Approaches to abnormality

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  • Created by: Grace Cox
  • Created on: 23-09-10 19:17
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The psychodynamic approach ­ FREUD
Early experience has a strong influence on behaviour in later life. Our
behaviour as adults is greatly influenced by our experiences in early
The effects of early experience on personality development
He believed that child development proceeds through
psychosexual stages. Each stage has a focus on a particular body
part: OAPLG.
Frustration (when needs are not met) or overindulgence may
result in fixation where some of the child's libido remains
permanently locked into one stage and the method of obtaining
satisfaction that characterized that stage will dominate their adult
- Frustration Over indulgence
Oral aggressive character ­ Oral receptive character ­
Oral characterised by pessimism, optimistic, gullible and full of
envy and suspicion admiration for others
Anal repulsive character ­
Anal receptive character ­ neat,
Anal disorganised, reckless and
stingy and obstinate
Factors that motivate behaviour
He believed that the personality has 3 parts: Id, ego and
The Id, present at birth demands immediate satisfaction and is
ruled by the pleasure principle. The id is the irrational, primitive
part of personality.
The ego, which develops as a child interacts with the world, is the
conscious, rational part. The ego must respond to the constraints
of reality (governed by the reality principle), which brings
inevitable conflicts with the id.
The superego, which develops during the phallic stage, creates
further conflict with the id.

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The ego has ego defence mechanisms to reduce the anxiety
created by conflict. They are unconscious and explain the dynamics
of many behaviours. RDDRPS
Explanations should include
Psychosexual stages
Defence mechanisms
Dream analysis
Free association
Freud's views have changed the Western view of human nature. It
led to recognition of the importance of early childhood
experience on later behaviour and the importance of the
unconscious mind.…read more

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A number of Neo-Freudians have adopted Freud's explanation
incorporating more social rather than sexual influences.
The theory lacks empirical support. It is based on a few case
studies of abnormality (white Viennese women) and it is not
possible to build a theory of normal development based on a few
case studies.
Case studies are unreliable because they contain researcher bias
and subjective interpretation. They mostly use the acid test.
It is very determinist.…read more

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Behaviour patterns as well as physical characteristics become
adapted by evolution in such a way that those that aid survival and
reproduction are most likely to survive.
In order for natural selection to occur a characteristic must be
adaptive and generically transmitted.
Sexual selection
The selection of characteristics that are connected solely with
reproductive success. Females are the selectors and males
compete to be selected.
Female selection has therefore evolved as a successful strategy
for females as it enhances overall reproductive success.…read more

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Has drawn attention to how the pressures of natural selection can
affect behaviour. It is especially relevant for explaining nonhuman
animal behaviour but may be less useful in explaining human
There is no doubt that aspects of our behaviour are determined by
genetic factors.
Has certain practical applications. The acknowledgement of the
importance of genetic factors in influencing behaviour has led to
some important but controversial applications in the form of
genetic engineering.
The approach is reductionist.…read more

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Assumes that the mind works similar to a computer. Both
computers and the brain receive information, store it and retrieve
it. Human thinking is assumed to involve the processing of
information the way a computer processes the data put into it.
The basic unit of our mental processes. It is a cognitive
structure containing knowledge about a thing, including its
attributes and the relations among its attributes.…read more

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Takes into account the influence of mental processes on
behaviour. It focuses on processes involved in perception and
thinking. It has provided very useful for models of memory and
It has many useful practical applications, e.g. memory, problem
solving and in the application of therapies for mental disorders.
It is a very mechanistic approach which compares humans to
machines. The computer analogy is limited since computers, do
not, like humans, get bored, tired or make mistakes.…read more

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E.g. a neutral stimulus (white rat), a loud bang (unconditioned
stimulus), crying (unconditioned response). Paired white rat with a
loud bang (conditioned stimulus) and made little Albert cry
(conditioned response). He now associates everything white and
fluffy with this experience.…read more

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Such explanations are well supported by research. E.g. Classical
conditioning: Little Albert, SLT: Bobo dolls.
Behaviourist explanations can account for individual differences in
terms of selective reinforcement.
Shows people to be active in their environment.
SLT can explain social influences, such as those of parents, peer
groups and the media.
It has many important practical applications. There is a wide
variety of uses of the behavioural approach in treatments, e.g.
token economy.…read more


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