On 12/17/2020, Twitter user @UltVioletRae tweeted the following:
Yale did a study where they tortured 18 month old autistic babies to “see if they feel fear the same way neurotypicals do”. They scared them every 75–90 seconds w/ things like mechanical spiders, dinosaurs, strangers menacingly moving towards them, etc. I’ve been crying 4 days.
Rae is autistic, and as such she reacted quite strongly. As someone who is also slightly autistic, and as someone with a boyfriend and many great friends who are also autistic, this also struck a similar nerve with me. For the sake of time, we’ll ignore the fact that “neurotypical” is a badly defined, pseudo-scientific term that has been criticized by actual experts in the field, and instead just look at how these kids were studied.
While I was unable to get my hands on the full study, a summary of it can be found on the Wiley Online Library. The Abstract section (the part summarizing the set up of the study) says “This study examined emotional reactivity, regulation, and attention to social and nonsocial threat in toddlers with ASD,” ASD being Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say they did this because “Differential emotional reactivity to social and nonsocial stimuli has been hypothesized but rarely examined empirically in ASD despite its potential importance for development of social motivation, cognition, and comorbid psychopathology.”
Wait a minute, what do you mean by “Differential emotional reactivity to social and nonsocial stimuli”? Autism is a disorder known for causing “Differential emotional reactivity to social and nonsocial stimuli”! Neuroatypicality in general is nothing more than “Differential emotional reactivity to social and nonsocial stimuli” when boiled down to its most basic levels! The children they picked were eighteen months old, around the same age the The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children first be screened for autism. How did the parents or the people screening them know if they had autism? Could it be “Differential emotional reactivity to social and nonsocial stimuli”?
I know I may be dwelling on this point, but this honestly pisses me off. You people did a study on toddlers to prove the existence of the very concept your supposed to be studying in the first place. This study was published by the International Society for Autism Research, good to know they weren’t sure if the thing they’re studying internationally actually fucking exists.
On 12/18/2020, after Rae’s tweet went viral, Yale Daily News ran an article titled “Yale Study On Distress In Autistic Toddlers Draws Ethics Concerns.” The article gives us more details on what happened in the study, and they do not make it look any better:
The researchers examined how toddlers responded to potentially threatening stimuli — including masked strangers and a mechanical dinosaur. The paper explains that they looked at how distressed the toddlers were, the visual attention they paid to the stimulus and how they tried to regulate their emotions.
Locking people in a room with their fears, I think read a book where that happened once. What was it called? Oh yeah, it was Room 101 and the book in question was Nineteen Eighty Four. Oh, and they acknowledge the entire point was just to show them things they’d be scared of:
“The probes were designed to elicit fear through encounters with novel and potentially threatening stimuli,” the study reads.
Here, for those curious, is what they did:
First, there were three trials in which a large mechanical spider crawled towards the child, the paper explains. Then, a female stranger wearing dark clothing, a hat and sunglasses entered the room, approached and leaned toward the child for three seconds. After, a female stranger dressed in dark clothes and wearing a “grotesque” mask entered the room. The masks ranged from Star Wars characters to vampires. Finally, there were three trials in which a mechanical dinosaur with red light-up eyes approached the child.
As I said fairly recently, I do not even believe bringing a child on a plane is fully appropriate. This is an entirely different level, reading what these monsters had done to children of less than two years disgusts me in ways I can not even write down. These people are not scientists or researchers anymore than Josef Mengele could be considered either of those two. A child that young, regardless of their mental state, does not even understand what’s going on around him — and you want to run studies to see if he gets scared when he’s in a situation he doesn’t understand?
The researchers released a statement on 12/16/2020 attempting to defend themselves, it is filled with nonsense:
The main goal of this study was to advance understanding of the development of emotional difficulties — such as anxiety and depression — in autism.
Then why did you only test one age group? “Development” implies you either tested various age groups or tested the group over a long period of time, you did not do either.
These people are not scientists, they’re sadists. All of the justifications for why they did this study do not hold up to any kind of logical scrutiny, because they aren’t even designed to. They’re designed to sound like they’re the good guys, doing this study to help the lives of autistic children, when truth be told they have done nothing but scare a few and call it a day. If I did not believe this were evil, I would believe these people were lazy — I’ll let you decide for yourself which one you want to go with.