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September 1959

Empirical Observations on Mental-Status Examination

Author Affiliations

Ann Arbor, Mich.
Dr. P. A. Smith’s present address is Human Factors Department, System Development Corporation, Santa Monica, Calif.
Veterans Administration Hospital.
Now Director, Veterans Administration Central Neuropsychiatric Research Unit, Perry Point, Md. (Dr. Lasky).
In addition to the authors, others who served on the Psychiatry Research Committee at the Veterans Administration Hospital and who contributed to various phases of this study include Millard O. Reese, John R. Reida, and Drs. Morris Weiss, Stanley Duffendack, and Elliot Luby. The critical advice and suggestions offered by Prof. E. Lowell Kelly, who served as consultant from the University of Michigan throughout this study, are very gratefully acknowledged. The assistance of Mrs. Gloria Horn, research secretary, and of many members of the Psychiatric Treatment Team staff is also acknowledged.

AMA Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1959;1(3):253-262. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1959.03590030037004

Psychiatrists are frequently called upon to evaluate the mental status of a patient. Just as a physician systematically reviews the functioning of various organ systems and bodily processes in conducting a physical examination, a psychiatrist needs to study and evaluate various mental processes and functions within the context of the whole person. The impressions which the psychiatrist personally garners during his examination and interview serve as the focal point for the subsequent integration of information derived from sources such as social-history summaries, laboratory tests, and psychological reports. Yet it is generally agreed that there is no theoretical system that easily encompasses such diverse information. The objectivity which the psychiatrist seeks cannot be attained without a suitable guide for obtaining and organizing his observations.

Recognized authorities offer alternative approaches to the evaluation of mental status, but these serve only to illustrate the variation in number and specificity of observations called

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