CLASSIC STUDY - Clinical - Rosenhan (1973) (EVALUATION (Generalisability ,…
CLASSIC STUDY - Clinical - Rosenhan (1973)
To see whether the sane can be distinguished from the insane using the DSM classification system. Rosenhan wanted to see whether clinicians would be able to tell the difference between a patient suffering from a real mental disorder and a healthy 'pseudo patient'.
Rosenhan and 7 volunteers arrived at a range of hospitals reporting a single symptom, hearing voices saying 'empty', 'hollow' and 'thud'.
They gave real info about themselves such as details about their families and childhood. However, they gave false names and those in the medical profession gave a false occupation. As soon as the 8 pseudo patients were in hospital, they started behaving normally.
All the ppts were admitted and none were detected as being sane. It was an average of 19 days before any of them were released. Even when they were released all but 1 were given the diagnosis of schizophrenia in remission. In no case did any of the doctors and nurses notice that there was nothing wrong with them.
Rosenhan concluded that staff in psychiatric hospitals were unable to distinguish those who were sane from those who were insane and that DSM is not a valid measurement of mental illness.
The study was conducted in the field so extraneous variables were hard to control and so the study would be difficult to repeat.
Application to real life
The study highlighted problems with DSM and how psychiatric patients are treated in hospital.
The pseudo patients had insisted on being admitted to the hospital themselves so the psychiatrists may have been more cautious about releasing them. Not all people diagnosed with schizophrenia ask to be admitted to a hospital so the treatment of the pseudo patients may not be representative of how other patients would be treated.
The pseudo patients would have also been careful about releasing an individual who had only recently been admitted too fast. However, a wide range of hospitals were used so the results can be generalised to other psychiatric hospitals at the time.
The study was carried out in 1973 so the findings of the study may not apply to the present day. The DSM had been revised many times since 1973 to improve its validity, also, doctor-patient relationships have changed.
The study had ecological validity as it was carried out in the doctor's and nurse's natural working environment (psychiatric hospitals) so they would have behaved naturally.
The doctors and nurses were unaware the patients were fake so they would not have displayed any demand characteristics. Therefore, the study has good experimental validity. However, the fact that the pseudo patients were released with the diagnosis of 'schizophrenia in remission' shows that the psychiatrists did recognise something different about them as this is a rare diagnosis for real patients.
The hospital staff were deceived about the pseudo patients' symptoms and they did not know they were in a study so they were unable to give consent. However, Rosenhan did protect the anonymity of the staff and hospital afterwards.