Jean-Philippe Charbonnier's Psychiatric Hospitals exhibition, indicated by Chestionabil, reminded me about one of the most interesting experiments i've ever heard about. The Rosenhan experiment was a famous experiment conducted by David Rosenhan in 1972, which challenged the assumption that specially trained professionals have the ability to make reasonably accurate diagnoses when it comes to mental illness. Published in the journal Science under the title "On being sane in insane places", the experiment's conclusion clearly shows that "it is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals".
Starting from the question "if sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?", the experiment consisted of two parts.
The first involved the use of healthy associates or 'pseudopatients', who
briefly simulated auditory hallucinations in an attempt to gain admission to 12
different psychiatric hospitals in 5 different states in various locations in
the United States. The second involved asking staff at a psychiatric hospital to
detect non-existent 'fake' patients. In the first case hospital staff failed to
detect a single pseudopatient, in the second the staff falsely detected large
numbers of genuine patients as impostors. The study is considered an important
and influential criticism of psychiatric diagnosis.
Both the description of the experiment, and the reactions are fascinating, especially for people who spend qite an awful lot of time trying to figure out how people think, feel and behave.