Evaluation of Rosenhan (1972)

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Evaluation of Rosenhan (1972) ‘On being sane in insane places...’ Strengths The participant observation meant that the pseudo patients could experience the ward from the patients’ perspective while also maintaining some degree of objectivity. The study was a type of field experiment and was thus fairly ecologically valid whilst still managing to control many variables such as the pseudo patients’ behaviour. Rosenhan used a range of hospitals. They were in different States, on both coasts, both old/shabby and new, research-orientated and not, well staffed and poorly staffed, one private, federal or university funded. This allows the results to be generalised. Weaknesses The hospital staff was deceived - this is, of course, unethical. Although Rosenhan did conceal the names of hospitals or staff and attempted to eliminate any clues which might lead to their identification. Rosenhan did note that the experiences of the pseudo-patients could have differed from that of real patients who did not have the comfort of knowing that the diagnosis was false. Perhaps Rosenhan was being too hard on psychiatric hospitals, especially when it is important for them to play safe in their diagnosis of abnormality because there is always an outcry when a patient is let out of psychiatric care and gets into trouble. If you were to go to the doctors complaining of stomach aches how would you expect to be treated? Doctors and psychiatrists are more likely to make a type two error (that is, more likely to call a healthy person sick) than a type one error (that is, diagnosing a sick person as healthy) When Rosenhan did his study the psychiatric classification in use was DSM-II. However, since then a new classification has been introduced which was to address itself largely to the whole problem of unreliability - especially unclear criteria. It is argued that
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