David Rosenhan: A Comprehensive Guide to the Influential Psychologist

David Rosenhan was an American psychologist who is best known for his influential 1972 study of psychiatric diagnosis, “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. The study has had a lasting impact on the field of psychology, and is still widely discussed and referenced today.

Early Life and Education

Rosenhan was born in New York City in 1929. He attended the University of Chicago, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1951. He then went on to earn his master’s degree in social psychology from the University of Michigan in 1954, and his doctorate in psychology from Stanford University in 1958.

Career and Research

Rosenhan began his career as a professor of psychology at Stanford University in 1958. He was a professor there until his retirement in 1994. During his time at Stanford, Rosenhan conducted numerous studies and experiments in the fields of social and cognitive psychology, as well as psychiatry.

One of Rosenhan’s most famous studies was the 1972 study “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. In the study, Rosenhan and his team of researchers sent eight individuals posing as mental health patients to twelve different psychiatric hospitals. The individuals reported symptoms that were not serious enough to warrant hospitalization, such as hearing voices saying words like “empty”, “hollow”, and “thud”.

The study found that all of the individuals were admitted to the hospitals and diagnosed with mental illnesses, despite the fact that they were actually healthy. The study concluded that psychiatric diagnosis is subjective and unreliable.

Rosenhan’s study had a lasting impact on the field of psychology. It led to changes in the way mental illness is diagnosed and treated, as well as an increased focus on the reliability of psychiatric diagnoses.


Rosenhan’s legacy is one of challenging the status quo and pushing for change in the field of psychology. His study “On Being Sane in Insane Places” has been widely cited and discussed since its publication in 1972. It has had a lasting impact on the way psychiatric diagnosis is approached and understood.

Rosenhan was also a prolific writer, authoring numerous books and articles on psychology and psychiatry. His work has been widely acclaimed and has been translated into many languages.


Rosenhan passed away in 2012 at the age of 83. He is remembered for his groundbreaking research and his commitment to challenging the status quo in the field of psychology. His legacy lives on in his influential work and in the changes he helped bring about in the field.


1. Who is David Rosenhan?

David Rosenhan was a psychologist, professor, author, and social critic. He was best known for his study on the validity of psychiatric diagnoses and the moral responsibility of mental health professionals.

2. What did David Rosenhan research?

David Rosenhan’s research focused on the validity of psychiatric diagnoses and the moral responsibility of mental health professionals. He was particularly interested in the diagnosis of schizophrenia and how it was applied in clinical settings.

3. What is the Rosenhan experiment?

The Rosenhan experiment was a study conducted by David Rosenhan in 1973, in which he and seven other “pseudopatients” attempted to gain admission to psychiatric hospitals by claiming to have auditory hallucinations. The experiment was designed to test the validity of psychiatric diagnosis.

4. What were the results of the Rosenhan experiment?

The results of the Rosenhan experiment showed that the psychiatric diagnoses given to the pseudopatients were inaccurate and that the psychiatric hospitals had difficulty distinguishing between real and pseudopatients.

5. What other work did David Rosenhan do?

David Rosenhan was also known for his work on the role of stigma in mental health, as well as his book “On Being Sane in Insane Places,” which detailed his findings from the Rosenhan experiment. He also wrote extensively on the topics of social responsibility and mental health.

6. Where did David Rosenhan work?

David Rosenhan worked as a professor at Stanford University and as a visiting professor at Harvard University. He also held research positions at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and the Institute for Social Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

7. What awards did David Rosenhan receive?

David Rosenhan received numerous awards for his work, including the Distinguished Scientist Award from the American Psychological Association in 1981 and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues in 1983.

8. When did David Rosenhan die?

David Rosenhan died on February 6, 2012 at the age of 74.