The study was conducted in several hospitals, and the results were remarkably similar. In a later study, Rosenhan actually told the staff he was sending more pseudopatients during a particular time frame, and dozens of patients were questioned, when in fact, Rosenhan did not send one pseudopatient to the facility.
The authors hypothesis is that doctors and psychiatrists in mental facilities expect to encounter mental illness, so they do not look for normality. This has severe implications for those who might somehow end up in one of these facilities, without the wherewithal to get out. The hypothesis was clearly illustrated throughout the report, and it was supported by the experiences of the normal patients and how they were treated. No one caught on, which illustrates the clarity and truth of the hypothesis. In addition, when the patients attempted to ask normal, everyday questions of doctors and staff, they were consistently ignored or received bizarre responses, showing the staffs lack of contact and emotional distance from the people they were supposed to be helping.
The results show that mental health professionals take abnormality for granted. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the study was that many of the mental patients knew right away that the pseudopatients were normal, or “not crazy.” The staff did not pay attention to them, but they knew, some almost immediately, that the patients did not belong in the facility. That result is another failure for the staff to recognize the symptoms of normality and act on them. Ultimately, Rosenhan found that most staff members in these facilities do not view the patients as “real people,” and it hinders their judgement and their treatment of these individuals and his study seems to give credence to this assessment.
Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). Whos crazy here, anyway? On being sane in insane.