The ethics committee might be a trifle unhappy

30 Jul

From February 1931 Popular Mechanics:

Electric Shock Proves Effect of Punishment

Through the development of an intricate piece of apparatus, the influence of punishment on learning, especially among children, can now be measured. The machine, invented by Dr. M. C. Barlow, of the psychology department of the University of Utah, seems to verify the truth of the adage. “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” The apparatus  is used to determine the effect of electric shock in learning mirror tracing, the shock being being “punishment” which is meted out when a mistake is made. The student gazes at a star-shaped maze in a mirror placed in front of him and above the star, and attempts to guide a metal stylus through the quarter-inch-deep channel of the star. If the stylus touches certain points, a distinctly unpleasant electric shock is transmitted. The conclusion reached from the experiments was that “mild punishment brings about a decreased rate in visual sensory-motor learning, but increases the accuracy.”

  • Apparatus for Measuring the Effect of Punishment on Children; the Subject is Trying to Guide a Stylus through a Star-Shaped Channel, Each Error Resulting in an Electric Shock.


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