R(onald) D(avid) (1927-1989) Scottish psychoanalyst, originator of the social theory of mental illness; for example, that schizophrenia is promoted by family pressure for its members to conform to standards alien to themselves. His books include The Divided Self 1960 and The Politics of the Family 1971.
Influenced by existentialist philosophy, Laing inspired the antipsychiatry movement. He observed interactions between people in an attempt to understand and describe their experience and thinking. In The Divided Self he criticized the psychiatrist’s role as one that, with its objective scientific outlook, depersonalized the patient. By investigating the personal interactions within the families of diagnosed schizophrenics, he found that the seemingly bizarre behavior normally regarded as indicating the illness began to make sense.