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The Rosenhan Study: On Being Sane in Insane Places


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If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?

The question is neither capricious nor itself insane. However much we may be personally convinced that we can tell the normal from the abnormal, the evidence is simply not compelling. It is commonplace, for example, to read about murder trials wherein eminent psychiatrists for the defense are contradicted by equally eminent psychiatrists for the prosecution on the matter of the defendant's sanity. More generally, there are a great deal of conflicting data on the reliability, utility, and meaning of such terms as "sanity," "insanity," "mental illness," and "schizophrenia" [1]. Finally, as early as 1934, {Ruth} Benedict suggested that normality and abnormality are not universal. [2] What is viewed as normal in one culture may be seen as quite aberrant in another. Thus, notions of normality and abnormality may not be quite as accurate as people believe they are.

" It was quite common for the patients to "detect" the pseudopatient's sanity. During the first three hospitalizations, when accurate counts were kept, 35 of a total of 118 patients on the admissions ward voiced their suspicions, some vigorously. "You're not crazy. You're a journalist, or a professor (referring to the continual note-taking). You're checking up on the hospital." While most of the patients were reassured by the pseudopatient's insistence that he had been sick before he came in but was fine now, some continued to believe that the pseudopatient was sane throughout his hospitalization [11]. The fact that the patients often recognized normality when staff did not raises important questions."

Wow, the staff cannot detect sanity, but the patients can, is it due to their experience with insanity, that makes them more perceptive?

The other question is:  how many people are in Psych facilities right now, that are not insane?  Some because they don't know any better than what they are told by the professionals, and maybe some that are just chilling and working the system ie 3 meals + a cot, and maybe some good drugs too.

Another thing to add, is staff is taught to have a flat affect, as to not show any reaction to what the patient is telling them, or at least that is what I was taught in nursing school years ago.  This in effect is not a sane interaction with another human being, as emotions, facial expressions, etc are all part of normal communication.  I understand the need for it, as the patient could easily misconstrue the reactions, or be overwhelmed by them,  because of their disordered thinking, but it is not normal.

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