"On Being Sane in Insane Places" by D. L. Rosenhan

Below are some choice quotes from Rosenhan’s original article which was titled “On Being Sane In Insane Places”. (Sciencemagazine 1973, Vol. 179 p. 250 – 258)

Rosenhan, D. L. “On Being Sane in Insane Places." Jstor 179.4070 (1973) : 250-258. Print.

The Rosenhan experiment was a famous experiment into the validity of psychiatric diagnosis conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan in 1973. It was published in the journal Science under the title “On being sane in insane places.” The study is considered an important and influential criticism of psychiatric diagnosis.

On Being Sane in Insane Places D

Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane Places. Science, 179, 235-242. The recent article by D. L. Rosenhan, "On Being Sane in Insane Places",has received widespread notice in the public press. These reports proclaim thatpsychiatrists are unable to differentiate normal persons from those sufferingfrom severe emotional disorders, thus implying serious question as to scientificprocedure and professional competency. The fact that the press may have sensationalizedthis report does not negate the fact that Rosenhan has published a very ambiguouspiece of research that is open to serious scientific criticism.

On Being Sane in Insane Places - Santa Clara University

n interesting, perplexing, and disturbing event occurred in the spring of 1973that raises some basic issues in terms of scientific responsibility. A long majorarticle was published in the January 19th issue of , on the topic of psychiatricdiagnosis in mental hospitals, with the intriguing title, "On being sanein insane places".11 Simply put, the author described a series of experimentsin which eight subjects gained admission to twelve psychiatric facilities by requestingadmission with a presenting complaint of bizzare hallucinations. In each instancethe subject presented himself in the role of a psychotically disturbed patient,was admitted, received a psychotic diagnosis, was observed for several days ona ward, had his ease reviewed by staff, and subsequently was discharged as a caseof psychosis in remission.

Rosenhan - Sane in insane places - Psych Tutor


The Pseudo-Patient Study
Duration: 30 minutes
Claudia Hammond revisits another classic psychology experiment, David Rosenhan's Pseudo-Patient Study, gaining access to his unpublished personal papers to discover how it changed our understanding of the human mind, and its impact 40 years on.

Between 1969 and 1972, the clinical psychologist David Rosenhan and seven other people - none of whom had a psychiatric diagnosis - got themselves admitted to 12 different psychiatric hospitals around the United States. They did this by presenting with a single symptom, saying that they heard a voice which said words such as 'empty', 'dull' and 'thud.' Once admitted, they acted completely normally. Nevertheless, they were kept in for periods of between 8 and 52 days. Seven of them were diagnosed with schizophrenia and were released as being 'in remission'; not one of them was judged to be sane.

After Rosenhan published On Being Sane in Insane Places in the journal Science in 1973, the psychiatric profession went on the defensive to protest its diagnostic competence. The study struck at the heart of their attempts to medicalise psychiatry and be accepted as proper doctors. Its impact was felt when the third edition of the profession's bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, came out in 1980: changes had been made which brought more rigour to the diagnostic process.

However, as Claudia discovers from Rosenhan's unpublished papers, for him the study was less an experiment of diagnostic efficacy than an anthropological survey of psychiatric wards. In a chapter of the book he never finished, she reads his poignant account of his own first admission, and his sense that 'minimal attention was paid to my presence, as if I hardly existed'.

Now suffering ill health and unable to speak, Rosenhan delegates his friends and colleagues professor of social psychology at Stanford University Lee Ross and clinical psychologist Florence Keller to speak to Claudia and show her the box containing previously unpublished material which throws new light on one of the most controversial and famous psychology experiments.In 1973, "On Being Sane in Insane Places," Rosenhan's account of his study, burst like a bomb in the world of psychiatry. At one point early in the article, Rosenhan just lays it on the line. He claims that diagnosis is not carried within the person, but within the context, and that any diagnostic process that lends itself so readily to massive errors of this sort cannot be a very reliable one.