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Many studies often state that sanity differs from insanity. However, determining the normal from the abnormal is subject to several impediments. Human beings base their analysis of the normal from abnormal from past personal experiences. Essentially, these metrics prevail that normalcy and abnormality can be determined through the assessment of individual behavior. In light of the prevailing inadequacies concerning the definition of sanity from insanity, the article On Being Insane in Sane Places assesses the sanity of the pseudo-patients in a psychiatric setting. It is an extension of the efforts that are extended towards the determination of behavioral normalcies of pseudo-patients admitted in hospitals.

In the article, Rosenham (1973) seeks to determine the behavioral patterns of the patients and psychiatrists within a hospital setting. The author draws from the experiences of 12 different patients that were committed to different hospitals to determine the behavioral engagements of the physicians in hospital settings from those of their patients. The article is set towards identifying the factors that differentiate normalcy from abnormality. The author uses the experiences of the researchers and patients to draw their conclusions on normalcy and abnormality. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]

In the assessment, eight sane individuals were committed to 12 different hospitals. They were admitted secretly only with the knowledge of a few staff (Rosenham, 1973). They were admitted as patients and took part in the daily patient routines in the hospitals. Out of all the committed patients, only one was not established and practicing. The other seven were all accomplished individuals working in different fields. Also, of the seven physician-patients, there were three psychologists, one painter, one housewife, one pediatrician, a psychiatrist. The pseudo-patients comprised five men and three women (Rosenham, 1973).

All individuals within the study group assumed pseudonyms to protect them in the future against any diagnoses from the expected tests. The ones in the mental profession were compelled to allege another occupation to preempt extra attention from the staff of the associated hospitals. In addition, the experiment entailed the engagement of different settings to enable a generalization of the findings. It is for this reason that the solicitation of admissions of the patients into the 12 different hospitals was inspired. These involved 12 hospitals were located across five States in the Eastern and Western coasts (Rosenham, 1973). While some hospitals were well equipped, others were poorly equipped and were subject to various challenges that hampered their efficiencies.

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The author employs comparative analysis to determine the experiences of the pseudo-patient in a clinical setting. In the hospitals, the pseudo-patients were expected to act in ways that promoted the images they had assumed  (Rosenham, 1973). They engaged in the daily patient routines in the hospital settings and were compelled to record their observations in the different settings. The patients were not disruptive of all the efforts that are extended towards the convalescence demands of the subject institutions. In the wards, the patients engaged other patients and even though they initially projected anxiety, they got used to their surroundings.

Initially, they had been compelled to write their observations secretly. However, overtime after they had determined that no one was keen on their actions, they scribbled their findings more freely. The pseudo-patients had to stay and record their experiences for a duration of an average of 19 days in the different hospitals (Rosenham, 1973). This was to ensure that they had completely adapted to the settings and were privy of the routines engaged in the hospital settings. In the end, it was expected that the patients would find their way out of the hospitals by convincing the staff that they were normal. Therefore, they were expected to act in ways that would communicate a sense of sanity to the staff.

Given the normalcy of the patients in the 12 hospitals, the staff was not able to determine that the pseudo-patients were normal (Rosenham, 1973). The actions in which they engaged in while in the hospital were expected to communicate a sense of normalcy but were instead directed to the hospital staff. The results prevail that sanity cannot be determined by the behavioral inclinations that one practice but only by the orientation of the analyzing party and the setting of analysis. The patients were ultimately released from the hospitals with the label “in remission” (Rosenham, 1973). The term is representative of mild schizophrenia in the patients regardless of the fact that they were sane. The patients had been cooperative until the time of release.


The term sanity is subject to several distortions depending on the orientation of the observer and the setting of examination. Given that the staff at the hospitals was unable to determine that the pseudo-patients were normal, this becomes proof that it is impossible to determine normalcy from insanity. The author states that the staff decisions were a culmination of the type 2 error. Since the patients were in a setting were all individuals were assumed to be abnormal, regardless of the activities they engaged in, they were always extended the term abnormal. The type 2 error reinforces that physicians are more inclined towards diagnosing an individuals as sick than diagnosing a sick person as healthy (Rosenham, 1973). Essentially, physicians reinforce the idea that is propagated by the individual who seeks a medical intervention.

Therefore, it is impossible to determine the sane from the insane in a psychiatric intervention center and hospitals. This is because regardless of the individual’s actions upon admission, the physicians and staff are unlikely to believe that their actions are inspired by ordered and calculated thoughts. The study demonstrates that behavioral patterns do not influence the sanity of the individual. Instead, the physician’s perception comprises the most important factor in determining the sanity or insanity of a patient. The article may be used to further psychiatric analyses on the human state of mind in the future. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

Limitations of the article
Despite the immensities of the article, it may not be a true reflection of the subjective experiences that the patients in psychiatric settings are subject to. In addition, the population sample engaged by the author is too limited to be projected onto the entire human population. Given the comparative analysis, it does not succinctly address the need for an empirical process in the determination of results.[“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

Rosenham, D. L. (1973). On Being Sane in Insane Places. Santa Clara Law Review, 13(3), 379-399.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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