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On Being Sane in Insane Places

By Never Going Back

In college I was required to study a book by Lauren Slater called "Opening Skinner's Box." One of the chapters called, "On Being Sane in Insane Places," discusses a psychiatric experiment performed by Dr. David Rosenhan and his friends and colleagues from around the country in the early 1970's. If I remember correctly, the experiment was to see just how well psychiatrists could distinguish between the truly insane and those merely posing as such. A "patient" would admit him or herself into an asylum and claim to be hearing a "thud." This "thud" was the only odd thing about them. There were no other distinguishing characteristics that would give them away in their everyday life. Without a hitch, each of the eight patients were deemed crazy despite the fact that in every other way, they would be considered healthy and sane.

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