Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Rosenhan Experiment

Deswiss in the comments yesterday reminded us of the The Rosenhan experiment which was a famous experiment done in order to determine the validity of psychiatric diagnosis, conducted by psychologist David Rosenhan and published by the journal Science in 1973 under the title "On being sane in insane places". The study is considered an important and influential criticism of psychiatric diagnosis.

Rosenhan's study was done in two parts. The first part involved the use of healthy associates or "pseudopatients" (three women and five men) who briefly simulated auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12 different psychiatric hospitals in five different States in various locations in the United States. All were admitted and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders. After admission, the pseudopatients acted normally and told staff that they felt fine and had not experienced any more hallucinations. All were forced to admit to having a mental illness and agree to take antipsychotic drugs as a condition of their release. The average time that the patients spent in the hospital was 19 days. All but one were diagnosed with schizophrenia "in remission" before their release. The second part of his study involved an offended hospital challenging Rosenhan to send pseudopatients to its facility, whom its staff would then detect. Rosenhan agreed and in the following weeks out of 193 new patients the staff identified 41 as potential pseudopatients, with 19 of these receiving suspicion from at least 1 psychiatrist and 1 other staff member. In fact Rosenhan had sent no one to the hospital.

The study concluded "it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals" and also illustrated the dangers of dehumanization and labeling in psychiatric institutions. It suggested that the use of community mental health facilities which concentrated on specific problems and behaviors rather than psychiatric labels might be a solution and recommended education to make psychiatric workers more aware of the social psychology of their facilities. However, the study has been critiqued and accused of being pseudoscience presented as science. Almost everytime science is used for the benefit of the people and not the authorities or corporations it gets the label pseudoscience, how convenient. Wikipedia is almost as bad as the mainstream media in their foul misuse of language. Read more.

1 comment:

DeSwiss said...

“You are a slow learner, Winston."

"How can I help it? How can I help but see what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four."

"Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.”

~George Orwell, 1984

Some days, all of us are Winston.... :-/