Rosenhan core study

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study 1

see if sane patients could get admitted to a psychiatric hospital

study 2

see if psychiatric staff could differentiate sane and insane

study 3

investigate patient/staff contact

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  • opportunity sampling
  • hospital staff and patients at 12 psychiatric hospitals in the USA (1)
  • hospital staff at a large teaching and psychiatric hospital in (2)
  • doctors and staff in four of the hospitals used in study 1 (3)
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study 1

  • telephoned 12 hospitals- urgent appointments
  • empty, hollow, thud- voices
  • pseudo-patients showed no symptoms after being admitted
  • took notes over the course of the stay

study 2

  • psych hopsitals told over the next 3 months, some pseudo-patients would try and get admitted
  • no pseudo-patients
  • members of staff had to rate on a scale of 1-10 of likelihood of being a pseudo-patient

study 3

  • 4 psych hosps
  • pseudo-patients asked when they would be eligible for ground priveleges
  • avoided asking the same staff more than once a day
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study 1

  • all pseudo-patients admitted
  • 7 out of 8 diagnosed
  • normal behaviour, insane-pacing, taking notes, queuing for lunch slightly early

study 2

  • 193 patients assessed
  • 41 pseudo- by at least 2 staff
  • 23 psuedo- at least one psychiatrist
  • 19 psuedo- psychiatrist and one other member

study 3

  • only 4% of psychiatrists and 0.5% nurses stopped and talked
  • 71% p and 88% n moved on with head averted
  • 23% p and 10% n make eye contact
  • 2% p and n stopped to chat
  • young female participnt asked for directions- 100% time stopped and chatted
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  • P: not always possible to differentiate between sane and insane- label creates expectations
  • E: 7 out of 8 researchers diagnosed with schizophrenia in study 1, many sick people diagnosed as healthy in study 2
  • E: therefore better to place abnormal individuasl in community healthcare to avoid the institutional context. focus on behavioural diagnoses rather than a global label such as schizophrenia
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Change 1

Description replicate the study cross culturally e.g. in the UK

repeat the same 3 studies across 12 different psychiatric hospitals

team of 8 researchers- hearing voices etc


more valid- different diagnositic systems- internationally ICD-10, whilst in the US it is DSV-IV


impractical, difficult to find willing participants- especially if they know the results of the original study


results are different due to diagnostic system differences, psychiatric hospitals are different -perhaps more detailed analysis of participants symptoms besides supposedly hearing voices- less diagnoses of schizophrenia than in the original?

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Change 2


send a self-report questionnaire to doctors- give them scenarios and asking them how likely they would be to put them in a hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. rating scale 1-10 (1- extremely unlikely and 10 as extremely likely). one example- i'm hearing voices - empty, hollow, thud


  • cheap, easy, no ethical issues
  • more representative- larger sample is much easily obtainable
  • open questions- detailed, insight, qual data


  • people may not give accurate answers- lack of self-knowledge, socially desirable, possible dishonesty

Implications lower in validity & ecological validity, higher reliability- standardised questionnaire, more likely to diagnose correctly- reputation, no demand characteristics or expectations

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