Individual differences - Abnormality AQA AS

Notes on individual differences

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Individual differences ­ Abnormality
Definitions of abnormality
Failure to function adequately: According to this way of defining abnormality, someone
crosses the line and becomes abnormal when they can no longer cope with day-to-day
tasks. The sort of behaviour which represents a threat to themselves or others.
Rosenhan & Seligman (1989) suggest the following characteristics that define failure to
function adequately:
Maladaptiveness (danger to self)
Vividness & unconventionality (stands out)
Loss control
Causes observer discomfort
Violates moral/social standards
Strength: This definition defines where the cut off point should be between unusual and
abnormal, and because it ensures we take into account the welfare of the person as well as
social norms. They enable a decision to be made as to whether clinical intervention may be
Limitations: Not all people who experiences mental disorder are aware of their failure to
function. Abnormal behaviour may actually be helpful, a person with OCD of hand washing
may find that their behaviour make him cheerful, happy and more able to cope with his day.
Deviation from social norms: There are explicit and implicit rules that a society has about
what are acceptable behaviours, values and beliefs. If a person breaks norms within that
society, group or culture, they will be seen as abnormal.
Strength: Practical way to identify mental problems as they are behaviour which `stands
out' as it were.
Limitations: Deviance from social norms does not always indicate psychological
abnormality, merely eccentric or idiosyncratic behaviour. Social norms are subject to
change and vary over time, a behaviour may be regarded as normal in one era may be
considered inappropriate in another era.

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Deviation from ideal mental health: Jahoda (1958) used analogy of physical health to
understand mental health. According to this definition, we know someone is physically
unwell when the criteria for ideal mental health are not met. Thus we are abnormal when
we fail to meet the criteria.
Jahoda's criteria
1. Positive attitudes towards the self
2. Self actualisation of one's potential
3. Resistance to stress
4. Personal Autonomy
5. Accurate perception of reality
6. Adapting to the environment
Strength: Refers to ideal psychology well-being.…read more

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Gottesman (1991) ­ meta analysis of twin studies
Method: Meta analysis of around 40 twin studies.
Results: Identical twin with schizophrenia gave you a 48% chance of developing the
condition. This reduced to 17& to non-identical twins.
Conclusion: Schizophrenia has a strong genetic basis.
Evaluation: Field study to it gave high ecological validity, because identical twins share 100%
of their genes, but only 48% developed schizophrenia means there must be other facts
involved. Family environmental factors also played an important role.…read more

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Stress and trauma in adulthood might
trigger the repressed conflicts, leading to psychological disorders.
Psychodynamic treatment ­ Psychoanalysis
Dream analysis ­ Freud believes that by analysing the patients dream can give an
`insight' into their repressed thoughts and unconscious conflict. There are two parts of
dreams, the latent and manifest content. The manifest content is the storyline and the
latent content is the true meaning that is hidden beneath the symbols.…read more

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Social Learning ­ Individuals learn particular abnormal behaviours through observing others
and then imitate their behaviour. They believe reinforcement is available if they imitate the
abnormal behaviour.
Behavioural therapy
Token Economy ­ This is where the patient is given tokens for behaving in appropriate ways
or `normally' (can be used to obtain privilege).
Aversion therapy (OC) ­ This removes an undesired behaviour by associating it with
unpleasant feelings. E.g. Alcoholics are given alcohol at the same time as a drug that naturally
produces nausea.…read more

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Cognitive therapy
CBT ­ From the idea that changing the way information cognitively processed will result in a
change in behaviour. Changing the way we thing about something (e.g. a stressful situation),
we can then cope better and behave in ways which helps to minimise the stress or anxiety
from an idea.
Cognitive Restructing Therapy ­ This is to disprove the negativity in a person's thinking.
To question the reason for this irrational idea and tries to lead to a more positive thinking
system.…read more


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