Wendell Johnson conducted a 1939 study on twenty-two orphan children, to test if stuttering can be caused by outside influences (Keen). When Johnson was growing up, he was known to be very intelligent; he was even was valedictorian of his class. Despite his intelligence, Johnson was also known for his speech impediment, stuttering. After high school, his stuttering lead him to become a speech pathologist, to find the cause for stuttering. Until 1937, many speech pathologists had thought that stuttering was due to miss communications in the brain. However, Johnson thought otherwise, as he spoke fine until late in his childhood. This had Johnson wondering if stuttering was caused by something else. His stuttering began with a school teacher thinking that he had a stutter. This led to his 1939 experiment. This experiment became very controversial, over the issue of Johnson impairing orphans with a stutter. Due to Johnsons stuttering a friend, and a fellow graduate of his, Mary Tudor, helped him conducted the experiment. An orphanage in Davenport, Iowa, with whom they had partnered with before, was used in the experiment. The purpose of the experiment was to test, "whether telling non-stuttering children, that they stuttered, would make it so. Could you children into a speech defect?" (Reynold).
The plan to cause orphans to stutter, was morally unethical. Furthermore, to prevent the orphans from knowing that it was an experiment, Mary had used a placebo of convincing the orphans to think that they were going to a speech therapist. At random, Tudor chose twenty-two orphans. 10 of the twenty-two orphans already had a stutter, and were used as the control group. The remaining twelve where split into 2 groups to be tested (Sprisesterbach). The first group was told that they were, "Fine, and did not have a stutter." The other half, which would eventually lead to a law suit, where told that, "Yes, your speech is as bad as people say" (Keen).