David Rosenhan's Experiment Essay

1631 words - 7 pages

We all have our own perception of psychiatric hospitals. Some people may see them as a terrifying experience, and others may see them as a way to help people who cannot keep their disorders under control. David Rosenhan's perception led him to a variety of questions. How could psychiatric hospitals know if a patient was insane or not? What is like to be a patient there? According to Rosenhans study, psychiatric hospitals have no way of truly knowing what patients are insane or not; they quickly jump to labeling and depersonalizing their patients instead of spending time with them to observe their personality.
David Rosenhans experiment contained two parts; the first was admitting pseudo-patients into psychiatric hospitals without the doctors or nurses knowledge. David Rosenhan and his participants all willingly committed themselves to the psychiatric hospital. “8 people without any history of psychiatric illness presented themselves at various mental hospitals. Each of these pseudo-patients arrived at the admissions office complaining of a single (feigned) symptom: vague auditory hallucinations” (Scribner). All of the participants came from a different background and were admitted into several different hospitals.
They quickly gained admission to the hospitals; not a single person was denied. “Immediately upon admission to the psychiatric ward, the pseudo-patient ceased simulating any symptoms of abnormality” (Rosenhan). The pseudo-patients immediately started acting sane after being admitted into the hospital. The staff members were quick to diagnosed them with a psychiatric disorder upon admission. “Seven of the volunteers were diagnosed as schizophrenic and the other as a manic depressive psychotic” (Brown). All of the pseudo-patients were labeled without hesitation. “Length of hospitalization ranged from 7 to 52 days, with an average of 19 days” (Rosenhan). Between those times none of the doctors knew the pseudo-patients were actually sane. Not a single test was done on one of the pseudo-patients. The doctors simply went on what they were told by the patients which was obviously enough to commit them to the hospital. This opened up a lot of controversy.
In Rosenhan's experiment, he proved that the doctors and nurses rarely spend time with the patients:
The average amount of time spent by attendants outside of the cage was 11.3 percent (range, 3 to 52 percent). This figure does not represent only time spent mingling with patients, but also includes time spent on such chores as folding laundry, supervising patients while they shave, directing ward cleanup, and sending patients to off-ward activities. (Rosenhan)
If the nurses rarely spent time with the patients then how could they possibly know the patients true personality? Well the answer is simple; they don't know. Rosenhan soon became aware other patients committed to the hospital were raising some suspicion. “It was quite common for the patients to “detect” the...

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