The question between normal and abnormal behavior is fundamental in psychology. Abnormality plays a vital role in determining whether someone is diagnosed mentally ill, the diagnoisis largely determines the treatment received by a patient. All behavior can be seen to lie on a continuum with normal, or effective psychological functioning at one end, and abnormal on the other end. The mental health professionals determine where on the continuum an individual’s behavior lies.
To make this determination professionals use some criteria such as context of the behavior, persistence of the behavior, social deviance, subjective distress, psychological handicap, and effect on functioning. These symptoms and characteristics of mental illness all involve judgments on the part of psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals. Rosenhan questioned whether the characteristics that lead to psychological diagnosis reside in the patients themselves or in the situations and contexts in which the observers find the patients.
Rosanhan reasoned that if the established criteria and the training mental health professionals have received diagonising for mental illness are adequate, then those professionals should be able to distinguish between the insane and the sane. He proposed that one way to test mental health professionals ability to correctly categorize would be to have normal people seek admittance to psychiatric facilities to see if they would be discovered to be ,in reality, psychologically healthy.
The psudopatients called the hospital to make an appointment where they complained about hearing voices that said “empty”, “hollow”, and “thud”. All the subjects were admitted to the hospital for schizophrenia. Rosanhan recruited 8 subjects to serve as psedopatients. The 8 participants consisted of one graduate student, three psychologists, one pediatrician, one psychiartrist, one painter, one homemaker. The subjects was to present themselves for admission to 12 psychological hospitals in five states both on the east and west coast of the United States.