opportunity to gain further insight into the processes controlling language acquisition skills and to test theories and hypotheses identifying critical periods during which humans learn to understand and use language. Throughout the time scientists studied Genie, she made substantial advances with her overall mental and psychological development. Within months of being discovered Genie had developed exceptional nonverbal communication skills, and gradually learned some basic social skills, but even by the end of their case study she still had many behavioral traits characteristic of an unsocialized person. She also continued to learn and use new language skills throughout the time they tested her, but ultimately remained unable to fully acquire a first language.[6][7][8]

Authorities initially arranged for Genie's admission to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, where a team of doctors and psychologists managed her care for several months, and her subsequent living arrangements eventually became the subject of rancorous and protracted debate. In late June 1971 she left the hospital to live with her teacher at the hospital, but a month and a half later authorities placed her with the family of the scientist heading the research team. Soon after turning 18, in mid-1975, she returned to live with her mother, who after a few months decided she could not adequately care for Genie. Authorities then moved her in the first of what would become a series of institutions for disabled adults, and the people running it cut her off from almost everyone she knew and subjected her to extreme physical and emotional abuse.[3][4][9] As a result her physical and mental health severely deteriorated, and her newly acquired language and behavioral skills very rapidly regressed.[3][4]

In early January 1978 Genie's mother suddenly forbade all scientific observations and testing of Genie, and since that time little is known of her circumstances. In 2008, ABC News reported that she was living in California, "in psychological confinement as a ward of the state—her sixth foster home. And again, she is speechless."[3] Psychologists and linguists continue to discuss Genie, and there is considerable academic and media interest in her life and the research team's methods. In particular, scientists have compared Genie to Victor of Aveyron, a nineteenth-century French child who was also the subject of a case study in delayed psychological development and late language acquisition.[4][10][11]

Family background[edit]

Genie was the last, and second surviving, of four children born to parents living in Arcadia, California. Her father worked in a factory as a flight mechanic during World War II and continued in aviation after the war ended, and her mother, from an Oklahoma farming family, had come to southern California as a teenager with family friends fleeing the Dust Bowl. Both had extremely unstable upbringings and little education.[12][13][14] During her early childhood Genie's mother sustained a severe head injury in an accident, giving her lingering neurological damage that caused degenerative vision problems in one eye. Genie's father mostly grew up in various orphanages around the American Pacific Northwest, as his father died of a lightning strike and his mother ran a brothel, and his mother gave him a feminine first name which made him the target of constant derision. As a result he harbored a great deal of resentment towards his mother during childhood, which Genie's brother and the scientists who studied Genie believed was the root of his anger problems later in life.[14][15][16]

When Genie's father reached adulthood he changed his first name to one which was more typically masculine, and his mother began to spend as much time with him as she could. He became almost singularly fixated on his mother, despite her relentless attempts to convince him to adopt a less rigid lifestyle, and treated all other relationships as secondary at best.[14][17][18] Friends and family of Genie's mother strongly opposed their marriage because he was about twenty years older than her. Although initially appearing to be happy to those who knew them, he soon prevented his new wife from leaving home and beat her with increasing frequency and severity.[19][12] Her eyesight steadily deteriorated due to lingering effects from the existing neurological damage, severe cataracts, and a detached retina in one eye, leaving her increasingly dependent on her husband.[20][12]

Genie's father disliked children and wanted none of his own, finding them noisy, but about five years into the marriage his wife became pregnant. During the pregnancy he beat her with increasing frequency, and near the end attempted to beat and strangle her to death, but while recovering in the hospital she gave birth to an apparently healthy daughter.[21][22] Ten weeks later, finding her cries disturbing, her father placed her in the garage, and as a result she died of pneumonia.[a][21][13] Their second child, born approximately a year later, was a boy diagnosed with Rh incompatibility who died at two days of age, either from complications of Rh incompatibility or from choking on his own mucus.[23][24] Another son was born three years later, and despite also having Rh incompatibility doctors described him as healthy. His father forced his wife to keep him quiet, which doctors believed caused his slow physical and linguistic development, and when he was four his paternal grandmother grew concerned about his developmental delays and her son's increasing instability.[23][24] She decided to take over her grandson's care for several months, and he made good progress before she eventually returned him to his parents.[13][14][23]

Early life[edit]

Genie was born about five years after her brother, around the time that her father began to isolate himself and his family from those around them.[25][26] Genie's delivery was a standard Caesarean section without any noted complications, and at birth she was in the 50th percentile for weight. The next day she showed signs of Rh incompatibility and required a blood transfusion, but did not appear to have any sequelae and was otherwise described as healthy.[27][25] A medical appointment at three months showed that she was gaining weight normally, but found a congenital hip dislocation which required her to wear a highly restrictive Frejka splint from the age of 4½ to 11 months. Due to the splint Genie was late to walk, and researchers believed this led her father to start speculating that she was mentally retarded. As a result, he made a concentrated effort not to talk to or pay attention to her and strongly discouraged his wife and son from doing so.[28][27]

There is relatively little information about Genie's early life, as Genie did not get regular medical care, but records indicate that for her first months she displayed relatively normal development. Genie's mother later recalled that Genie was not a cuddly baby, did not babble much, and resisted solid food.[28][29] At times she said that at some point Genie spoke individual words, but could not recall them, but at other times she said that Genie had never produced speech of any kind. Researchers never determined which was the truth.[28][30]

At the age of 11 months Genie was still in overall good health but had fallen to the 11th percentile for weight, which the people who later studied her believed was a sign that she was starting to suffer some degree of malnutrition. Against the doctor's recommendation that she receive physical therapy after removal of the Frejka splint, her father refused to allow access to any further treatment.[29][31] When Genie was 14 months old, she came down with a fever and pneumonitis and her parents took her to a pediatrician who had not previously seen her. The pediatrician said that, although her illness prevented a definitive diagnosis, there was a possibility that she was mentally retarded and that the brain dysfunction kernicterus might be present, bolstering her father's conclusion that she was severely retarded.[29][8][32]

Six months later, when Genie was 20 months old, her paternal grandmother died in a hit-and-run traffic accident. Her death affected Genie's father far beyond normal levels of grief, and because his son had been walking with her he held his son responsible, further heightening his anger.[13][33] When the truck's driver subsequently received only a probationary sentence for both manslaughter and drunk driving, he became delusional with rage. Scientists believed these events made him feel society had failed him and convinced him he would need to protect his family from the outside world, and that in doing so he lacked the self-awareness to recognize the destruction his actions caused.[13][33][34] He immediately quit his job and moved his family into his mother's two-bedroom house, where he insisted on leaving his mother's car and bedroom completely untouched as shrines to her, and further increased the family's isolation.[14][33][35]

Childhood[edit]

Upon moving, Genie's father increasingly confined Genie to the second bedroom upstairs while the rest of the family lived downstairs and slept in the living room. Genie's father still thought that Genie was severely mentally retarded and therefore needed additional protection from society, and therefore believed he needed to entirely hide her existence.[36][37] During the daytime, for approximately 13 hours Genie's father tied her to a child's toilet in a makeshift harness designed to function like a straitjacket, which according to her brother their father forced his wife to make. While in the harness, Genie wore only diapers and could only move her extremities.[b][14][33][38][14][27] At night he usually tied her into a sleeping bag and placed her in a crib with a metal-screen cover, her arms and legs immobilized, and researchers believed he sometimes left her on the child's toilet overnight.[c][27][39][40]

Researchers concluded that, if Genie vocalized or made any other noise, her father beat her with a large plank he kept in her room.[8][41] To keep her quiet he bared his teeth and barked and growled at her like a wild dog, and grew his fingernails out to scratch her. If he suspected her of doing something he did not like he made these noises outside the door to intimidate her, and beat her if he believed she had continued to do it, instilling an intense fear of cats and dogs in Genie that persisted long after she was freed. No one definitively discerned the exact reason for his dog-like behavior, although at least one scientist speculated he may have viewed himself as a guard dog and was acting out the role.[42][43] As a result, Genie learned to make as little sound as possible and to otherwise give no outward expressions. Genie developed a tendency to masturbate in socially inappropriate contexts, which led doctors to seriously consider the possibility that Genie's father subjected her to sexual abuse or forced her brother into doing so, although they never uncovered any definite evidence.[42][44][45]

Genie's father fed Genie as little as possible and refused to give her solid food, only feeding her baby food, cereal, Pablum, an occasional soft-boiled egg, and liquids. Her father, or when coerced her brother, spooned food into her mouth as quickly as possible, and if she choked or could not swallow fast enough the person feeding her rubbed her face in her food.[13][46][47] These few minutes were normally the only times he allowed his wife to be with her, but she could not feed Genie herself.[d][28][46] Although Genie's mother claimed her husband always fed Genie three times a day, she also said that Genie sometimes risked a beating by making noise when hungry, leading researchers to believe he often refused to feed her.[28][46]

Genie's father had an extremely low tolerance for noise, to the point of refusing to have a working television or radio in the house. He almost never allowed his wife or son to speak and viciously beat them if they did so without permission, particularly forbidding them to speak to or around Genie. Any conversation between them was always very quiet and out of Genie's earshot, preventing her from hearing any meaningful amount of language.[3][13][41] Her father kept Genie's room extremely dark, and the only stimuli available were the crib, the chair, curtains on each of the windows, three pieces of furniture, and two plastic rain jackets hanging on the wall. On rare occasions her father allowed her to play with plastic food containers, old spools of thread, TV Guides with many of the illustrations cut out, and the raincoats.[41][19][48] The room had two almost entirely blacked out windows, one of which her father left slightly open; through it she could see the side of a neighboring house and a few inches of sky, and occasionally heard environmental sounds or a neighboring child practicing the piano, but these stimuli were very limited as house was well away from the street and other houses.[41][39][28]

Genie's father almost never permitted anyone else to leave the house, only allowing his son to go to and from school and requiring him to prove his identity through various means before entering, and to discourage disobedience he frequently sat in the living room with a shotgun in his lap. He did not allow anyone else in the house, and kept his gun nearby in case someone did come.[13][37] No one in the neighborhood knew of the abuse Genie's father inflicted on his family, or was aware that Genie's parents ever had a child besides their son.[19] Throughout this time, Genie's father kept detailed notes chronicling his mistreatment of his family and his efforts to conceal it.[e][13][19]

Genie's mother was almost completely blind by this time, and was essentially passive by nature to begin with.[28][50][51] Her husband continued to beat her and threatened to kill her if she attempted to contact her parents, close friends who lived nearby, or the police.[46] Genie's father also forced his son into silence, giving him instructions on how to keep his father's actions secret and beating him with increasing frequency and severity, and as he got older their father forced him to carry out progressively more of his abuse of Genie in the same manner.[3][13][52] He felt completely powerless to do anything to stop it, as he knew his mother could not put up any resistance and feared severe retribution for attempting to intervene, and on multiple occasions tried to run away from the house.[3][13][14] Genie's father was convinced Genie would die by age 12 and promised that, if she survived past that age, he would allow his wife to seek outside assistance for her, but he reneged when Genie turned 12 and her mother took no action for another year and a half.[37][50]

Rescue[edit]

In late October 1970, when Genie was 13 years and 7 months old, Genie's parents had a violent argument in which her mother threatened to walk out if she could not call her own parents. Her husband eventually relented, and later that day she left with Genie when he was out of the house and went to her parents in Monterey Park; Genie's brother, by then 18, had already run away from home and was living with friends.[13][19][50] Around three weeks later, on November 4, Genie's mother decided to apply for disability benefits for the blind in nearby Temple City, California and brought Genie along with her, but on account of her near-blindness Genie's mother accidentally entered the general social services office next door.[3][50] The social worker who greeted them instantly sensed something was not right when she first saw Genie and was shocked to learn her true age was 13, having estimated from her appearance and demeanor that she was around 6 or 7 and possibly autistic. She notified her supervisor, and after questioning Genie's mother and confirming Genie's age they immediately contacted the police. Genie's parents were arrested and Genie became a ward of the court, and due to her physical condition and near-total unsocialized state a court order was immediately issued for Genie to be taken to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.[50][53][54]

Upon Genie's admission to Children's Hospital David Rigler, a therapist and USC psychology professor who was the chief psychologist at the hospital, and Howard Hansen, then the head of the psychiatry division and an early expert on child abuse, took direct control of Genie's care.[55][56] Most of the early information on Genie came from the police investigation, as Rigler said the hospital could not procure her developmental history.[57][58][59] Police found Genie's mother would not speak about her family—and particularly not her children—and Genie's father never seemed to acknowledge anything said to him.[19] Genie's brother cooperated with investigators, and an extensive search of the house yielded additional details, but after the investigation there were a large number of unresolved questions about Genie's early life that subsequent research never answered.[13][59]

News of Genie reached major media outlets on November 17, receiving a great deal of local and national attention. Authorities released only one photograph of Genie, and this picture significantly fueled public interest in her.[4][60][61] Although Genie's father refused to speak to the media large crowds subsequently went to try to see him, which he reportedly found extremely difficult to handle.[19][62] On November 20, the morning before a scheduled court appearance on child abuse charges, Genie's father committed suicide by gunshot. Police found two suicide notes, one intended for his son which in part said, "Be a good boy, I love you", and one directed at police. One note—sources conflict as to which—contained the declaration, "The world will never understand."[13][63][60]

After the suicide of Genie's father, law enforcement and hospital staff exclusively focused on Genie and her mother and almost immediately decided to leave Genie's brother on his own; he said their mother soon began dedicating all of her love and attention to Genie, and decided to leave the Los Angeles area.[13][14] At the request of Hansen attorney John Miner, an acquaintance of Hansen, represented Genie's mother in court. She told the court that the beatings from her husband and her near-total blindness had left her unable to protect her children.[64][65] Charges against her were dropped, and she received counseling from Children's Hospital; Hansen was her therapist's direct supervisor.[66]

Characteristics and personality[edit]

A slightly blurry color picture of Genie, facing slightly right of the camera, walking by herself outside in the Children's Hospital recreation yard. She is wearing a plaid-patterned dress and thin sweater and looks extremely pale, emaciated, and expressionless. Her limbs are exposed and look extremely thin. Both of her knees are very bent, and her arms are bent forward with both hands hanging down as she holds them out in front of her.
Genie in the Children's Hospital yard a few weeks after her admission, displaying her characteristic "bunny walk".

The day after Genie's admission to Children's Hospital Rigler and Hansen assigned physician James Kent, another early advocate for child abuse awareness, to conduct the first examinations of her, which he later stated revealed by far the most severe case of child abuse he would ever encounter and made him extremely pessimistic about Genie's prognosis.[56] Genie was extremely pale and grossly malnourished, standing 4 ft 6 in (1.37 m) and weighing only 59 pounds (27 kg), and had two nearly full sets of teeth in her mouth and a distended abdomen.[28][67][68] The restraining harness her father used had caused a thick callus and heavy black bruising on her buttocks, which took several weeks to heal.[69] A series of X-rays found Genie had moderate coxa valga in both hips and an undersized ribcage, and doctors determined her bone age to be that of an 11-year-old.[28] Despite early tests confirming she had normal vision in both eyes she could not focus them on anything more than 10 feet (3 m) away, corresponding to the dimensions of the room her father kept her in.[70]

Genie's gross motor skills were extremely weak; she could neither stand up straight nor fully straighten any of her limbs, and had very little endurance.[71][72] Her movements were very hesitant and unsteady and her characteristic "bunny walk", in which she held her hands in front of her like claws while ambulating, suggested extreme difficulty with sensory processing and an inability to integrate visual and tactile information.[55][73] Kent was somewhat surprised to find her fine motor skills were significantly better, determining they were at approximately the level of a two-year-old.[74] As she never ate solid food as a child she could not chew and had very severe dysphagia, totally incapable of swallowing solid or even soft food and barely able to swallow liquids.[70][69] When eating she held anything she could not swallow in her mouth until her saliva broke it down, and if this took too long she spat it out and mashed it with her fingers.[47] She was also completely incontinent, and did not respond to extreme temperatures.[75][76]

Doctors found it extremely difficult to test or estimate Genie's mental age or any of her cognitive abilities, but on two attempts they found Genie scored at the level of a 13-month-old. From the very first time Kent met with Genie he was convinced that she had memories of her past.[77][56] To the surprise of the doctors working with her she appeared very interested in exploring environmental stimuli, although objects seemed to intrigue her much more than people, especially noting the extreme intensity with which she looked for new sources of stimulation.[28][78] She seemed especially curious about unfamiliar sounds, and one of the very few positive signs Kent saw was that, from the very beginning, she searched for the source of noises. Doctors noticed her extreme fear of cats and dogs very early during her stay, but initially attributed it to an inability to think rationally; they did not discern its actual origin until years later.[79][80]

After moving into Children's Hospital Genie showed interest in many hospital staff members, often approaching complete strangers and walking with them, and at first seemed more eager to interact with hospital staff than anyone else.[81][47] However, Kent said she did not seem to distinguish between people and thought she was more interested in the place she was in than the people with her, noting she showed no signs of attachment to anybody in particular, including her family.[81][82] When her mother and brother attempted to greet her on their first visit to the hospital, Kent said she walked over to her mother and gave her a brief, expressionless look before returning to Kent, in the process never acknowledging her brother. At first she would not allow anyone to touch her, quickly shying away from any physical contact, and while she sat on her mother's lap when requested she remained very tense and got up as quickly as possible; at least once, upon getting away she immediately had a tantrum. During these early visits, hospital staff noted her mother seemed entirely oblivious to Genie's mood.[83][84]

Genie's behavior was typically highly antisocial, and proved extremely difficult for others to control. Regardless of where she was she constantly salivated and spat, and continually sniffed and blew her nose on anything that happened to be nearby.[85][74] She had no sense of personal property, frequently pointing to or taking something she wanted from someone else. In addition, she had no situational awareness. Doctors wrote that she acted on impulse irrespective of the setting, especially noting that she frequently engaged in open masturbation and would sometimes attempt to involve older men in it.[58][47][86]

Genie showed a small amount of responsiveness to nonverbal information, including gestures and facial expressions from other people, and Kent noted that she made reasonably good eye contact with other people.[85][87] Her demeanor was completely devoid of any expressions or discernible body language and she could only get across a few very basic needs, all exclusively through nonverbal means.[88][55] She clearly distinguished speaking from other environmental sounds but remained almost completely silent and almost entirely unresponsive to speech, and hospital staff later determined that what responses she did give were to nonverbal signals accompanying their speaking.[28][85] When upset Genie would wildly spit, blow her nose into her clothing, rub mucus all over her body, frequently urinate, and scratch and strike herself, but she remained completely expressionless and never cried or vocalized; some accounts said she could not cry at all. To make noise, she would push chairs or other similar objects.[89][90] Her outbursts initially occurred very often without any obvious trigger—Kent wrote she never attempted to indicate the source of her anger—and would continue until she either had her attention diverted or physically tired herself out, at which point she would again become silent and non-expressive.[91]

Linguists later discerned that, in January 1971, Genie only showed understanding of her own name, the names of a few others, and about 15–20 words, and her active vocabulary at the time consisted of two phrases, "stop it" and "no more". They could not determine the extent of her expressive or receptive vocabulary at any point before January 1971, and therefore did not know whether she had acquired any or all of these words during the preceding two months at the hospital.[28][92][85] After observing Genie for some time they concluded that she was not selectively mute, tests did not find evidence of any metabolic disorders or skull deformations, a neurologist found no signs of neurological disorders, her chromosomes were normal, and a preliminary EEG had no indications of any mental disorder.[28][93] After uncovering no clear mental disabilities in her existing medical records, researchers determined that, due to the extreme isolation and lack of exposure to language during her childhood, she had not acquired a first language.[28][94]

Preliminary assessment[edit]

Within a month after Genie's admission to Children's Hospital, Jay Shurley, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Oklahoma and a specialist in extreme social isolation, took an interest in her case. Shurley noted that Genie's was the most severe case of isolation he had ever studied or heard about, which he maintained more than 20 years later.[40][55][95] Over the next year and a half he came on three three-day visits to conduct daily observations and to carry out a sleep study, hoping to determine if Genie was autistic, whether or not she had any brain damage, and whether or not she was born mentally retarded.[28][40][96] Shurley's daytime observations and conversations with hospital staff led him to believe she was not autistic, with which later researchers concurred. Although her behavior showed a high level of emotional disturbance, he wrote that she showed a great desire to find new sources of stimulation and did not exhibit behavioral defense mechanisms characteristic of autism.[f][28][40]

Shurley found no signs of brain damage but observed a few persistent abnormalities in her sleep, including a significantly reduced amount (and much larger than average variance in duration) of REM sleep and an unusually high number of sleep spindles.[28][40] In 1972 Shurley wrote that he considered either functional or congenital mental retardation possible causes, but eventually concluded Genie had been mentally retarded from birth and specifically cited her significantly elevated number of sleep spindles, as these are characteristic of people born with severe retardation.[4][97][98] The other scientists following the case remained divided on this issue. Much later, for example, Susan Curtiss emphatically argued that, though Genie clearly had serious emotional difficulties, she could not have been retarded. She pointed out that Genie made a year's developmental progress for every calendar year after her rescue, which would not be expected if her condition was congenital, and that some aspects of language Genie acquired were uncharacteristic of mentally retarded people.[4][19][99] She instead believed that Genie was born with at least average intelligence, and that the abuse and isolation of her childhood had left her functionally retarded.[4][99]

Hospital stay[edit]

In his first meeting with Genie, James Kent initially observed no reactions from her but eventually drew a small amount of responsiveness with a small puppet. Playing with this and similar puppets quickly became her favorite activity, and during the early part of her stay these sessions were, apart from her tantrums, one of the few times she expressed any emotion.[28][100] Within a few days of arriving at Children's Hospital Genie started learning to dress herself and began voluntarily using the toilet, but she continued to suffer from nighttime and daytime incontinence. Both of these slowly improved during her stay at the hospital but persisted even years later, tending to resurface during times when she felt stressed.[40][101] Kent quickly realized there would be a large number of people working with Genie, and was concerned that she would not learn to form a normal relationship unless somebody was a steady presence in her life, so he decided to accompany her on walks and to all of her appointments.[4][102]

Genie quickly began growing and putting on weight and steadily became more confident in her movements, and by December she had good eye–hand coordination and was much better at focusing her eyes.[4][28][103] She rapidly developed a sense of possession, hoarding objects to which she took a liking for reasons doctors did not know, and became extremely upset if someone touched or moved anything she collected.[4][104] She took all kinds of items but particularly sought colorful plastic objects, which doctors speculated was due to these having been the items she had access to as a child, and did not seem to care whether they were toys or ordinary containers but especially sought out beach pails. During the first few months of her stay, giving her one of these objects could bring her out of a tantrum.[105][106]

After a few weeks Genie became much more responsive to nonverbal and verbal stimuli, and shortly afterwards she began paying attention to people speaking, but at first she remained mostly unexpressive and it was unclear whether she responded more to verbal or nonverbal stimuli.[28][107][108] Shortly afterwards Genie showed clear responses to nonverbal signals, and her nonverbal communication skills quickly became exceptional. Everyone who interacted with her said she had an indescribable way of eliciting emotions, and said she seemed able to express her desires without talking.[4][93][109] A month into her stay Genie started becoming sociable with Kent, and soon after with other familiar hospital staff, and got along with both men and women but feared men who wore khaki pants and gravitated towards men with beards.[110][111] She was clearly happy when familiar people visited and sometimes worked very hard to get a person to stay, expressing disappointment if she failed; for no discernible reason, her greetings were far more energetic than her relatively mild unhappiness when people left.[112] After the state dropped charges against Genie's mother she began visiting Genie at the hospital twice a week, and she and her mother steadily each grew better at interacting with each other; and after a few months, doctors saw Genie begin to exude happiness when she knew her mother was coming.[113]

Around the same time also saw Genie took pleasure in intentionally dropping or destroying small objects, and enjoyed watching someone else do the same to something she had been playing with. When she first saw that no one would punish her she would give an extremely tentative laugh, and as she engaged in this play more often her laughter became more free and intense.[114] Kent wrote that, because she did the same series of actions several times over and it appeared to ease some internal tension for her, she did this to gain control of traumatic childhood experiences.[115] She also showed deep fascination with classical piano music played in front of her, which researchers believed was because she could hear some piano music during her childhood. She did not have the same reaction to recordings, and if someone played anything other than classical music she would change the sheet music to a book which she knew had pieces she liked.[116][110]

By December 1970, Kent and the other hospital staff working with Genie saw her as a potential case study subject. That month David Rigler obtained a small grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) to do preliminary studies on her, and began organizing a research team to submit a larger request.[117] In January 1971 doctors administered a Gesell Developmental Evaluation and found Genie to be at the developmental level of a 1- to 3-year-old, noting that she was already showing substantial developmental disparities.[28] The following month psychologist Jack Block evaluated her with his wife, Jeanne, and on various tasks placed her below a 2- to 3-year-old level, at a 5-year-old level, at an 8- to 9-year-old level, and for a few at a normal 12- to 13-year-old level. Around the same time, doctors noted that she was very interested in people speaking and that she attempted to mimic some speech sounds.[93][118][119]

By April and May 1971, Genie's scores on the Leiter International Performance Scale tests had dramatically increased, with her overall mental age at the level of a typical 4-year-9-month-old, but on individual components she still showed a very high level of scatter.[93][120][121] Her progress with language accelerated, and doctors noticed that the words she used indicated a fairly advanced mental categorization of objects and situations and had a focus on objective properties to a degree not normally found in children.[93][122][119] Around that time, when a minor earthquake struck Los Angeles, she ran frightened into the kitchen and rapidly verbalized to some of the hospital cooks she had befriended, which was the first time she sought out comfort from another person and the first time she was so readily verbal. However, she still had a hard time being with large crowds of people. At her birthday party, she became so anxious at all the guests present that she had to go outside with Rigler to calm down.[110][123]

During the later part of Genie's stay at the hospital she also started engaging in physical play with adults, and eventually began to enjoy giving and receiving hugs.[124] She continued to exhibit frustration and have tantrums, but these were more typical of behavior found in most young children. Unlike earlier in her stay, she could continue to sulk for a considerable period of time despite being given an object she liked.[125] In April 1971, to the great surprise of doctors she began attacking another girl because she felt she owned the hospital dress the other girl had on. This was both her first exhibition of a sense of possession over items that she thought were hers but was otherwise impartial towards and the first time she directed her anger outwards, but she did not entirely stop harming herself when angry.[126][127]

Brain testing[edit]

Refer to caption
The Salk Institute, where researchers analyzed the data from the first of several brain exams on Genie.

Beginning in January 1971 scientists conducted a series of neurolinguistic tests on Genie to determine and monitor the course and extent of her mental development, making her the first language-deprived child to undergo any detailed study of her brain.[28][93][128] Genie's entire brain was physically intact and Shurley's sleep-studies found sleep patterns typical of a left-hemisphere dominant person, leading scientists to believe she was most likely right-handed. Over the following years multiple tests of her handedness bolstered this conclusion, as did observations of her in everyday situations.[40][129][128] Based on their early tests, doctors suspected Genie's brain was extremely right-hemisphere dominant.[93][129][128]

In early March of that year, neuroscientists Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima came from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies to administer their own series of brain exams on Genie. Audiometry tests confirmed that she had regular hearing in both ears, but on a series of dichotic listening tests Bellugi and Klima found that she identified language sounds with 100% accuracy in her left ear while correctly answering at only a chance level in her right ear. Such an extreme level of asymmetry on these tests had previously only been documented in patients with either split-brain or who had undergone a hemispherectomy as an adult.[129][128] When they gave her monaural tests for both language and non-language sounds she answered with 100% accuracy in both ears, which was normal. On non-language dichotic listening tests she showed a slight preference for identifying sounds in her left ear, which was typical for a right-handed person and helped rule out the possibility of her brain only being reversed in dominance for language.[28][129][130]

Based on these results, Bellugi and Klima believed that Genie had been developing as a normal right-handed person until the time her father began isolating her. They attributed the imbalance between Genie's hemispheres to the fact that Genie's sensory input as a child was almost exclusively visual and tactile, stimulating functions which are predominantly controlled in the right hemisphere of a right-handed person, and although this input had been extremely minimal it was sufficient to cause their lateralization to the right hemisphere.[8][28] They therefore believed that because Genie had no linguistic input during her childhood, it underwent no specialization whatsoever and as a result her language functions never lateralized to it. Since Genie accurately distinguished speech sounds with her right hemisphere, they thought her language functions had lateralized there instead.[28][131]

Interest as a case study and grant funding[edit]

A black and white print of Victor of Aveyron as a teenager from the chest up and shirtless, with his body facing forward and his face slightly turned to the left.
Victor of Aveyron c. 1800.

At the time of Genie's admission to Children's Hospital there was wide discussion in both lay and academic circles about the hypotheses of Noam Chomsky, who had first suggested that language was innate to humans and distinguished humans from all other animals, and Eric Lenneberg, who in 1967 hypothesized that humans have a critical period for language acquisition and defined its end as the onset of puberty.[4][132] Despite the interest in these hypotheses, prior to Genie's discovery there had been no way to test them. Though ancient and medieval texts made several references to language deprivation experiments modern researchers labeled such ideas "The Forbidden Experiment", impossible to carry out for ethical reasons.[93][133][134] Coincidentally the François Truffaut film The Wild Child, which chronicled the life of Victor of Aveyron in the years immediately after his discovery at the age of 13 and portrayed the efforts of then-aspiring medical student Jean Marc Gaspard Itard to teach him language and integrate him into society, also premiered in the United States only a week after Genie's rescue. The movie was a major success, and further heightened public interest in cases of children subjected to extreme abuse or isolation.[4][135][134]

Prompted by this coincidence of timing, David Rigler led a team of scientists who sought and obtained a three-year grant from the NIMH to study Genie in May 1971. At the suggestion of Jean Butler, Genie's special education teacher at the hospital, they screened The Wild Child during their first meeting, and the scientists later said the film had an immediate and profound impact.[4][136][137] The huge variety of suggestions for how to study Genie made it extremely difficult to give the proposal a coherent direction.[4][138] To the surprise of several of the scientists, Rigler ultimately decided the primary focus of the study would be to test Chomsky and Lenneberg's hypotheses and selected UCLA linguistics professor Victoria Fromkin to head linguistic evaluation.[g][4][139][140] They also planned to continue periodic evaluations of Genie's psychological development in various aspects of her life. From the time of her admission to Children's Hospital researchers had tried to keep her identity concealed, and it was around this time that they adopted the pseudonym Genie for her, referencing similarities between a genie coming out of a lamp without having a childhood and Genie's sudden emergence into society past childhood.[4][141][55]

Early research[edit]

Soon after the NIMH accepted the grant proposal, in late May 1971, Susan Curtiss began her work on Genie's case as a graduate student in linguistics under Victoria Fromkin, and for the remainder of Genie's stay at Children's Hospital Curtiss met with Genie almost every day.[142][143][144] Curtiss quickly recognized Genie's powerful nonverbal communication abilities, writing that complete strangers would buy something for her because they sensed she wanted it and that these gifts were always the types of objects she most enjoyed.[4][109] From her observations, conversations with hospital staff, and reviewing hospital transcripts, Curtiss concluded that Genie had learned a significant amount of language by this time but that it was not yet at a usefully testable level. She therefore decided to dedicate the next few months to getting to know Genie and gaining her friendship, and she and Genie very quickly bonded with each other.[145][146]

At around the same time Curtiss began her work doctors reevaluated Genie on the Leiter scale and measured her on the Stanford–Binet Intelligence Scale, which placed her estimated mental age between a 5- and 8-year-old with a very high degree of scatter.[28] Doctors believed Genie had learned to use her gestalt perception to determine the number of objects in a group, and by the start of the case study she could accurately discern the correct number of up to 7 objects.[147] Child psychologist David Elkind, who was involved in the grant meetings, evaluated Genie in May 1971 and reported that she was in the concrete operational stage of development, noting that she understood object permanence and could engage in deferred imitation.[148][149] Genie's physical health also continued to improve, and by this time her endurance had dramatically increased.[150] Genie's behavior was still highly abnormal, and the scientists were especially concerned that she almost never interacted with people her age—one visiting psychiatrist wrote in May 1971 that she acted as if other children were "no different from the walls and furniture in the room"—but also expressed some optimism about her prognosis.[151][4][93]

First foster home[edit]

In June 1971, Jean Butler obtained permission to take Genie on day trips to her home in Country Club Park, Los Angeles. Near the end of that month, after one of these trips Butler told the hospital that she (Butler) might have contracted rubella, to which Genie would have been exposed. Although there had been ongoing efforts to place Genie in a foster home for months, hospital staff were reluctant to give foster custody to Butler and were very skeptical of her story, strongly suspecting she had concocted it as part of a bid to take over as Genie's guardian and primary caretaker.[4][152][153] Nonetheless, they decided that placing Genie in an isolation ward at the hospital could potentially be highly damaging to her social and psychological development, so as an alternative they decided to temporarily quarantine her in Butler's home. Butler, who was childless, unmarried, and at the time living alone, subsequently petitioned for foster custody of Genie, and despite the hospital's objections authorities extended Genie's stay while they considered the matter.[75][154][152]

Butler's observations[edit]

Butler's records are the primary source of information on Genie's language acquisition and development during this time.[4][155] She continued to observe Genie's hoarding, in particular noting that Genie collected and kept dozens of containers of liquid in her room.[4] Although Butler could not discern the reason for Genie's intense fear of cats and dogs, after witnessing it firsthand Butler and the man she was dating—who was a retired University of Southern California professor and psychologist—tried to help her overcome it by watching episodes of the television series Lassie with her and giving her a battery-powered toy dog. Butler wrote that Genie could eventually tolerate fenced dogs, but that there was no progress with cats.[4][156]

Soon after moving in Genie started showing the first signs of reaching puberty, marking dramatic improvement in her overall health and definitively putting her past Lenneberg's proposed critical period for language acquisition, although David Rigler noted that the onset of menstruation complicated efforts to deal with her incontinence.[93][157] Genie's incontinence gradually improved until, by the end of her stay, it had almost entirely gone away.[158] In her journal Butler wrote that she had gotten Genie to stop attacking herself when angry, and that she taught Genie to express her anger through words or by hitting objects. Butler also claimed that Genie had become noticeably more talkative; in early August she wrote to Jay Shurley that Genie's utterances were longer, more grammatically complex, and served an increasing number of functions, and said the man she was dating also noticed and commented on these improvements.[159]

Dispute[edit]

Genie's mother continued to visit Genie, and around the time Genie moved in with Butler, Genie's mother received corrective cataract surgery which restored much of her vision. During Genie's stay Butler had the man she was dating move in with her, believing that authorities would view her pending foster application more favorably if she offered a two-parent home, and he and Genie reportedly got along very well.[160] However, Butler began to strenuously resist visits from the researchers, whom she felt overtaxed Genie.[4][152][161] She began disparagingly referring to them in her writings as the "Genie Team", a name which stuck. Butler particularly seemed to dislike James Kent and Susan Curtiss, accusing them of interfering with Genie's development, and prevented both from visiting during the latter part of Genie's stay. Butler also had several disagreements with Rigler, although he said their disputes were never as personal or as heated as she portrayed them.[152][162] On several occasions she demanded to be credited in the scientists' research publications, and although Rigler initially acquiesced the scientists eventually decided against it.[163]

Although the scientists on the research team believed that Butler was attempting to act in Genie's best interest, they criticized her lack of willingness to work with them and thought she negatively affected both Genie's care and the case study. They strongly contested Butler's claims of pushing Genie too hard, contending that she enjoyed the tests and that she could take breaks at will, and both Curtiss and Kent emphatically denied Butler's accusations towards them.[4][57][164] The research team viewed Butler as personally troubled, noting her longstanding and widely known reputation for combativeness among coworkers and superiors.[163] Several of the scientists, including Curtiss and Howard Hansen, recalled Butler openly stating that she hoped Genie would make her famous, and Curtiss especially remembered Butler repeatedly proclaiming her intent to be, "the next Anne Sullivan".[4][165]

In mid-August, California authorities informed Butler they had rejected her application for foster custody.[4][155] The extent, if any, to which Children's Hospital influenced the decision is unclear. Rigler maintained several times that despite the scientists' objections neither the hospital nor any of its staff had intervened, and said the decision surprised him.[57][166] The Nova documentary on Genie, however, states the rejection of Butler came partially on the hospital's recommendation; there is evidence many hospital authorities, including Hansen, felt Butler's ability to care for Genie was inadequate, and hospital policy forbade its staff members from becoming foster parents of its patients.[4][167] Butler herself believed the hospital had opposed her application so Genie could be moved somewhere more conducive to research, and wrote that Genie, upon being told of the decision, was extremely upset and had said, "No, no, no."[167]

Second foster home[edit]

In early August Hansen suggested to Rigler that he take custody of Genie if authorities rejected Butler's application, and Rigler initially balked at the idea but decided to talk it over with his wife, Marilyn; Marilyn had graduate training as a social worker and had just completed a graduate degree in human development, and had previously worked in nursery schools and Head Start Programs. The Riglers had three adolescent children of their own, one of whom was leaving to attend college. They ultimately decided that, if no one else would, they were willing to temporarily provide for Genie until a new foster home became available.[57][168] Jay Shurley said the Riglers also thought their experience with raising three children gave them an advantage over Butler.[169] The scientists knew it would be extremely unusual to make David Rigler Genie's foster parent while still one of her therapists and the head of the research team, and Rigler acknowledged the arrangement would clearly put him in a dual relationship with her; nonetheless, Children's Hospital authorities and the state decided that, in the absence of other options, they would consent to making the Riglers Genie's temporary foster parents.[4][57][168]

On the same day Genie went back to the hospital, the Riglers had Genie transferred to their home in Los Feliz. David Rigler said that he and Marilyn initially intended the arrangement to last for a maximum of three months, but Genie ultimately stayed with them for almost four years.[4][168][170] When Genie moved in with the Riglers Marilyn became her new teacher, and the research team immediately resumed observations and evaluations.[75][171][172] Soon after she moved in David Rigler also decided to make himself Genie's primary therapist, taking over this role from James Kent.[4][173] Although the Riglers remained her foster parents and primary caretakers throughout this time, with the consent of Genie's mother and her psychologists authorities designated John Miner Genie's uncompensated legal guardian during 1972.[4][174]

Relationship with her mother[edit]

While Genie lived with the Riglers, her mother usually met with her once a week at a park or restaurant.[57][175] Although the Riglers never expressed antipathy towards her their efforts to be polite inadvertently came off as condescension, and Marilyn later said she was uncomfortable acting as a mother to Genie in her house with Genie's real mother present and thought a neutral location was easier for all of them. Genie's mother also had a difficult time getting along with most of the other people involved in her and Genie's life, some of whom disliked her due to her apathy during Genie's childhood. She was much more able to relate to Jay Shurley, who felt the other scientists did not treat her as an equal.[h][176] The scientists speculated Genie's mother gave them a mostly cool reception because they reminded her of her earlier inaction on behalf of her children, and David Rigler also thought she was in denial about Genie's condition and the hand she had in causing it.[177] Curtiss wrote that Genie's mother often gave conflicting statements about her married life and Genie's childhood to linguists and her psychologists, seemingly saying what she thought they wanted to hear, which they believed was out of fear of reprobation or ostracism for telling the truth.[178]

Jean Butler, who married shortly after authorities removed Genie from her house and began using her married name, Ruch, stayed in touch with Genie's mother. Although Genie's mother later recalled that most of their conversations during this time were shallow in nature, they continued to get along very well.[179] Throughout Genie's stay with the Riglers Ruch persistently accused researchers of conducting harmful tests, deliberately forcing her mother out of her life, and misusing the available grant money, all of which the other scientists consistently denied.[180] Genie's mother steadily began listening more to Ruch and came to feel the research team was marginalizing her, which according to David Rigler they did not recognize at the time.[57][181]

Research team testing and observations[edit]

Behavior[edit]

Without any obvious cause Genie's incontinence immediately resurfaced, and was especially severe for the first few weeks after moving in but persisted at a lower level for several months.[182][183] Despite the clear improvements in her health she was still extremely thin and undersized, and her manner of walking was still very unusual.[184] In contrast to Butler's writings Marilyn observed Genie still acted out her anger on herself and that certain situations in particular, such as spilling containers of liquid, sent her into tantrum behavior, which doctors attributed to her having been beaten for these actions as a child.[4][182][185] The research team noted that her speech was much more halting and hesitant than Butler had described, with Curtiss writing that Genie very rarely spoke and that, for the first three months of her stay, almost always used one-word utterances.[185] Unless she saw something which frightened her both her speech and behavior exhibited a great deal of latency, often several minutes delayed, for reasons the scientists could not explain.[186][183] She continued to have a very difficult time controlling her impulses, frequently engaging in highly anti-social and destructive behavior which demonstrated a total lack of situational awareness.[57][186][183]

Genie was also terrified of the Riglers' cat and Labrador retriever puppy, and upon seeing the puppy for the first time she immediately ran into the next room and hid.[187] Although the scientists did not yet know the reason for her fear, in the days immediately after she moved in the Riglers used the puppy to acclimate her. After around two weeks she managed to entirely overcome her fear of both animals, and eventually learned to walk the dog and to feed it by herself. Nonetheless, she remained extremely afraid of unfamiliar cats and dogs.[75][188]

A black and white frame taken from a video of Genie, who is enthusiastically smiling, taken from several feet away. It shows her from the chest up, while Genie is facing slightly to the right of the camera.
Genie shortly after moving in with the Riglers, during a session working with Marilyn Rigler.

Shortly after Genie moved in Marilyn taught her to direct her frustrations outward by jumping, slamming doors, hitting objects, stomping her feet, and generally "having a fit."[4][189] Marilyn soon noticed Genie sought compliments on her appearance, and began painting Genie's fingernails and telling her she did not look good when she scratched and cut her face.[189] When situations came up which especially upset Genie, Marilyn also tried to explain in words that these were not a big deal.[190] Later during her stay, when Marilyn saw Genie getting upset, Marilyn would say, "You are upset. You are having a rough time." Genie gradually began to respond, "rough time", eventually only needing to hear Marilyn say, "You are upset" before saying, "rough time", and eventually could indicate her level of anger; depending on whether she was very angry or merely frustrated, she either vigorously shook one finger or loosely waved her hand.[4][191] She gradually gained control over her responses to upsetting situations, although she never entirely ceased to have tantrums.[192]

To help overcome Genie's ongoing difficulty with chewing and swallowing Marilyn gave her progressively tougher foods and physically raising and lowering her jaw, and after approximately four months Genie could eat all types of solid food.[193][194] She also worked to help Genie become more attuned to her body's sensations, and in late 1973 Genie began to show some sensitivity to temperature.[4][190][195] Throughout the time Genie lived with the Riglers her physical health continued to improve, and although Genie was very lazy in both Curtiss' and the Riglers' estimation she made noticeable gains. By the end of her stay she could engage in vigorous exercise and other physical play, and her incontinence almost entirely disappeared.[19][196][197]

When Genie first moved in she did not usually listen to anyone unless someone directly addressed her or if Curtiss played classical music on the piano, and if someone spoke to her she almost never gave any kind of response and usually walked away after a while.[186][183] Curtiss began reading children's stories to her, and at first Genie did not seem to engage, but one day in mid-October 1971 Curtiss saw that Genie was clearly listening and responding to her. After that, she began to pay attention to people even when they were not speaking directly to or about her. She became somewhat more sociable in her interactions with other people, on some occasions spontaneously contributing to an ongoing conversation, and became somewhat more responsive to people, although she still frequently showed no obvious signs that she heard someone.[93][198][199] Her reactions to most stimuli became more rapid, but even by the end of her stay she sometimes took a few minutes before acknowledging something or someone.[200][201]

Although Genie never developed fully normal social skills, papers from the time indicated that Genie's development progressed throughout the entire course of her stay. After several months, her behavior improved to the point that she started going to first a nursery school and then a public school for mentally delayed children her age.[28][202] She made substantial progress with controlling herself both at home and in public, almost entirely ceasing her socially inappropriate masturbation by the time Curtiss presented her dissertation.[203] In February 1973 Curtiss recorded the first time Genie shared something with her, and while she continued to take things from other people her responses clearly indicated that she knew she was not supposed to.[203][204] The Riglers taught her some self-help skills, including simple chores such as ironing and using a sewing machine, and by the end of her stay she had also learned to make simple meals for herself.[205][206][202]

During the time Genie lived with the Riglers, everyone who worked with her reported that her mood significantly improved and she was clearly content with her life.[4][57][207] David Rigler wrote that the authorities' ongoing independent evaluations of Genie concurred with their assessment.[57] As late as June 1975 he wrote that Genie continued to make significant strides in every field which the scientists were testing, and Curtiss' writings from that time period also expressed some optimism about her social development.[144][192][208] Nonetheless, even by mid-1975 most social interactions with her remained abnormal in quality.[209][210] The scientists wrote that, while her overall demeanor had significantly improved, many aspects of her behavior remained characteristic of an unsocialized person.[4][192]

Language[edit]

Curtiss began thorough, active testing of Genie's language in October 1971, when she and Fromkin decided that her linguistic abilities were sufficient to yield usable results, and continued to monitor her language in everyday situations. Linguists designed their tests to measure both Genie's vocabulary and her acquisition of various aspects of grammar, including syntax, phonology, and morphology, and attempted to gauge what pragmatics of language she acquired in everyday conversations. The research team considered her language acquisition to be a substantial part of their larger goal of helping her to integrate herself into society, so although they wanted to observe what vocabulary and grammar Genie could learn on her own, out of a sense of obligation they sometimes stepped in to assist her.[28][93][211] As with other aspects of her life Curtiss found that, except for a few specific tests, Genie did not actively resist but clearly did as little as possible. As testing continued she grew to largely enjoy being tested and became much more cooperative, although Curtiss wrote that Genie usually gave less than her best effort.[93][212][213]

Throughout testing, the size of Genie's vocabulary and the speed with which she expanded it continued to outstrip all anticipations. By mid-1975 she could accurately name most objects she encountered, and clearly knew more words than she regularly used.[8][214][211] By contrast, Genie had far more difficulty with learning and using basic grammar. She clearly mastered certain principles of grammar, and her receptive comprehension consistently remained significantly ahead of her production, but the rate at which her grammar acquisition occurred was far slower than normal and resulted in an unusually large disparity between her vocabulary and grammar.[93][215][216] In everyday conversations Genie typically spoke only in short utterances and inconsistently used what pieces of grammar she possessed, although her use of grammar remained significantly better in imitation, and her conversational competence markedly improved during her stay but remained very low, which the scientists found unsurprising and suggested provided evidence that the ability to engage in conversation was a separate skill from knowing language.[93][217][218]

In many cases, the scientists used Genie's language development to help them gauge her overall psychological state. Genie consistently confused the pronouns you and me, often saying, "Mama love you" while pointing to herself, which Curtiss attributed to a manifestation of Genie's inability to distinguish who she was from who someone else was.[219][220][93] In some instances, learning a new aspect of language played a direct role in furthering her psychological and mental development. At the time Genie learned to say "May I have [example]" as a ritual phrase she was also learning how to use money, and Curtiss wrote that this phrase gave Genie the ability to ask for payment and fueled her desire to make money, leading her to take a more active role in performing activities which would lead to a reward.[205][221] The scientists especially noted that even if she lacked the grammar to express conceptual information she often understood it, which they wrote demonstrated that she had greater cognitive abilities than most children in congruous phases of language acquisition.[222]

At the start of testing Genie's voice was still extremely high-pitched and soft, which linguists believed accounted for some of her abnormal expressive language, and the scientists worked very hard to improve it.[223][224] Her voice gradually became moderately lower and louder, although it remained unusually high and soft, and she began to better articulate words. Despite this she consistently either outright deleted or substituted sounds, making it extremely difficult for people unfamiliar with her speech to understand her. The scientists believed Genie was often unaware of her pronunciation, but on other occasions she produced haplologies which were clearly intentional and would only speak more clearly if firmly, explicitly requested to; Curtiss attributed the latter to Genie trying to say as little as possible and still be understood.[225][93] Eventually Curtiss and Marilyn convinced Genie to stop her most extreme haplologies, but she continued to delete sounds when possible, causing linguists following the case to refer to Genie as the Great Abbreviator.[226][227][224]

Papers contemporaneous with the case study indicated that Genie was learning new vocabulary and grammar throughout her entire stay with the Riglers, and were optimistic about her potential to varying degrees.[28][93] Nonetheless, even by mid-1975 there were still many pieces of language which she had not acquired. Furthermore, although she could understand and produce longer utterances, she still primarily spoke in short phrases such as "Ball belong hospital".[144][228][192] Despite the clear increase in Genie's conversational competence, the scientists wrote that it remained very low compared to normal people. Curtiss and Fromkin ultimately concluded that because Genie had not learned a first language before the critical period had ended, she was unable to fully acquire a language.[229][228]

Recalling past events[edit]

Sometime during early to mid-1972 the Riglers overheard Genie saying, "Father hit big stick. Father is angry." to herself, demonstrating that she could talk about her life before starting to learn language.[215][230][231] Although she did not discuss her childhood very often she gradually began to speak about her father and could talk about his treatment of her and what she said gave researchers new insights into her early life.[4][93][221] During the rest of her stay with the Riglers she would constantly repeat "Father hit" to herself, and before the Riglers worked with Genie to understand the concept of death she often asked them where her father was, afraid that he would come to get her.[4][231] The scientists tried to get Genie to tell them about her early life as much as possible, and Marilyn would sometimes coach Genie by role-playing as Genie's real mother.[4][215][231] Genie did not speak about her childhood very often, but when she did she gave researchers valuable information.[232]

"Father hit arm. Big wood. Genie cry ... Not spit. Father. Hit face – spit. Father hit big stick. Father is angry. Father hit Genie big stick. Father take piece wood hit. Cry. Father make me cry. Father is dead."[230]

Nonverbal communication[edit]

In contrast to her linguistic abilities, Genie's nonverbal communication continued to excel. She invented her own system of gestures and pantomimed certain words as she said them, and also acted out events which she could not express in language.[93][233][234] Initially she would only draw pictures if someone asked her to, but during her stay with the Riglers she began to use drawings if she could not express herself in words. These drawings rapidly showed a sophisticated sense of perspective; in November 1971, Genie depicted silhouettes and figures in profile.[215][235][236] In addition to her own drawings she often used pictures from magazines to relate to daily experiences, and for reasons the scientists never determined especially used these upon encountering things that frightened her.[237] Several months into Genie's stay with the Riglers she found a picture of a wolf in a magazine which sent her into a terror, and the Riglers asked Genie's mother if she knew what might have caused this reaction; she then informed them that her husband had acted like a dog to intimidate Genie, making the underlying reason for her fear apparent to the scientists for the first time.[75][238]

Throughout Genie's stay, the Riglers and Curtiss saw how frequently and effectively she used her nonverbal skills.[239] David Rigler vividly remembered an occasion when he and Genie passed a father and a young boy carrying a toy firetruck without speaking to each other, and said the boy suddenly turned around and gave the firetruck to Genie.[4][239] Curtiss also recalled one time, when she and Genie had stopped at a busy intersection, she unexpectedly heard a purse emptying; a woman stopped at the intersection and exited her car to give Genie a plastic purse, even though Genie never said anything. Other people who worked with Genie during this time reported witnessing similar interactions, and never determined what she had done to elicit such strong reactions.[240] To take full advantage of her nonverbal communication abilities, in 1974 the Riglers arranged for her to learn a form of sign language.[4][241][242]

Continued brain exams[edit]

Language tests[edit]

Starting in the fall of 1971, under the direction of Curtiss, Victoria Fromkin, and Stephen Krashen—who was then also one of Fromkin's graduate students—the scientists continued to administer dichotic listening tests to Genie until 1973. Their results corroborated the initial findings of Ursula Bellugi and Edward Klima for both language and non-language sounds, and remained unchanged throughout the duration of their testing.[129][215][243] The scientists therefore concluded that Genie was acquiring language in the right hemisphere of her brain, and definitively ruled out the possibility that Genie's lateralization was only reversed.[93][129][244] Due to the lack of physiological problems with Genie's left hemisphere, they believed abnormal neurological activity in her left hemisphere—which they speculated came from her atrophied language center—blocked all language reception in her right ear.[8][245] Since she distinguished non-language sounds with some accuracy in this ear, they thought it was only language sounds which her left hemisphere obstructed.[246]

Linguists also administered several brain exams specifically geared towards her language comprehension. On an evoked response test Genie had no difficulty giving the correct meaning of sentences using familiar homophones, demonstrating her receptive comprehension was significantly better than her expressive language. Another tachistoscopic test in 1975 found that Genie did very well at identifying words which rhyme, both tasks that adult split-brain and left hemispherectomy patients had previously performed well on.[8][247][248] During these tests the scientist monitored her brain with an EEG and consistently picked up more activity from the two electrodes over the right hemisphere of her brain than those over the normal locations of the Broca's area and Wernicke's area in the left hemisphere, and they found an especially high level of involvement from her right anterior cerebral cortex. These results lent further support to the researchers' conclusion that Genie was using her right hemisphere for language.[8][249][250]

Additional tests[edit]

Curtiss, Fromkin, and Krashen continued to measure Genie's mental age through a variety of measures, and she consistently showed a very high degree of scatter. She measured significantly higher on tests which did not require language, such as the Leiter Scale, than on tests with a vocabulary component such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children.[224] In addition, they tested a variety of her brain functions and her performance on different tasks. For these they primarily used tachistoscopic tests, and during 1974 and 1975 they also gave her a series of evoked response tests.[129][251][250]

As early as 1972 Genie scored between the level an 8-year-old and an adult on all right-hemisphere tasks the scientists tested her on, and showed extraordinarily rapid improvement.[129][245] Her ability to piece together objects solely from tactile information was exceptionally good, and on spatial awareness tests her scores were reportedly the highest ever recorded.[i][252][245] Similarly, on a Mooney Face Test in May 1975 Genie correctly identified all of the real faces and only missed 6 false ones, the highest score in medical literature at that time, and on a separate gestalt perception test her extrapolated score was in the 95th percentile for adults.[j][253][254] On several other tests involving right-hemisphere tasks she did not have such an abnormally high performance, but her results were markedly better than other people in equivalent phases of mental development; in 1977 the scientists measured her capacity for stereognosis at approximately the level of a typical 10-year-old, significantly higher than her estimated mental age.[28][228] The scientists also noted in 1974 that Genie seemed to be able to recognize where she was and was good at getting from one place to another, an ability which primarily involves the right hemisphere.[28]

Genie's performance on these tests led the scientists to believe that her brain had lateralized, and that her right hemisphere had undergone specialization. Because Genie's performance was so high on such a wide variety of tasks predominantly utilizing the right hemisphere of her brain, they concluded her exceptional abilities extended to typical right-hemisphere functions in general and were not specific to any individual task.[8] They attributed her right hemisphere dominance to the fact that what very little cognitive stimulation she did receive was almost entirely visual and tactile. While even this had been extremely minimal it had been enough to commence lateralization in her right hemisphere, and the severe imbalance in stimulation caused her right hemisphere to become extraordinarily developed.[8][255][254]

By contrast, Genie performed significantly below average and showed much slower progress on all tests measuring predominantly left-hemisphere tasks. On sequential order tests she consistently scored well below average for someone with a fully intact brain, although her performance was somewhat better on visual than on auditory tests.[215][256] The scientists especially noted that she did not start to count until late 1972, and then only in an extremely deliberate and laborious manner; by 1975 she could only count up to 7, and had learned to do so at the expense of her ability to gestalt numbers up to 7.[93][256][250] Stephen Krashen wrote that by 2 years after the first examinations on her mental age Genie's scores on left-hemisphere tasks consistently fell into the 2½- to 3-year-old range, only showing an improvement of 1½ years during this time span.[129] In January 1972 the scientists measured her in the 50th percentile for an 8½- to 9-year-old on Raven's Progressive Matrices, although they noted she was outside of the age range of the test's design.[k][257] Similarly, when the scientists administered Knox Cubes tests in 1973 and 1975 Genie's score improved from the level of a 6-year-old to a 7½-year-old, and although more rapid than her progress with language it was significantly slower than her advances with right hemisphere tasks.[258]

There were a few primarily right hemisphere tasks Genie did not perform well on. On one memory for design test she scored at a "borderline" level in October 1975, although she did not make the mistakes typical of patients with brain damage, despite showing an ability to complete similar tasks in other settings.[259][260][8] In addition, on a Benton Visual Retention Test and an associated facial recognition test Genie's scores were far lower than any average scores for people without brain damage; although this sharply contrasted with Genie's excellent facial recognition in everyday situations, researchers had anticipated these results.[8][215][256] Curtiss' explanation was that these tasks likely require use of both hemispheres, especially noting that previous results showed abnormal brain function in either hemisphere had a consistently negative impact on scores.[l][8][215][256] Since Genie exclusively used her right hemisphere, these would therefore be very difficult for her.[8][256]

Loss of funding and research interest[edit]

On several occasions during the course of the case study, the NIMH voiced concerns about the lack of scientific data researchers generated from the case study and the disorganized state of project records. Outside of Curtiss and Fromkin's work David Rigler did not clearly define any parameters for the scope of the study, and both the volume and incoherence of the research team's data left the scientists unable to determine the importance of much of the information they collected.[4][261] After the initial grant and a one-year extension, Rigler proposed an additional three-year extension. The NIMH's grants committee acknowledged that the study had clearly benefited Genie but felt the research team had not adequately addressed their concerns, and concluded that there had been minimal overall progress towards the study's stated research objectives. In a unanimous decision the committee denied the extension request, cutting off further funding.[4][144][262]

Early adulthood[edit]

In 1975, when Genie turned 18, her mother stated that she wished to care for her, and in mid-1975 the Riglers decided to end their foster parenting and agreed to let Genie move back in with her mother at her childhood home.[57][263] Despite the NIMH grant ending Curtiss continued to conduct regular testing and observations, and the Riglers offered to continue assisting with Genie's care.[8][144][264] Genie's mother found many of Genie's behaviors, especially her lack of self control, very distressing, and after a few months the task of caring for Genie by herself quickly overwhelmed her mother. She then contacted the California Department of Health to find care for Genie, which David Rigler said she did without notifying anyone else, and they transferred Genie to the first of what would become a succession of foster homes.[57][265][266]

Curtiss and the social workers assigned to Genie noted that the environment in this location was extremely rigid and gave her far less access to her favorite objects and activities. Her caretakers soon subjected her to extreme physical and emotional abuse, resulting in both her incontinence and constipation resurfacing and causing her to revert to her coping mechanism of silence.[267] The incident with the strongest impact occurred when they severely beat her for vomiting and told her that if she did it again they would never let her see her mother, making her terrified of opening her mouth for fear of vomiting and facing more punishment. She could barely eat and was extremely afraid to speak, at one point refusing to talk for five months, so she became almost exclusively reliant on sign language for communication.[4][144][267] Her caretakers almost never permitted her mother to visit, causing Genie to become extremely withdrawn.[m][265][266]

Curtiss was the only person who had regular contact with Genie, and quickly started petitioning to have her removed from the home. It took approximately a year and a half before Curtiss and social services were able to contact John Miner, who was still Genie's legal guardian, and convince him to take action.[268] By the time Miner and David Rigler removed Genie from this location, in late April 1977, because of her previous treatment they arranged for her to stay at Children's Hospital for two weeks, where her condition somewhat improved.[4][269] At around the same time, Curtiss and Fromkin obtained a year-long grant from the National Science Foundation to continue their work with Genie.[8][144][264]

After Genie's stay at the hospital authorities placed her in another foster home, where she did fairly well, but in mid-December the arrangement very suddenly collapsed. Through the end of that month into early January Genie lived in a temporary setting before moving into another foster home.[144][270] During this time Genie's physical and mental condition continued to deteriorate, and none of the scientists besides Curtiss regularly saw her.[270] In early January 1978 Curtiss wrote to Miner that Genie did not understand the reasons she was moving and believed it was her fault for not being a good enough person, and the frequency with which her living arrangements changed further traumatized her and caused continued regression in all aspects of her life.[144][270]

Lawsuit[edit]

In 1976 Curtiss finished and presented her dissertation, entitled Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern-Day "Wild Child", and Academic Press published it the following year.[6][215] Genie's mother had reportedly thought of Genie and Curtiss as friends, but in early 1978 she wrote that she was very offended at the title and some of the contents of Curtiss' dissertation. She privately disputed some details of the family's treatment during Genie's childhood, but her official complaint did not; instead she asserted a violation of patient confidentiality, arguing that Curtiss could only have obtained these details from her therapists or their supervisors, and accused the research team of giving testing priority over Genie's welfare, invading Genie's privacy, and severely overworking Genie.[271] She decided to sue Children's Hospital, her therapists, their supervisors, and several of the researchers, including Curtiss, Rigler, James Kent, and Howard Hansen.[4][272]

Regional media immediately picked up the lawsuit and members of the research team, many of whom had not heard about Genie in years, were shocked when they found out about it.[4][272] All of the scientists were adamant that they never coerced Genie, maintaining that Genie's mother and her lawyers grossly exaggerated the length and nature of their testing, and denied any breach of confidentiality.[4][57][273] From the outset the scientists thought that the lawsuit was extremely out of character for Genie's mother, and while David Rigler was giving his deposition he discovered that Jean Butler Ruch had goaded Genie's mother into suing; in an interview several years later, her lawyers confirmed the extent of Ruch's involvement.[57][274] According to Russ Rymer, the suit was settled in 1984.[3][275] However, in 1993 David Rigler wrote, "[T]he case never came to trial. It was dismissed by the Superior Court of the State of California 'with prejudice,' meaning that because it was without substance it can never again be refiled."[57]

Post-1977[edit]

Susan Curtiss said that in late December 1977 she had been asked if she could be Genie's legal guardian but that, after she met with Genie a week later on January 3, 1978, Genie's mother suddenly decided to prevent Curtiss from seeing Genie again, immediately ending Curtiss' testing and observations.[19][276] Starting in late 1975 social services sought to remove John Miner as Genie's legal guardian, and in early 1978 they discovered that when Genie turned 18 Miner had not updated his legal status to being the guardian of an adult incapable of caring for herself. Without seeking his input officially transferred guardianship to her mother on March 30, 1978. She then forbade all of the scientists except for Jay Shurley from seeing her or Genie.[144][277] After the conclusion of the lawsuit Genie's mother declined several requests from David Rigler to see her and Genie, and in 1987 she moved to another location in the Los Angeles area without leaving a forwarding address.[3][278]

Jean Butler Ruch, who remained in contact with Genie and her mother, continued to spread negative rumors about Genie's condition and especially targeted Curtiss, claiming that the case was so flawed as to have been useless and that Curtiss largely based her dissertation on fabrications.[n][279] During the lawsuit Ruch had convinced Shurley to work with her on a book detailing how the scientists had handled Genie, but after co-authoring one paper and delivering it at a conference together he decided to back out, saying he was shocked at how vicious and personal her attacks on the research team had been. His decision earned the enmity of Ruch, who continued her campaign against the scientists until 1986, when a stroke left her with aphasia and prevented her from completing her work.[280] She died in 1988 following another stroke.[4][281]

From January 1978 until the early 1990s Genie moved through a series of at least four additional foster homes and institutions, some of which subjected her to extreme degrees of physical abuse and harassment, and her development continued to regress.[4][266][169] Shurley saw Genie at her 27th birthday party, in 1984, and again two years later, and in an interview years later he said that both times she was very depressed, very stooped over, gave off almost no non-verbal signals, and made very little eye contact.[169] In 1992 Curtiss said that since she last saw Genie she had only heard two updates on Genie's condition, both indicating she barely spoke and was depressed and withdrawn.[282] When Russ Rymer published two magazine articles on Genie in April 1992 he wrote she lived in a large state institution and only saw her mother one weekend every month.[283][284] The afterword of the 1994 edition of his book on Genie, written in November 1993, detailed conversations with Genie's mother just before and after the publication of his magazine articles. According to her mother—who had since gone blind again, due to glaucoma—at that time Genie had recently moved into a more supportive foster home which permitted regular visits, and told Rymer that Genie was happy and, although hard to understand, was significantly more verbal.[285]

Rymer's magazine articles gained some media attention and his book received critical acclaim. Several people who worked with Genie, including Curtiss and James Kent, harshly criticized Rymer's book, and a late April 1993 New York Times review from scientific reporter Natalie Angier prompted David Rigler to make his first public statement on Genie and the case study.[286][287] In letter to the Times published in mid-June 1993, David Rigler gave his own account of Genie's case and pointed to several parts of Angier's book review which he said contained substantial omissions and factual inaccuracies.[3][57][286] In a letter to the Times published in mid-June of that year, Rigler wrote that Genie was living in a small, private facility where she was doing well and her mother regularly visited her. Rigler also stated that he and Marilyn had recently reestablished contact with Genie's mother and had seen Genie for the first time in 15 years, writing that Genie was happy and immediately greeted him and Marilyn by name, and said that, "my wife and I have resumed our (now infrequent) visits with Genie and her mother."[57][288]

Current[edit]

Genie is a ward of the state of California, and is living in an undisclosed location in Los Angeles.[3][19] In May 2008 ABC News published two stories on Genie, and the first of these reported that someone who spoke to them under condition of anonymity had hired a private investigator who located Genie in 2000. She was reportedly living a simple lifestyle in a small private facility for mentally underdeveloped adults, and appeared to be happy. Although she spoke only a few words, she could still communicate fairly well in sign language.[3] The second story also featured an interview with Genie's brother, who was living in Ohio, which was the first time he publicly spoke about either his or Genie's lives; he said that since leaving the Los Angeles area he had only visited Genie and their mother once, in 1982, but that he had recently heard Genie was doing well.[13][14]

In 2003, Genie's mother died of unspecified natural causes at the age of 87.[13] Jay Shurley died at the age of 86 in 2004.[289] The first ABC News story on Genie noted that they had been unable to contact David Rigler, who was 87 years old at the time, as he was in declining health. Rigler died days before turning 93 in early April 2014.[290]

Impact[edit]

Genie's is one of the best-known case studies of language acquisition in a child with delayed development.[2][10][11] Susan Curtiss argued that, even if humans possess the innate ability to acquire language, Genie demonstrated the necessity of early language stimulation in the left hemisphere of the brain to start.[28][291][228] Since Genie never fully acquired grammar, Curtiss submitted that Genie provided evidence for a weaker variation of the critical period hypothesis.[215][292] Genie's nonverbal skills were exceptionally good, which demonstrated that even nonverbal communication was fundamentally different from language.[1][293] Because Genie's language acquisition occurred in the right hemisphere of her brain, its course also aided linguists in refining existing hypotheses on the capacity for right-hemisphere language acquisition in people after the critical period.[228][294][293]

Since the publication of Curtiss' findings, her arguments have become widely accepted in the field of linguistics. Many linguistics books have used Genie's case study as an example to illustrate principles of language acquisition, frequently citing it as proof of Chomsky's proposition of innate and a modified version of Lenneberg's critical period hypothesis, and her work with Genie provided the impetus for several additional case studies.[215][295][293] In addition, the disparity between Curtiss' pre and post-1977 analyses of Genie's language has sparked debate among other linguists regarding how much grammar Genie acquired and whether she could have acquired more. To date, no one directly involved in Genie's case has responded to this controversy.[144][296][297]

The study of Genie's brain aided scientists in refining several existing hypotheses regarding brain lateralization, especially its effect on language. The disparity between Genie's linguistic abilities and her competence in other aspects of human development strongly suggested there was a separation of cognition and language acquisition, a new concept at the time.[6][228][293] The unevenness of her ability to learn right-hemisphere versus left-hemisphere tasks gave the scientists valuable information about the manner in which certain brain functions develop, as well as the way lateralization affects a person's ability to improve upon them.[8][129][256] Genie's difficulty with certain tasks which had been described as predominantly controlled in the right hemisphere also gave neuroscientists more insight into the processes controlling these functions.[256][8][215]

Comparisons to other cases[edit]

In several of their publications, the scientists acknowledged the influence that Jean Marc Gaspard Itard's study of Victor of Aveyron had on their research and testing.[28][298] Later accounts of Genie's case pointed out that many of the tests linguists used, such as the word cards Curtiss and Fromkin designed, had their origins in Itard's work with Victor.[4][299] Author Justin Leiber noted that one visiting psychologist in May 1971 suggested encouraging Genie to form an especially strong bond with one person, and wrote that, although this view reflected very common contemporary positions in psychology, he thought this idea likely had some basis in Victor's relationship with Itard's housekeeper.[11] The Nova documentary on Genie states that the research team decided to teach Genie sign language because historians and scientists were critical of Itard's insistence that Victor learn to write to the exclusion of any other form of communication.[4] Genie's development has also influenced perceptions of Victor and the case study on him.[11][300][301]

Both researchers working with Genie and outside writers noted the influence of the historical reports of language deprivation experiments. In particular, several of the scientists' papers and independent analyses of her case discuss accounts of the language deprivation experiments of Psamtik I, King James IV of Scotland, and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II.[28][93][133] Scientists also contrasted Genie with a case in the 1950s of a girl, known by the name Isabella, whose first human contact was at the age of 6; unlike Genie, she successfully acquired language and developed what her teachers described as fully normal social skills within a year.[28][297] The two ABC News stories on Genie compared her case to the Fritzl case, noting the similarities between Genie's father and Josef Fritzl and the mental states of Genie and Fritzl's three grandchildren upon removal from captivity.[3][13][14]

Ethical dispute[edit]

During the grant meetings some of the scientists, including Jay Shurley and David Elkind, voiced concern that the prevailing methods pursued research at the expense of Genie's well-being and could cause love and attention to be contingent on her language acquisition.[302][110] Shurley said that there was strong disagreement during the initial grant meetings and the atmosphere grew increasingly tense and bitter, especially noting that the later grant meetings excluded many of the people who had worked most closely with Genie.[4][110][303] After May 1971 Elkind declined to participate further, despite having personally known both the Riglers for several years, and in an interview years later he cited a desire not to be involved in a case which, in his view, prioritized scientific research over Genie's care.[304] While Shurley acknowledged that the scientists at the center of the case were in a completely unprecedented situation, he also decided to minimize his involvement over these concerns and felt that during the study all of the scientists, including himself, were guilty to varying degrees of using Genie as an object and putting themselves and their goals ahead of her and her mother's best interests.[305][306]

Kent, Howard Hansen, the Riglers, and Curtiss readily acknowledged that it had been extremely difficult to determine the course of the study, but maintained that all disputes during the meetings were impersonal and typical of scientific discourse.[4][57] David Rigler said that, despite his disagreements with Shurley, Shurley's early recommendations were the only useful advice he received on handling Genie and he attempted to follow them as much as possible.[307][4][57] The Riglers and Curtiss further stated that everyone involved in Genie's life, with the exception of Jean Butler Ruch, worked together as best they could to rehabilitate Genie and never fought with each other, and independently denied allegations of divisions among the scientists. Ruch never stated a motive for her actions, but members of the research team believed they were due to her anger over her foster custody rejection and her perception that Children's Hospital staff influenced the decision.[57][308][309] The role of the scientists in Genie's case has become the source of academic debate within the larger scientific community.[1][11][310]

Several people have also emphasized the lack of distinction between Genie's caretakers and her therapists. Shurley thought that Ruch would have been the best guardian for Genie, and felt the Riglers gave her adequate care but viewed her as a test subject first.[311][110] Russ Rymer contended that the roles of everyone involved in Genie's life became progressively clear, citing the starting point as the appointment of John Miner as legal counsel for Genie's mother, and that personal friendships prevented them from recognizing it. He argued that this interfered with providing Genie the best possible care and compromised their objectivity, which in turn contributed to the case study's lack of coherence, and both he and Harlan Lane emphasized that making David Rigler a foster parent accelerated this breakdown.[4][312][313] Several independent reviews of Genie's case also accused the Riglers and the other scientists of abandoning Genie after the case study concluded.[3][110]

The Riglers maintained that their home had been the best available option for Genie at the time, and said that she appeared happy to them and to everyone who worked with her.[4][57][312] They also said they genuinely loved Genie and always provided her the best care possible, pointing out that she had made substantial progress in every aspect of her development while living with them, and they and Curtiss both said they had wanted to continue working with Genie and it was her mother who prevented them from doing so.[3][11][276] While representing the Riglers in court in 1977 and 1978 John Miner went out of his way to give them credit for acting as foster parents to Genie for four years, and when Curtiss spoke to Rymer in the early 1990s she praised their work with Genie and their willingness to take her into their home, although she also felt they had not done enough when she told them about Genie's abuse in foster care.[314] Justin Leiber did not hold the scientists primarily responsible for losing contact with Genie after early 1978, instead arguing that the legal and institutional processes surrounding her placement were primarily what prevented the scientists from doing more for her.[11]

Media[edit]

Books[edit]

Several books about feral and/or abused children contain chapters on Genie, and many books on linguistics and psychology also discuss Genie's case at length.[315][310][316] Author Russ Rymer wrote a two-part magazine article in The New Yorker entitled Genie: A Silent Childhood which ran in mid-April 1992. The following year, he published a book—his first—called Genie: A Scientific Tragedy.[o][10][283][284] He interviewed several of the scientists for the works, and chiefly wrote about the case and its aftermath from their perspectives, but established regular contact with Genie's mother shortly before the publication of the magazine articles and obtained several documents from her which he used in his book.[p][10][283][284]

Film and television[edit]

In 1994 Nova made a multiple Emmy Award-winning documentary on Genie based on Rymer's book, narrated by Stacy Keach, titled Secret of the Wild Child.[q][4][317] The scientists' footage Nova used from the case study archives had significantly deteriorated, and required restoration for use in the documentary.[144] In 2002, an episode of the television series Body Shock on feral children entitled "Wild Child" included a segment on Genie.[r][19]

The award-winning independent film Mockingbird Don't Sing, released in 2001, is about Genie's case primarily from the perspective of Susan Curtiss. For legal reasons, all the names in the film were changed.[318]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Her mother later claimed they put her in the garage to shield her from the noise of work on their kitchen floor, and that as a result she had caught a "quick pneumonia", but researchers expressed strong skepticism at this.[22]
  2. ^ Her mother said that at first she could sometimes stay outside with Genie during the day while she was in a small playpen, but that Genie angered her father because she frequently took it apart and caused him to decide not to allow her outside at all. Psychologists believed this was a sign that her parents had often left her in the playpen by herself for extended periods of time.
  3. ^ Her mother claimed that they sometimes dressed Genie while on the child's toilet, that Genie could move her arms while in the sleeping bag, and that they never used the crib cover. She also denied that her husband ever forgot to move Genie from the toilet to the crib at night.
  4. ^ In early 1972 Genie's mother said that, when possible, at around 11 PM she surreptitiously tried to give Genie additional food, causing Genie to develop a sleep pattern in which she slept from 7 to 11 PM, woke up for a few minutes, and fell back asleep for an additional 6½ hours; this pattern continued for several months after her removal from captivity.[40]
  5. ^ In her dissertation on Genie Susan Curtiss alluded to knowledge of additional details regarding Genie's childhood, which she did not discuss.[49]
  6. ^ Psychologist and autism specialist Mitzi Waltz noted in 2013 that, although psychologist Ole Ivar Lovaas was conducting autism research at UCLA during the time of Genie's case, no one who worked with Genie attempted to involve him in the case or sought his opinion on whether or not Genie was autistic. Years after the case study on Genie had ended, when somebody asked Susan Curtiss why they had not done so, Curtiss said she and the other scientists felt Lovaas' methods of aversion therapy would have unduly limited Genie's freedom and kept her from a nurturing environment.[2]
  7. ^ Lenneberg stated that he did not have any desire to study Genie and declined to participate, saying no definite conclusions could be drawn because the level of trauma associated with Genie's childhood would be impossible to discern.
  8. ^ Shurley also contended that the wide class difference between Genie's mother and the scientists increased the tension between them on both sides, but Curtiss and the Riglers denied this.
  9. ^ Curtiss wrote that Genie's spatial awareness tests gave indications of left-hemisphere dominance for these functions, but when monitoring her they found more activity in her right hemisphere.
  10. ^ As all of Genie's incorrect answers on the Mooney Face Test were pictures of either masks or caricatures of faces, Curtiss speculated that Genie may not have understood that she was only supposed to select the realistic looking faces and therefore may have been able to score even higher.
  11. ^ Since she had done very well on some individual parts of the test, and because previous results had shown indications of utilizing both hemispheres, Curtiss believed Genie could have used her gestalt perception for some elements while having been forced to use her analytic skills on others.
  12. ^ Curtiss acknowledged that facial recognition was recognized as a predominantly right-hemisphere task, but argued that Genie's results were indicative of previously unknown left-hemisphere involvement.
  13. ^ In an interview Curtiss alluded to knowledge of additional abuse, which she did not discuss.
  14. ^ Ruch's husband died of bone cancer in 1982.
  15. ^ Also published as Genie: An Abused Child's Flight From Silence and Genie: Escape From A Silent Childhood.
  16. ^ Rymer wrote that he decided not to attempt to meet Genie, as he concluded that doing so would have been an undue intrusion into her life and would have negatively impacted his ability to write about her case from an entirely outside perspective.
  17. ^ Broadcast as Genie: A Deprived Child in the United Kingdom.
  18. ^ Broadcast as Wild Child: The Story of Feral Children in the United States.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Reynolds & Fletcher-Janzen 2004, p. 428.
  2. ^ a b c Waltz, Mitzi (2013). "Bedlam, Behaviouralism, and Beyond". Autism: A Social and Medical History. Basingstoke, Hampshire, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 96. ISBN 978-0-230-52750-8. OCLC 821693777. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q James, Susan Donaldson (May 7, 2008). "Wild Child 'Genie': A Tortured Life". ABC News. Archived from the original on April 23, 2013. Retrieved March 4, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj "Secret of the Wild Child". NOVA. Season 22. Episode 2. PBS. March 4, 1997. OCLC 57894649. PBS (United States), BBC (United Kingdom). Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved February 12, 2009. 
  5. ^ Curtiss 1977, pp. 1–6.
  6. ^ a b c Curtiss 1977.
  7. ^ Curtiss et al. 1975.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Curtiss, Susan; Fromkin, Victoria A.; Krashen, Stephen D. (1978). "Language development in the mature (minor) right hemisphere" (PDF). Journal of Applied Linguistics. 39–40 (1): 23–27. Retrieved April 30, 2013. 
  9. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 151–155.
  10. ^ a b c d Rymer 1994.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Leiber, Justin (June–September 1977). "Nature's Experiments, Society's Closures". Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 27 (2–3): 325–343. doi:10.1111/1468-5914.00041. ISSN 0021-8308. OCLC 5152679776. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c Rymer 1994, pp. 11–14.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r James, Susan Donaldson (May 19, 2008). "Raised by a Tyrant, Suffering a Sibling's Abuse". ABC News. Archived from the original on September 14, 2011. Retrieved February 12, 2009. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k James, Susan Donaldson (May 19, 2008). "Family's Past". ABC News. Archived from the original on October 13, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  15. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 11–16.
  16. ^ Newton 2002, p. 305.
  17. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 11–15.
  18. ^ Curtiss 1977, pp. 2–4.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Weston, Jonah (director/producer) (July 2002). "Wild Child". Body Shock. Season 1. Episode 2. OCLC 437863794. Channel 4. 
  20. ^ Curtiss 1977, pp. 3–7.
  21. ^ a b Curtiss 1977, p. 3.
  22. ^ a b Rymer 1994, p. 13.
  23. ^ a b c Curtiss 1977, pp. 3–4.
  24. ^ a b Rymer 1994, pp. 13–14.
  25. ^ a b Rymer 1994, p. 14.
  26. ^ Newton 2002, p. 306.
  27. ^ a b c d Curtiss 1977, pp. 4–5.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai Curtiss, Susan; Fromkin, Victoria A.; Krashen, Stephen D.; Rigler, David; Rigler, Marilyn (1974). "The Development of Language in Genie: a Case of Language Acquisition Beyond the "Critical Period"" (PDF). Brain and Language (Los Angeles) 1 (1): 81–107. doi:10.1016/0093-934X(74)90027-3. ISSN 0093-934X. OCLC 4652742368. Archived from the original on August 6, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2013. 
  29. ^ a b c Curtiss 1977, p. 4.
  30. ^ Curtiss 1977, pp. 4–5, 11.
  31. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 14–16.
  32. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 14–17.
  33. ^ a b c d Curtiss 1977, p. 5.
  34. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 12–16.
  35. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 14–15, 208.
  36. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 16–17.
  37. ^ a b c Newton 2002, p. 211.
  38. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 131–134, 208.
  39. ^ a b Rymer 1994, pp. 185–186.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h Shurley, Jay T.; Natani, Kirmach (September 1973). "Sleep EEG Patterns in a Fourteen-Year-Old Girl with Severe Developmental Retardation" (Conference presentation). Academic Press. Archived from the original on October 15, 2010. Retrieved June 20, 2013. 
  41. ^ a b c d Curtiss 1977, pp. 5–6.
  42. ^ a b Curtiss 1977, pp. 5–6, 25.
  43. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 96–97, 130.
  44. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 95–98, 101–103.
  45. ^ Newton 2002, pp. 209–210, 215.
  46. ^ a b c d Curtiss 1977, pp. 6–7.
  47. ^ a b c d Newton 2002, p. 215.
  48. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 91, 185–186, 209–210.
  49. ^ Curtiss 1977, pp. 6–8.
  50. ^ a b c d e Curtiss 1977, p. 7.
  51. ^ Rymer 1994, pp. 11–12.
  52. ^ Curtiss 1977, p. 6.
  53. ^ Rymer 1994, p. 9, 15, 20.
  54. ^ & Newton 2002, pp. 212–215.
  55. ^ a b c d e Newton 2002, p. 214.
  56. ^ a b c Rymer 1994, pp. 39–41.
  57. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Rigler, David (June 13, 1993). "Rigler, Letter to the Editor". The New York Times. Archived from the original on November 7, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2009. 
  58. ^ a b Curtiss 1977, pp. 24–25.
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