Clinical Social Work Journal

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 237–256 | Cite as

On being sane in insane places

  • D. L. Rosenhan


Social Psychology Insane Place 
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References and Notes

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    See in this regard H. Becker,Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (Free Press, New York, 1963); B. M. Braginsky, D. D. Braginsky, K. Ring,Methods of Madness: The Mental Hospital as a Last Resort (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York, 1969); G. M. Crocetti and P. V. Lemkau,Amer. Sociol. Rev. 30, 577 (1965); E. Goffman,Behaviour in Public Places (Free Press, New York, 1965); R. D. Laing,The Divided Self: A Study of Sanity and Madness (Quadrangel, Chicago, 1960); D. L. Phillips,Amer. Sociol. Rev. 28, 963 (1963); T. R. Sarbin,Psychol. Today 6, 18 (1972); E. Schur,Amer. J. Sociol. 75, 309 (1969); T. Szasz,Law, Liberty and Psychiatry (Macmillan, New York, 1963);The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Mental Illness (Hoeber Harper, New York, 1963). For a critique of some of these views, see W. R. Gove,Amer. Sociol. Rev. 35, 873 (1970).Google Scholar
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    Data from a ninth pseudopatient are not incorporated in this report because, although his sanity went undetected, he falsified aspects of his personal history, including his marital status and parental relationships. His experimental behaviors therefore were not identical to those of the other pseudopatients.Google Scholar
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    Beyond the personal difficulties that the pseudopatient is likely to experience in the hospital, there are legal and social ones that, combined, require considerable attention before entry. For example, once admitted to a psychiatric institution, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be discharged on short notice, state law to the contrary not with standing. I was not sensitive to these difficulties at the outset of the project, nor to the personal and situational emergencies that can arise, but later a writ of habeas corpus was prepared for each of the entering pseudopatients and an attorney was kept “on call” during every hospitalization. I am grateful to John Kaplan and Robert Bartels for legal advice and assistance in these matters.Google Scholar
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    However distasteful such concealment is, it was a necessary first step to examining these questions. Without concealment, there would have been no way to know how valid these experiences were; nor was there any way of knowing whether whatever detections occurred were a tribute to the diagnostic acumen of the staff or to the hospital's rumor network. Obviously, since my concerns are general ones that cut across individual hospitals and staff, I have respected their anonymity and have eliminated clues that might lead to their identification.Google Scholar
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    Interestingly, of the 12 admissions, 11 were diagnosed as schizophrenic and one, with the identical symptomatology, as manic-depressive psychosis. This diagnosis has a more favorable prognosis, and it was given by the only private hospital in our sample. On the relations between social class and psychiatric diagnosis, see A. deB. Hollingshead and F. C. Redlich,Social Glass and Mental Illness: A Community Study (Wiley, New York, 1958).Google Scholar
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    It is possible, of course, that patients have quite broad latitudes in diagnosis and therefore are inclined to call many people sane, even those whose behavior is patently aberrant. However, although we have no hard data on this matter, it was our distinct impression that this was not the case. In many instances, patients not only singled us out for attention, but came to imitate our behaviors and styles.Google Scholar
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    The most recent and unfortunate instance of this tenet is that of Senator Thomas Eagleton.Google Scholar
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    I thank W. Mischel, E. Orne, and M. S. Rosenhan for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Behavioral Publications, Inc. 1974

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. L. Rosenhan
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStanford UniversityStanford

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