Psychology in Action 9th Edition

Psychology in Action

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experimental design technique in which one can draw cause and effect conclusions. However, there are many situations in which participant-naturalistic observation reveals data that other methods are not able to tap. An excellent example of this type of research is Rosenhan's study, "On Being Sane in Insane Places." This study deals with the ability of mental health staff to accurately diagnose the presence of mental disorder in subjects who are asking for admittance to a psychiatric facility. The findings, which could serve as a plot for movie psychodramas where a "normal" person is unable to prove his/her sanity, do not make one feel confident about psychiatric expertise. The following material is based on Rosenhan's article: Rosenhan, D. L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane Places, Science, 179 , 250-258. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In this classic study, Rosenhan's intent was to determine if it were possible to distinguish between those who "deserve" a psychiatric label and those who should be exempted from placement in a diagnostic category. He reasoned that the most logical way to measure this would be to take "normal" individuals, those who have never suffered from a serious psychiatric disorder, and have them request admittance to a mental hospital. If they were admitted, then the methods used for making this determination must be flawed. Rosenhan recruited eight people (including himself) for this study. Their backgrounds included three psychologists, one homemaker, one pediatrician, one psychiatrist, one painter, and one graduate student. Their instructions were to call the hospital for an appointment and, upon arriving at the hospital; they were to report having heard vague voices that said "empty," "hollow," and "thud." Except for this one symptom (auditory hallucinations), they were told to act in a normal fashion, and after admission, to say the voices had disappeared. All questions relative to significant background events, such as family and important childhood events, were to be answered truthfully. The only information to be withheld was their true identity (to prevent the attachment of a permanent psychiatric label to their names), and if they were employed in the mental health profession, to give a false occupation to eliminate the possibility of special treatment. All pseudopatients were admitted, seven with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Many factors could have led to an error in diagnosis during admission. The pseudopatient indicated the presence of voices (looked upon by many as a first-rank symptom of schizophrenia), the pseudopatients were "nervous" during their initial contact with a psychiatric hospital, and the interaction between the admitting staff member and the pseudopatient was of limited duration. Instructor's Resource Guide               Chapter 1                                 Page 11
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However, after a longer period on the ward, when the patient was engaging in normal behavior, one would expect the staff to recognize that the pseudopatients were not psychotic. This did not occur; the staff did not question the "insanity" of the pseudopatients. When they were released, after periods
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