rosenhan study; on being sane in insane places

  • Created by: zun
  • Created on: 04-03-14 11:18

rosenhan study- on being sane in insane places


david rosenhan was one of a number of academics in the 1970's who were concerned about the validity and reliability of psychiatric diagnoses.the system used at the time was called DSM-11. Rosenhan argued that symptoms shown by one patient may be interpreted in different ways.also what may be normal in one culture may not be normal in another. is the diagnosis of metal illnesses flawed because, once on the ward, the person is seen as abnormal and all their behaviours are judged in this context.


first, he aimed to test the diagnostic system to see if it was valid and reliable. the second aim of the study was to observe and report on the experience of beng a patient in a psychiatric hospital.

investigating the first aim- could hospital staff identify the pseudopatients as being normal?

method and design

the admission of the pseudopatients to the hospitals was studied as a field experiment, and data regarding the experience of being a patient in a mental institution were gathered by covert participant observation.


the subjects were the hospital staff and patients in psychiactric wards in 12 hospitals in the USA.they were carried out form 5 different states, some private some funded ect..


8 pseudopatients (five men and three women) who were normal and rosenhan was one of them. all were from a variety of occupations and used fake names and occupations to protect their health records and prevent special attention due to those who were in a health related career.

they all administered themselves by booking an appointment saying that they kept hearing voices of the same sex, saying; empty, hollow and thud. after the pseudopatients had been admitted they acted completley normal.


all the pseudopatients were admitted to the hospitals, where they remained for between 7-52 days. 11 were admitted with schizophrenia and one with manic-depressive psychosis. this is a more favorable prognosis because they are more likley to get better and this prognosis came from the only private hospital in the sample. when they were discharged they were schizophrenia in remission. therefore none of them were detected as fake, which is a clear fault in the system. this was observed by all 12 hospitals.

even though none of the staff suspected anything, the patients did. however this may be due to the fact that it is believed it is better to misdiagnose a healthy person as ill than the other way round.but this does however casuse a person who has been diagnosed with an illness to be stigmatised permanently.

follow up study

rosenhan told the staff at a large hospital, who were aware of his previous study, that he will try to admit one or more pseudopaients in the next three months.each member of staff was asked to rate on a ten-point scale the likelihood of the patient who appeared to be pseudopatients. out of 193 who attened psychiatric treatment, 41 were confidently judged to be…


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