Individual Differences AS AQA A Psychology Notes

My summerised notes on the whole of the Individual Differences section of spec A of AQA Psychology at AS. 

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definition of abnormality
- We can define abnormality based on behaviour being considered undesirable by a majority of
society members. (e.g: a lack of politeness would be considered socially deviant as surliness makes
interpersonal relations difficult).
- These social norms may also be moral: although Western culture accepts homosexuality, it did not
used to and many cultures still do not.
- We therefore now have the DSM to help classify abnormal behaviours, although it still varies
slightly by culture.
1) Time. Social norms vary as times change: in Russia 50 years ago anyone disagreeing with the state
was classed as `insane' and placed in an institution, whereas free speech is allowed commonly now.
2) Lack of cultural relativism. All cultures have different social forms, and would therefore have
different diagnoses from different countries ­ abnormality is not universal.
3) Context. Depends on the context of the behaviour ­ if someone wears a bikini to a beach, they
are classed as normal, but if they wore the same outfit to a formal gathering, they would be
abnormal. This is a problem as this shows a blurred line between eccentricity and abnormality.
definition of abnormality
- Abnormality can be judged by how it interferes with daily functions.
- You are considered psychologically abnormal if you cannot complete your day-to-day activities such
as attending work or school, eating and washing.
1) Judge. Who has the right to judge what is normal or abnormal? People suffering from mental
disorders such as schizophrenia may view their behaviour as normal, despite it being distressful for
2) Adaptive or maladaptive? Some seemingly maladaptive disorders can actually be adaptive for the
individual: for example, depression may gain welcomed attention for the individual.
3) Culturally relative? It is much more likely that lower class, non-white people will be diagnosed as
abnormal as the majority of psychologists are white and middle class and may find the behaviours or
other classes and cultures to be abnormal.

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definition of abnormality
- Jahoda (1958) proposed that as we measure physical illness in terms of the absence of physical
health, we can do the same for mental illness. To measure this, she developed a set of criteria to
measure ideal mental health. If a patient did not meet these, he or she would be considered
- Personal growth: development to full capabilities.
- Reality (an individual's perception of).…read more

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This approach believes that mental disorders are caused by dysfunction in the body, j ust as physical
disorders are.
1) - Uses the diathesis-stress model to indicate that a child can inherit disorders from their
parents through genes.
- Researchers test the concordance rate between MZ and DZ twins, as they are genetically
similar. High rates found for disorders such as schizophrenia, but low for phobias.…read more

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- Freud's theory of psychoanalysis is one of the best known of the psychodynamic approach to
- He said that the personality was made up of three parts:
- Id = pleasure principle, demands satisfaction and is irrational.
- Ego = conscious, rational part of the brain thinking about what is realistic.
- Super-ego = develops at 3-6 years, and is the moral part of the brain.…read more

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The behavioural approach to psychopathology focuses on the idea that all be haviour is learned,
in one of three ways.
- Operant Conditioning: positive or negative reinforcement. E.g: reacting badly to a spider +
ensuing attention = repeated behaviour.
- Classical Conditioning: association between two events. Watson and Rayner ( 1920) ­ Little
Albert, conditioned to fear fluffy things using the fear from loud noises.
- Social Learning Theory ­ modelling behaviour of others. E.…read more

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The cognitive approach to psychopathology is based on the idea that abnormality is caused by
maladaptive cognitions (faulty thinking), rather than the problem itself. Ellis (1962) proposed the
ABC model which suggests how these maladaptive cognitions affect behaviour:
A ­ Activating agent. (e.g: the sight of a large dog.)
B ­ Belief, may be rational or irrational. (e.g: the dog is probably just homeless ­ rational
the dog is going to attack me ­ irrational)
C ­ Consequence.…read more

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biological therapies
Antipsychotic drugs
- Controls the symptoms of schizophrenia.
- Binds to the dopamine receptors to block the action of dopamine in the brain (CONVENTIONAL)
- Temporarily occupy dopamine receptors and then disassociate, resuming normal dopamine
receptors (ATYPICAL).
- Atypical antipsychotic drugs have lower amounts of side effects than conventional antipsychotics.
Antidepressant drugs
- Affects serotonin levels/other neurotransmitters.
- Normal, sober brains: neurotransmitters are constantly released from nerve endings and stimulate
the next neuron.…read more

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biological therapies
- Used for severely depressed patients as a last resort.
- Electrodes are placed on the temples of the patient. They are given a short-acting barbiturate to
make them unconscious, and a nerve blocking agent to stop muscle spasms. They are also put on
- A small electric current (roughly 0.6amps) passes through the brain, causing a small seizure.
- Administered roughly three times a week for between 3 and 15 treatments.…read more

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- Psychoanalysis is a treatment based on the idea that behaviour is influenced by unconscious
processes that are the result of repressed memories or unresolved conflicts during childhood.
- During psychoanalysis, the therapist aims to trace these to their origins and help the individual deal
with them in one of two ways:
- One method of doing this is through free association, where the patient expresses thoughts
and feelings as they occur, even if seemingly irrelevant.…read more

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- A treatment based on behaviourism and the process of Classical Conditioning that gradually
introduces a phobia sufferer to a feared object whilst completing re laxation techniques.
- Patients can then overcome their feelings of anxiety by learning to relax in the presence of stimuli
that had previously caused anxiety, and the fear response is eventually dispelled.
- Works by teaching a patient how to relax their muscles as a relaxed state is incompatible with
anxiety.…read more


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