Rosenhan’s experiment: why are healthy people sent to psychiatric hospitals?

The experiment of the American psychologist David Rosenhan is the most scandalous scientific study of the late 20th century. The scientist sent healthy people to psychiatric hospitals in the United States, who pretended to be mentally ill and analyzed the work of medical institutions from the inside.

However, it was not easy for the pseudo-patients to get out into the wild, and the data obtained shocked the entire scientific community.

In 1937, Rosenhan, along with eleven volunteers, pretending to be sick, entered 12 psychiatric clinics, underwent treatment there and tried to be released.

They complained of hallucinations and slurred inner voices that repeated words inaudible. This clinical picture showed symptoms of common depression, however, the simulants were still placed under observation.

11 of them were diagnosed with schizophrenia, and one was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. All were offered drug treatment. As soon as the pseudo-patients were inside the hospital, they immediately began to behave naturally and no longer complained.

Rosenhan’s people stayed in the hospital for 7 to 52 days and were discharged with a diagnosis of «schizophrenia in remission», which indicated the complete conviction of doctors in the mental deviations of the pseudo-patients.

The experimenters experienced psychological pressure and indifference from the staff. It is curious that the real mentally ill, who were being treated together with the simulators, immediately identified the zaslanets among themselves.

At the second stage of the experiment, Rosenhan deliberately agreed with the management of the clinic that he would send simulators to them within three months. The doctors found 41 simulators. In fact, Rosenhan did not send anyone at all, and all 41 patients were actually sick.

Thus, the scientist found out that modern medicine cannot find a healthy person among the mentally ill.

In 1974, the observation of a psychologist,

Despite clear evidence of the flaws in psychiatric diagnostics, Rosenhan’s experiment is recognized as not completely honest. Psychiatry is the most imprecise science of the medical field, and doctors often make mistakes in diagnoses.


It is also worth remembering that with

If this condition comes to the attention of a psychiatrist, who initially suspects you of having a disease, then an innocent «anomaly» will be recorded against you as evidence of a mental disorder.

Psychiatric hospitals cannot distinguish a sick person from a healthy one with a 100% guarantee, and formally any person can be hidden behind blank walls. If you have already attracted the attention of a psychiatrist, then it is better not to joke with him.