Oddly Attracted to Books
33 times in 33 posts
"On being sane in insane places"
At the end of chapter 13, Zimbardo refers to David Rosenhan 's experiment "On being sane in insane places".
It is a short reference, and I think it is important to note that the study dates back to 1973. It seems to be quite a famous experiment judging from the number of answers from Google. I think one needs more information than is given by Zimbardo. There is a complete description on the net (see below).
The findings of the 1973 experiment are quite frightening, and to some extent confirm some of the things I suspected about psychiatric hospitals, but in a much worse version.
You might say p h were not really Zimbardo's point, but I'll carry on all the same, my question being what might happen if one tried out such an experiment in 2008.
First, psychiatry has evolved a lot. They know much more about schizophrenia for example than they did in the 70's, so one would have to imagine a different pathology/diagnosis.
Then, with the shortage of hospital beds everywhere, and also I imagine less willingness to hospitalize patients, you would have to come up with something more convincing than "hearing voices" to be admitted.
Next, the would-be patients in the experiment, once admitted, were apparently all allowed not to take their medicine. Nowadays, as far as I know, the chief duty of nurses in psychiatric hospitals is to make sure that all patients take their medicine, in front of the nurse. Refusal to do so has immediate consequences. I saw a short report about this on TV a few months ago. The nurse was a pleasant young man, and when one of the patients refused to take her medicine, he tried to convince her, and reminded her that in this case, he would have to call the doctor , and he told the journalist that this meant an injection.
The psychiatric ward did not look like a ferocious place, just rather sad, like some elderly people's Homes for example.
Once the drugs had been taken... they are not meant to knock you out, but they are powerful and would certainly slow you down, perhaps make you sleep.
Then, psychiatry is not an exact science, and a very important element in diagnosis is.. how you react to treatment!
Next, the part that may still sometimes be true nowadays is that some things might not be diagnosed because hospitals are short of staff and the people who make the decisions may not have enough time to talk to the patient for very long.
Finally, in psychiatric hospitals in France , if the patient asked for admittance on his own accord (as opposed to being brought by the police or his family for example, or sent by his psychiatrist in an emergency) he is legally entitled to leave and, unless he behaves violently or is obviously suicidal, I imagine he would be allowed to leave if he asked (bearing in mind they are short of beds, etc..) and showed willingness to take part in a programme by making an appointment for follow-up with a psychiatrist.
In conclusion, I think any (sane...) citizen would be well advised to think about how to obtain a minimum of information about psychiatric hospitals in their country. If your first encounter with the world of psychiatric hospitals happens when a relative or a friend ( I won't suggest the relation could be any closer) is abruptly admitted in one, the experience can be quite traumatic.
Contrary to other medical conditions, information about this is hard to come by, as nothing much seems to filter out.
I recommend the following link to Rosenhan's published paper (to be found on Julian's posting below: thanks, Julian).
Last edited by Ophelia on Sat Jan 05, 2008 4:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.