David Rosenhan

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David Rosenhan
David L. Rosenhan

(1929-11-22)22 November 1929
Died6 February 2012(2012-02-06) (aged 82)
Alma mater
Known forRosenhan experiment
Scientific career
InstitutionsSwarthmore College, Princeton University, Haverford College, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University

David L. Rosenhan (/ˈrznən/; November 22, 1929 – February 6, 2012)[1] was an American psychologist. He is best known for the Rosenhan experiment, a study challenging the validity of psychiatry diagnoses.[2]


Rosenhan received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yeshiva University. At Columbia University in 1953 he earned his master's degree, and five years later his Ph.D. in psychology.[1] Rosenhan was a leading expert on psychology and the law. He was a pioneer in the application of psychological methods to the practice of trial law process, including jury selection and jury consultation. He was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and had been a visiting fellow at Wolfson College at Oxford University. Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1970, he was a member of the faculties of Swarthmore College, Princeton University, and Haverford College. He was also a research psychologist at Educational Testing Service and a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania.

In 1973 Rosenhan published "On Being Sane in Insane Places",[3] which describes what is now called the Rosenhan experiment. The experiment arranged for eight individuals with no history of psychopathology to attempt admission into twelve psychiatric hospitals. All individuals were admitted with a diagnosis of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. Psychiatrists then attempted to treat the individuals using psychiatric medication. All eight were discharged within 7 to 52 days, but only when they had stated that they accepted their diagnosis. In a later part of the study, a research and teaching hospital challenged Rosenhan to run a similar experiment involving its own diagnosis and admission procedures. Psychiatric staff were warned that at least one pseudo-patient might be sent to their institution. 83 out of 193 new patients were believed by at least one staff member to be actors. In fact, Rosenhan sent no actors. The study concluded that existing forms of diagnosis were grossly inaccurate in distinguishing individuals without mental disorders from those with mental disorders. The paper created an explosion of controversy. Critics have questioned the validity and credibility of the study, but concede that the consistency of psychiatric diagnoses needs improvement.[4] Rosenhan’s experiment shows how psychiatric and medical diagnoses are related to the labeling theory. This theory states that deviance is a product of external judgements, or labels, that modify the individual’s self-identity and change the way others respond to the labeled person. By negatively labeling those seen as deviant from standard cultural norms, the behavior of individuals may be adjusted to coincide with the terms used to describe them. People actively label certain acts as deviant and others as normal, creating distinct stereotypes. In this article, Rosenhan uses hard labeling to argue that mental illnesses are manifested solely as a result of societal influence.

Along with Martin Seligman, Rosenhan believed that there are seven main features of abnormality: suffering; maladaptiveness; vividness and unconventionality; unpredictability and loss of control; irrationality and incomprehensibility; observer discomfort; and violation of moral and ideal standards.[5]

Professor Rosenhan held a joint appointment with the Stanford University Department of Psychology and later became professor emeritus at Stanford University.[6] He died on February 6, 2012, at the age of 82.[7]


  • David L. Rosenhan (1953). Consumer Subsidies as a Counter-cycle Measure.
  • David L. Rosenhan; Silvan S. Tomkins (1964). On Preference for Hypnosis and Hypnotizability. Educational Testing Service.
  • David L. Rosenhan; Samuel Messick (1964). Affect and Expectation. Educational Testing Service.
  • David L. Rosenhan (1966). Double Alternation in Children's Binary Choice Responses. Educational Testing Service.
  • David L. Rosenhan (1966). Aloness and Togetherness as Drive Conditions in Children.
  • David L. Rosenhan (1968). Some Origins of Concern for Others. Educational Testing Service.
  • David L. Rosenhan; William Ross Ashby (1968). Foundations of abnormal psychology. Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  • Christopher Peterson; David L. Rosenhan; Lisa M. Bossio; Martin E. P. Seligman (1989). Casebook and Study Guide, Abnormal Psychology. W W Norton & Company Incorporated. ISBN 978-0393956986.
  • David L. Rosenhan (1998). Abnormality-Trans. W. W. Norton, Incorporated. ISBN 978-0393972405.
  • Rosenhan DL (August 1962). "Naysaying and the California Psychological Inventory". Journal of Consulting Psychology. 26 (4): 382–383. doi:10.1037/h0043264. PMID 14494017.
  • Rosenhan DL (September 1966). "Effects of social class and race on responsiveness to approval and disapproval". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 4 (3): 253–259. doi:10.1037/h0023703. PMID 5969153.
  • Rosenhan DL (October 1975). "The contextual nature of psychiatric diagnosis". Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 84 (5): 462–474. doi:10.1037/h0077123. PMID 1194507.


  1. ^ a b Ross L, Kavanagh D (September 2013). "David L. Rosenhan (1929-2012)". The American Psychologist. 68 (6): 469. doi:10.1037/a0032245. PMID 24016118.
  2. ^ "SLS News | Stanford Law School Mourns the Loss of David L. Rosenhan, Professor of Law & Psychology, Emeritus". Blogs.law.stanford.edu. 2012-02-16. Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  3. ^ Rosenhan D (1973). "On being sane in insane places". Science 179 (4070): 250–258. doi:10.1126/science.179.4070.250. PMID 4683124. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/179/4070/250.
  4. ^ Spitzer R.L., Lilienfeld S.O., Miller M.B. (2005). "Rosenhan revisited: The scientific credibility of Lauren Slater's pseudopatient diagnosis study". Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 193 (11): 734–739. PMID 16260927.
  5. ^ Michael Eysenck (2004). Psychology: An International Perspective. Taylor & Francis. pp. 794–799. ISBN 978-1841693613.
  6. ^ [1] Archived February 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Stanford Law School Mourns the Loss of David L. Rosenhan, Professor of Law & Psychology, Emeritus Archived 2012-03-05 at the Wayback Machine, Stanford Law School (SLS) News, February 16, 2012 (downloaded March 13, 2012)

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