In the early 1970s psychologist David Rosenhan and seven of his colleagues presented themselves to psychiatric hospitals, saying that they were hearing voices. They were all admitted as schizophrenics and observed. After admission, they exhibited no further psychotic symptoms. Between one and nine weeks later, they were released as being “in remission.” The experiment was reported in the journal Science in 1973 under the title “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” and instantly became one of the most talked about articles in psychology and psychiatry.
Now the BBC4 radio show “Mind Changers” has produced a fascinating episode about this classic study in which are interviewed several of Rosenhan’s former colleagues and students about the study and its impact. One of the most interesting things I learned from it is that, after the study had been published, psychiatric hospitals challenged Rosenhan to send more “pseudo-patients” to them, declaring that they would uncover them. Over the next several weeks, the hospitals identified 41 new pseudo-patients. Problem was, Rosenhan hadn’t sent any more to them at all.
Thanks to Mind Hacks for alerting me to this program.