The Rosenhan Experiment that Rewrote the Rules of Psychiatry

David Rosenhan, an American psychologist, brought a new perspective to the scientific world on psychiatry with his article he prepared based on the Rosenhan Experiment in 1973. Rosenhan stated that the diagnoses made for mental patients are not based on objective data, and revealed that doctors who are not actually mentally ill can be misunderstood by doctors.

Have you ever thought that someone with schizophrenia may have been misdiagnosed? Who knows, maybe this person was exposed to the wrong treatments due to a wrong diagnosis and spent most of his life. in a mental hospital where he doesn’t belong had to pass.

David Rosenhan, a faculty member at Stanford University, in order to find answers to these questions. confusing the scientific world did an experiment. On Being Smart in Mental Hospitals Rosenhan, who prepared an article named as his surname, argued that psychiatrist diagnoses were not sufficient in his experiment, revealing that hundreds of thousands of mental patients may have been misdiagnosed until today. Let’s take a closer look at the details of the Rosenhan Experiment.

The Rosenhan Experiment contributed to the psychiatry standards

david rosenhan

Before we get into the details, let’s talk a little bit about the purpose of the Rosenhan Experiment. Considering that the psychiatry standards of the period were not adequately equipped, David Rosenhan said that those who have mental illness due to misdiagnoses are normal and those who are not. may have been branded mentally ill He wanted to prove it to the scientific world.

Of course, Rosenhan’s purpose is not to disparage scientists or to discredit psychiatrists. raising standards to higher levels contributed to the success of psychiatry today.

Rosenhan begins his article called Being Smart in Mental Hospitals with these words; “In many murder cases, prominent psychiatrists on the defense side claim that the accused is not of criminal responsibility because he is mentally ill. Other psychiatrists, who are at least as famous as them, on the side of the prosecutor’s office, find that the same person is sane and say that he has criminal responsibility. Is it possible to understand whether a person is sane and the degree of sanity?”

The first step of the experiment: Which of us is sick and which is not?


Arguing that psychiatrist diagnoses are not based on objective data, Rosenhan ensures that 8 people, including himself, apply to a mental hospital. Three of these eight people are psychologists, one is a psychiatrist, one is a painter, one is a housewife and one is a pedagogue. Even though they’re sane, it’s all in their heads empty, emptiness and vain They say that words like these echo and they hear voices from the unknown. These words, by Rosenhan himself, signals the existential crisis selected for. Doctors out of 8 7 were diagnosed with schizophrenia and 1 with manic-depressive puts guests to hospital.

The team’s task after hospitalization is to behave completely normal and to those in the hospital. that they are not crazy is to prove. Although not one in eight people showed the slightest symptom of any mental illness, the earliest were released from a mental hospital after just 7 days. One of them could not convince the doctors for exactly 52 days. only at the end of the 52nd day was able to regain his freedom.

mental hospital

The funny thing is that none of the 8 people who were sent were sick, but real mental patients figured out before the doctors. 35 out of 118 hospitalized patients, didn’t believe these eight people were sickthought they were detectives who had come to inspect the hospital. Other staff working at the hospital could never understand that this team was fake patients.

His research there is no bias Rosenhan and his team, who wanted to show hin in urban and rural areas He applied to various mental hospitals again. Oddly enough, all the doctors at the hospital they consulted said that the mental health of these eight people not in place believes.

After this incident, a mental institution challenged Rosenhan.

rosenhan experiment

Rosanhan’s publication of these results caused many mental hospitals in the USA to react. A hospital arguing that the results do not reflect the truth, offers Rosenhan to send fake patients to prove how successful their doctors are. that they can distinguish these fake patients from real patients. defends.

Accepting the offer, Rosenhan stated that he would send fake patients to that hospital in the following 3 months. From the doctors and health personnel in the hospital, to evaluate the applicants from 1 to 10, patients they suspect to be fake. He asked them to give 1 or 2 points.

mental hospital

A total of 193 patients applied to this hospital for 3 months and in the report prepared by the hospital, 41 of these patients were admitted. by at least one official described as false patients, 19 out of 193 by more than one doctor and health workern is definitely considered a fake patient. Of course, after the reports were announced, the hospital in question fell into a bit of a bad situation. Because Rosenhan states that he did not send any fake patients to the hospital within the specified 3 months.

After what happened, Rosenhan gave place to the following question in his article; “Were 19 people who were admitted to the clinic, who more than two psychiatrists thought to be normal, were actually normal or were they mentally ill? We will never know. It is obvious that in psychiatry clinics we cannot distinguish between those who are mentally healthy and those who are not.”

After the results of the experiment, the perspective on mental patients completely changed.

mental hospital

The results of the Rosenhan Experiment had a great impact both in the USA and around the world, and allowed doctors to look at people they describe as mentally ill from a different perspective. So much so that there was once no cure for schizophrenia, people hospitalized for this disease. should be kept under surveillance for the rest of their lives. After the experiment, the thinking doctors concluded that the patients were better able to be cured and that they could be discharged one day. Another major change after the experiment was the American Psychiatric Association’s Handbook on the Differential Diagnosis of Mental Illnesses revised and renewed.

Source 1, Source 2


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