On Being Sane in Insane Places in Science 179 No. 4070, January 19, 1973

American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1973. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPS OF THE ROSENHAN EXPERIMENT, A HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL EXPERIMENT CONDUCTED TO DETERMINE THE VALIDITY OF PSYCHIATRIC DIAGNOSIS.

Rosenhan, psychologist and professor at Stanford, “sent eight ‘sane’ people to twelve psychiatric institutions. The pseudo-patients complained ‘they had been hearing voices’ and were admitted to psychiatric wards. Save one, all the rest were diagnosed with schizophrenia and discharged from the hospital less than a few months [later] because their symptoms were determined to be ‘in remission’” (Tamao, The Politics of Psychiatric Experience, 71).

The study concluded that “it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals," and vehemently argued about the dangers of dehumanization and the type of labeling that takes place in psychiatric institutions.

The core of the experiment was just that: could mental health professionals distinguish between psychologically well people and those with mental illnesses? Rosenhan believed not; at the time, some believed the same; soon, as a result of this paper, more would feel the same.

“Experts in and out of the field [‘antipsychiatrists’] argued that these hospitals were ‘superflous’ institutions, sites of ‘therapeutic tyranny’ and ‘merely a symptom of an outdated system that is crying for a complete remodeling’ that should be ‘liquidated as rapidly as can be done’… They believed “their case was proved. A scientific study in a premier [scientific journal] had shown psychiatrists did not know the sane from the insane… ‘Worse still [they argued], the experience of segregation, powerlessness, depersonalization, mortification, and dehumanization… were enough to drive a normal person insane’” (Isaac, Madness in the Streets).

Rosenhan and his study likely did more to cement public opinion against psychiatric hospitals than any other academic study” (Schaub). In 1973, the year Science published [this paper], California governor Ronald Reagan closed Modesto, Dewitt, and Mendocino State Hospitals… and announced plans to phase out all of the state’s public psychiatric hospitals by 1982. Arguing in 1974, a lawyer summed up the prevailing view of the time: patients were ‘better off outside of a hospital with no care than they were inside with no care’… Today, sociologists, historians, politicians, and many in the medical community believe the closing of so many psychiatric hospitals across the whole of the country has contributed greatly to the size of the current homeless population and the need of so many for both shelter and help.

Though the veracity of the study remained in question, it continued (continues still) to have wide reverberations. Because of the issues of subjectivity of diagnosis raised by Rosenhan, the next taskforce charged with revising The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was set on “achieving a systematized, streamlined diagnostic process. [They] skillfully used Rosenhan’s arguments to deconstruct the conventional diagnosis process. While [they] disregarded the Rosenhan Experiment as ‘junk,’ it was a convincing tool to justify why psychiatry needed a radical reform” (Tamao). Ironically, the taskforce then used the questions surrounding the veracity of the paper to force the DSM still further toward systematic criteria. One repercussion of this is that by 1980, DSM diagnostic criteria had grown so finally systemized that the source of mental illness had been reduced almost entirely to ‘biochemical irregularity.’ In the biological model, symptoms are valued more than story or history, with clinicians increasingly disallowing the latter, relying largely on statistical data to provide diagnosis. Item #1390

CONDITION: 8vo. Complete. Lightly scuffed original wrappers; address sticker on rear. Clean throughout. Very good condition.

Price: $500.00

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