David Rosenhan was an American Psychologist who was interested in the field of abnormal Psychology. Rosenhan questioned the need and usefulness of categorizing people into diagnostic groups of sane and insane people. Rosenhan was one of the first psychologists to specifically design an experiment to investigate people's perceptions of sanity and insanity.
The aim of this experiment was to determine if psychiatric diagnosis is in the mind of observers and is more related to the environment in which the person is situated, rather than the person's behaviour.
Rosenhan's hypothesis was that pseudo patients would be seen as insane when placed in a mental institution. He believed psychiatric diagnoses were not valid.
The Rosenhan Labelling Experiment consisted of two parts. In the first, Rosenhan used eight of his associates who were all healthy individuals and attempted to gain admission to different psychiatric hospitals in different locations across America. During the psychiatric assessment they claimed to be hearing voices but no other symptoms were claimed.
All eight people were admitted, seven with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, the last with manic depression. They were told to act normally when they were admitted and report that they felt fine and no longer heard voices.
The pseudo patients were to stay in their hospitals until they were discharged by the staff - who believed they were real psychiatric patients.
None of the fake patients were detected by hospital staff during their admission, but other psychiatric patients seemed to be able to identify them as impostors.
The second part to the experiment took place when a well known research and teaching hospital heard about his first experiment and claimed that their staff would be able to tell the difference between sane and insane patients. Rosenhan arranged with them that over a three month period, one...