Rosenhan - Sane/insane places

Summary sheet of Rosenhan

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  • Created on: 07-05-10 16:13
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Name of study: On Being Sane in Insane Places
Author(s): Rosenhan
Approach: Individual Differences
Background information (what theories/issues of previous research is the study based on?)
Abnormality ­ behaviour that deviates from social norms. Used to define what is normal or abnormal. There are
characteristics of abnormality ­ people can move on a spectrum of abnormality. E.g. suffering and Violation of
Moral Standards and Predictability ­these are two examples showing that people can move on a spectrum of
Labels have stigmatizing negative effects.
What were the aims and hypotheses of this study?
Aim: to see if sane individuals who presented themselves to a psychiatric hospital would be diagnosed as insane.
Hypothesis: Psychiatrists cannot reliably tell the difference between people who are sane and those who are
What were the IV+DV / IV's? (where appropriate e.g. in experimental research only)
Part 1
IV = the made up symptoms of the pseudo-patients
DV = psychiatrists' admission and diagnostic label of the pseudo patient
Part 2
IV = the false information
DV = number of patients that the staff subsequently suspected of being pseudo patients
What research method was used?
A field experiment with controlled participant observation
List the advantages and disadvantages of the method used?
Field Experiment Controlled Participant
Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages
This study is high in There are low levels of First hand info is available It is hard for the
ecological validity. The control; more potential they can collect data due observers to remain
participants (the real for extraneous variables. to flexibility. They wrote overt. They may have
doctors and nurses) are For example real patients observation notes on the seen the pseudo patients
experimented on in their may affect the results participants and other writing notes. This has

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This increases more potential for
which is the hospital. The the pseudo patients). It is validity. observer bias as it is hard
results can be applied to difficult to establish cause to remain objective
real life behaviour of the and effect relationships, because the observers
doctors and nurses. which lowers levels of are involved in what
validity due to extraneous they're observing so may
variables confounding the find it difficult to remain
results. detached.…read more

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Type 1 Error ­ when the doctor diagnoses someone as healthy when they're actually ill.
Type 2 Error ­ when the doctor diagnoses someone as ill when they're actually healthy.
List the findings:
Part 1
None of the pseudopatients was detected 7 out of 8 were diagnosed with schizophrenia. Eventually they were
discharged with a diagnosis of 'schizophrenia in remission'. They remained in hospital for 7 to 52 days (average 19
days).…read more

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What kind of data was gathered? (qualitative/quantitative)
Both types of data were gathered:
Qualitative Data Quantitative Data
Observations made by pseudo patients (e.g. Gathered from 10 point rating scale (1=high
behaviour from orderlies/other patients) confidence the patient was pseudo)
Time spent by each medical staff on the ward
Ignored requests (e.g. avoidance of eye contact)
How many admissions were made (8/8)
What were the conclusions of the study?
The study highlights: labelling, validity in diagnosing & treatment.…read more

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Part 1 of this study was a field experiment using participant observation.
Participant observation:
Strength Weakness
Allows the observe to gather more detailed accounts It is harder for the pseudo patients to remain overt. In
first hand ­ due to flexibility this is because the the study they may have seen the pseudo patients
observer is involved in the events they are observing. writing notes.…read more

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It is important to use the longitudinal approach because for mental health you cannot just have a
snapshot/snippet of behaviour to diagnose because some behaviours may be natural and the person may just be
having a bad day. You also get a view of development.…read more

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They could also have CCTV reliable. acting The treatment would
different hospitals, camera. Coding naturally. improve.
producing inconsistent system in Invasion of
findings of the treatment place. privacy
of the mentally ill. becomes
an ethical
issue.…read more


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