Being Sane in Insane Places

Sanity and insanity are the reflections of words normal and abnormal (Rosenhan, 1973). However, as suggested by Rosenhan, the divergence in the definition of normality is directly related to one’s culture and upbringing. That is why those two concepts are not accurate and not universal. Some actions are perceived as deviant in every culture: murder, rape, and etcetera. The article written by Rosenhan tries to determine what is sane and what is insane in a simple experiment. Because of his curiosity, eight sane people were distributed into 12 different mental facilities, which is cruel.

It is rather apparent that one cannot distinguish normal from the abnormal in mental facilities; that is why the perception of a standard can be corrupted in the mind of a sane person. The hospital presents a twisted environment where a sane person can experience powerlessness, depersonalization, self-labeling, uncontrolled fear, and, in the future, develop the same mental illnesses (Rosenhan, 1973). Humans are social beings, and that is why the environment affects a person’s psychological health (Ponomarev, 2015). If a sane person is being put in a mental facility for long durations of time, they start to develop certain illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, delusions, and etcetera. Therefore, to be mentally ill means to be in a particular environment, where ‘being ill’ is perceived as normal. Being mentally ill is unaccepted by society, and that is why it is regarded as abnormal.

To conclude, the experiment on sane human beings was cruel because it deliberately turned people with average mental health into people with mental illnesses. Humans are social, and that is why their surroundings heavily influence them. If a person who is considered sane, is put into a psychiatric facility, they can turn insane in that particular social surrounding. What is more, a person can be mentally ill in social environments, where their behavior may seem socially unacceptable.


Rosenhan, D.L. (1973). “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. Santa Clara Law Review. 13(3), 379-399.

Ponomarev, P.A., Zakharchenko, N.A., Ponomarev, V.P. (2015). “Human Phenomenon in Philosophical Anthropology”. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences. 6(3), S1.

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PsychologyWriting. "Being Sane in Insane Places." September 15, 2023.