Published June 22, Updated November 4, How the Rosenhan experiment showed that "it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals. David Rosenhan. What does it mean to be sane? How reliably can even medical professionals distinguish the sane from the insane? Psychologist Dr.
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On being sane in insane places. Rosenhan DL. It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals.
The hospital itself imposes a special environment in which the meanings of behavior can easily be misunderstood. The consequences to patients hospitalized in such an environment-the powerlessness, depersonalization, segregation, mortification, and self-labeling-seem undoubtedly countertherapeutic.
I do not, even now, understand this problem well enough to perceive solutions. But two matters seem to have some promise. The first concerns the proliferation of community mental health facilities, of crisis intervention centers, of the human potential movement, and of behavior therapies that, for all of their own problems, tend to avoid psychiatric labels, to focus on specific problems and behaviors, and to retain the individual in a relatively non-pejorative environment.
Clearly, to the extent that we refrain from sending the distressed to insane places, our impressions of them are less likely to be distorted. At issue here is a matter of magnitude. And, as I have shown, the magnitude of distortion is exceedingly high in the extreme context that is a psychiatric hospital.
The second matter that might prove promising speaks to the need to increase the sensitivity of mental health workers and researchers to the Catch 22 position of psychiatric patients. Simply reading materials in this area will be of help to some such workers and researchers. For others, directly experiencing the impact of psychiatric hospitalization will be of enormous use. Clearly, further research into the social psychology of such total institutions will both facilitate treatment and deepen understanding.
I and the other pseudopatients in the psychiatric setting had distinctly negative reactions. We do not pretend to describe the subjective experiences of true patients. But we can and do speak to the relatively more objective indices of treatment within the hospital. It could be a mistake, and a very unfortunate one, to consider that what happened to us derived from malice or stupidity on the part of the staff. Quite the contrary, our overwhelming impression of them was of people who really cared, who were committed and who were uncommonly intelligent.
Where they failed, as they sometimes did painfully, it would be more accurate to attribute those failures to the environment in which they, too, found themselves than to personal callousness. Their perceptions and behavior were controlled by the situation, rather than being motivated by a malicious disposition. In a more benign environment, one that was less attached to global diagnosis, their behaviors and judgments might have been more benign and effective.
On being sane in insane places.
While his methods were a little suspect, the study seemed to make the point Rosenhan was hoping for. Background Information One of the most influential studies conducted investigating the difficulties in defining normality and abnormality, and the inherent repercussions for valid and reliable diagnoses of psychological disorders, was conducted by David Rosenhan. This research was published in , a time when psychiatric hospitals were quite different to the way they are today. Aims Prior to this study, some researchers had conducted participant observations of psychiatric hospitals, but this was often for a short time and the hospital staff knew of their presence. Rosenhan wanted to take this research one step further and so he conducted a participant, naturalistic, covert observation.
D. L. Rosenhan’s On Being Sane in Insane Places: Summary & Analysis
On being sane in insane places. Rosenhan DL. It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals. The hospital itself imposes a special environment in which the meanings of behavior can easily be misunderstood. The consequences to patients hospitalized in such an environment-the powerlessness, depersonalization, segregation, mortification, and self-labeling-seem undoubtedly countertherapeutic.
Learn how and when to remove this template message Rosenhan himself and seven mentally healthy associates, called "pseudopatients", attempted to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals by calling for an appointment and feigning auditory hallucinations. The hospital staff were not informed of the experiment. The pseudopatients included a psychology graduate student in his twenties, three psychologists, a pediatrician, a psychiatrist, a painter, and a housewife. None had a history of mental illness. Pseudopatients used pseudonyms, and those who worked in the mental health field were given false jobs in a different sector to avoid invoking any special treatment or scrutiny. Apart from giving false names and employment details, further biographical details were truthfully reported.