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PRP: After reading these two articles, revisit objective #3 in the text, take a look at a bigger index of the DSM-IV for yourself at http://allpsych.com/disorders/disorders_alpha.html and respond to these questions:

a) How did the experiments by Rosenhan & Slater (as well as the discussions throughout chapter 16 in the text) demonstrate a change in our understanding of what mental illness actually is, and how it should (or should not) be treated?

b) Critique the current status of DSM-IV: does this represent an accurate and improved system for identifying genuine psychological disorders, or is it significantly flawed?

c) Would you be willing to participate in a replication of the experiments conducted by Rosenhan and Slater (i.e. trying to get yourself admitted into a psychiatric hospital)? In light of your responses to the first two parts of this question, explain why or why not.


The field of psychiatry has come a long way over the past century. Psychological disorders are quite comparable to medical disorders: they are diagnosed, treated, and possibly cured. In the 1970s, however, conditions in mental hospitals were far more subjective. One crafty psychologist, Rosenhan, set out to expose this flaw in the psychiatric system by sending his perfectly sane cohorts into mental hospitals to see if they would be admitted, and if so, how long it would take the staff to realize their sound state of mind. Thus, he and eight pals went to a multitude of different psychological health facilities, and at each, they claimed to hear a same-sex voice that said “empty,” “hollow,” and “thud.” Other than that solitary symptom, they answered all questions truthfully. All were admitted, and all but one were diagnosed wit...

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...tually get to know mental health patients on a personal basis. I would adore the chance to help recreate the experiments.

The past few decades have lent themselves to an incredible change in how we look at mental illnesses. Gone is the presumption of a fault of the diseased and the policy of containment rather than rehabilitation. Now, psychiatrists diagnose, treat, and cure psychological diseases just as any other doctor would do. With the aid of the DSM-IV, psychiatry has moved from a subjective, murky science with personal prejudices playing a large value in diagnosis to an irrefutable, reliable basis of facts: psychological disorders exist, here are the symptoms, and this is how they can be helped. All in all, Rosenhan’s classic experiment from 1973 has reformed the field of psychiatry by exposing its largest systematic flaws and insisting that they be fixed.
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