Genie was a modern wild-child, discovered on 1970. She had been isolated from society for something about ten years. When she was discovered, she had suffered from severe social deprivation. Among the problems that were caused by lifestyle she was imposed to, were significant physical problems. According to Ward (2007): “She had a strange bunny-like walk— she held her hands up in front of her like paws and moved in a halting way. She could not chew solid food and could hardly swallow. She spat constantly. She sniffed. She was not toilet-trained and could not focus her eyes beyond 12 feet.
She weighed 59 pounds and was 54 inches tall. ” Some of these problems are undoubtedly caused by girl’s extremely limited social interactions. Her habit to spit and sniff, her strange style of walking are caused by lack of social interaction. Normally an average child is surrounded by the adults who give to it plenty of examples as to how to walk, how to do things and how to behave. Toilet-training also is an acquired skill that is learned only in constant interaction with parents or fosterers, i. e. in constant social interaction.
Genie’s inability to focus her eyes at objects that were at relatively long distance from her is a result of life in an environment that had almost no visual stimuli, and hence this physical problem is also result of social deprivation. Genie’s inability to chew solid food and swallow, along with her height and weight are rather the result of her food ration than the aftermath of long-term social isolation. Genie’s amazing initial ability to learn human behaviors from those around her is not surprising, because her ability to perceive and learn from the local environment was not satisfied by the poor environment she lived in for many years.
And when her environment was significantly enriched with irritants and stimuli, the mind of Genie had awakened from artificial slumber by the potent stream of new information from her sensory organs. Her ability to copy and took part into the physical actions like dressing are explained well by the initial imprinting that was even more efficient than usually due to the contrast between the emotionally and sensory poor environment she used to live in and new enriched with information and interactions environment she went into.
As Genie was found and rescued she immediately became the subject of diversified scientific studies that took significant part of her everyday life. This raises the question – was such intensive study of Genie ethical towards her? Considering the conditions that Genie lived in before she was found, considering the fact that scientists tried to spent with her more time than it was necessary to carry out current tests in order to build a sense of family to the girl that never knew what a family is before, it is possible to say that interactions with scientists were beneficial to Genie.
She immediately started to advance in a lot of things she never had a single chance to learn before. She had found people that took care of her and emulated the family to her. And whereas the studies she was subjected to had accompanied her interactions with people and were intended to find out if Genie had retained her ability to learn and socialize and how did her long isolation from society affected her, it is possible to say that such an social symbiosis between socially deprived child and scientists is perfectly acceptable.
Scientists quickly found out that, despite the long time spent in environment harsh and deprived both of information and emotions, Genie had retained ability and desire for learning and manifested this ability and eager for learning very quickly after being transferred into more favorable environment. This is quite natural. The young organism with inviolate ability to study and learn her local neighborhood, being transferred from the conditions that disfavored any investigative activity to the conditions that encourage observation and learning, started to overtake the lack of information about the local environment.
This is perfectly normal because it is natural to any mammal to explore his local environment to find out where the safe places are and where the places to feed and places to be avoided located. This is an instinctive set of actions that guarantees the organism better adaptation to this local environment and, therefore, better chances to survive. To explore one’s local neighborhood is instinctive, and human child is not immune to these instincts. But in humans the ability to learn and the need to explore his neighborhood is expressed much more than in any other mammal, even in other Primates, thus creating more eminent appetite for learning.
But the single need for learning for a human is not enough. Need for learning and appropriate conditions to satisfy this need are important of course, but these factors are enough to learn only physical and emotional aspects of human life. As to more abstract components, for example, ability to speak certain language correctly, putting the words into the logical order in accordance with rules of the language, there are more conditions needed, some of them quite specific.
Coming back to Genie example: “One of the last tests … measured what parts of her brain were active as she conducted different kinds of tasks. … There was almost no left brain activity. Her tests looked similar to tests of children who had to have their left brains removed. ” (Ward, 2007) This shows how important is socialization in development of activities that are build on logic and that are physiologically bound to activity of the left hemisphere of the brain.
On the example of Genie it becomes clear that early socialization is the key to normal development of intellectual skills based on left brain activity, and the deficit of social interactions in these early years can lead to irreversible underdevelopment of skills vitally important to contemporary human. References: 1. Ward, Andrew. (2007). Genie, a modern-day Wild Child. Retrieved September 15, 2008 from http://www. feralchildren. com/en/showchild. php? ch=genie
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