The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ISBN 10: 1538715279
ISBN 13: 978-1538715277
ISBN 10: 1538715287
ISBN 13: 978-1538715284
"One of America's most courageous young journalists" and the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Brain on Fire investigates the shocking mystery behind the dramatic experiment that revolutionized modern medicine (NPR).
Doctors have struggled for centuries to define insanity--how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people--sane, healthy, well-adjusted members of society--went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd "proven" themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.
But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows in this real-life detective story, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors?
Named One of the Top 100 Must-Read Books of 2019 by TIME Magazine
Named a Best Book of the Fall by Kirkus, Bookish, and LitHub
"This is a well-crafted, gripping narrative that succeeds on many levels. Cahalan, who gained the trust of Rosenhan's family, is meticulous and sensitive in her research; compelling and insightful in her writing."―The Financial Times
"[A]n impressive feat of investigative journalism--tenaciously conduct, appealingly written... as compelling as a detective novel."―The Economist
"A sharp investigation into how human self-interest, weaknesses, and egos can shape the way that science proceeds."―Undark
"A fascinating, potent, and crucial read."―Buzzfeed
"A stranger-than-fiction thrill ride exposing the loose screws of our broken mental health system."―O Magazine, Best Books of December
"Cahalan's passionate and exhaustive reexamination of the famous research 'On Being Sane in Insane Places' by Stanford psychologist David Rosenhan is a riveting read...A terrific piece of detective work [with] fascinating insights into the mental health controversies that have swirled ever since the study's publication."― Forbes
"The Great Pretender reads like a detective story, with Cahalan revealing tantalizing clues at opportune moments so we can experience the thrills of discovery alongside her...What she unearthed turned out to be far stranger, as documented in her absorbing new book, The Great Pretender. It's the kind of story that has levels to it, only instead of a townhouse it's more like an Escher print. On one level: A profile of Rosenhan and his study. On another: Cahalan's own experience of researching the book. And on a third: The fraught history of psychiatry and the pursuit of scientific knowledge."―New York Times
"Cahalan's research is dogged and her narrative riveting, leading us from red herring to clue and back with the dexterity of the best mystery novelists. Then she builds her case like a skilled prosecuting attorney."― New York Journal of Books
"A thrilling mystery--and a powerful case for a deeper understanding of mental illness."―People Magazine
About the Author
Susannah Cahalan is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir about her struggle with a rare autoimmune disease of the brain. She writes for the New York Post. Her work has also been featured in the New York Times, Scientific American Magazine, Glamour, Psychology Today, and other publications. She lives in Brooklyn.