Behavioural approach of abnormality

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  • Created on: 11-01-13 07:23
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Behavioural approach:
This model concentrates only on behaviours; it suggests that all
behaviours are learnt therefore all abnormal behaviours are also
learnt. Classical or operant conditioning can do this. Behaviour can
be internal (experiencing a particular feeling) or external (acting in
a certain way)
1. Classical conditioning
2. Operant conditioning
3. Social learning theory
Classical conditioning:
This can be used to explain the development of many abnormal
behaviours such as phobias and taste aversions.
1. Unconditioned stimulus leads to unconditioned response
2. Unconditioned stimulus + neutral stimulus leads to
unconditioned response
3. Neutral stimulus becomes conditioned response
4. Conditioned response leads to conditioned response
This theory is supported by Watson and Rayner; they experimented
with a boy named little Albert. He showed no fear response to a
white rat, white rabbit or white cotton wool, when he reached out
to touch the rat they smacked a steel bar with a hammer behind
his head to startle him, they did this three times. They did the
same thing the week after. From then on when they showed Albert
the rat he began to cry as he associated the loud noise with the
rat. Albert developed a phobia of rats.
This also works with taste aversions, they can be created if you're
ill after a certain food or drink, its taste will become a conditioned
stimulus and the feeling of nausea will be a conditioned response.
This means the taste of that particular may make you then feel ill
if you eat it again.
Operant conditioning:
This can be used to explain the formation of phobias and eating
1. Actions which have good outcomes through
a. Positive reinforcement ­ rewards (actions repeated)
b. Negative reinforcement ­ removal of something bad
(actions repeated)
2. Actions which have bad outcomes through punishment (actions
not repeated)
Phobias, the person has a desire to get away from the phobic
object, so avoiding them prevents anxiety which acts as a
negative reinforcer

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Bulimia, the person feels guilt and disgust when eating so
throws up, this acts as a negative reinforcer as the feelings
are removed
Anorexia, the person has a desire to lose weight or have more
control over their lives, stopping eating gives them this
therefore is a positive reinforcer
Social learning theory:
This is another way of explaining why people develop phobias and
eating disorders.
1. Phobias, people watch other peoples phobias, e.g. if someone
mother was scared of spiders.…read more

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Systematic desensitisation:
Therapy aims to make the patient relaxed instead of anxious and
afraid in the presence of a phobic stimulus. Relaxation and fear
cannot be experienced simultaneously, this is called reciprocal
Step 1 ­ to be taught relaxation techniques
Step 2 ­ find out how afraid the person is and create a
hierarchy of fear
Step 3 - begin working through the hierarchy
Step 4 - patient is relaxed when in phobic situation
Example of hierarchy for spider phobia (arachnophobia):
1.…read more


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