Outline and Evaluate the Behavioural Approach to Abnormality

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Outline and Evaluate the Behavioural Approach to Abnormality (12)
The behavioural model gives us an explanation for abnormality which isn't bestowed on us from birth
but acquired from what we have learnt through life experiences. These methods of learning have
been divided into three clear divisions.
Classical conditioning incorporates three stages. Before conditioning where a certain stimulus like a
loud noise will trigger a natural reflex. In other words an unconditioned stimulus (UCS) will cause an
unconditioned response (UCR). During conditioning is where in this stage a stimulus which produces
no response (i.e. neutral) is associated with the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) at which point now
becomes the conditioned stimulus (CS). For example a stomach virus (UCR) might be associated with
eating a certain food such as chocolate. Also perfume (UCS) might be associated with a specific
person (CS). Often during this stage the UCS must be associated with the CS on a number of
occasions or trials for learning to take place. However, this is not always the case because one time
associations can establish strong conditioning like being sick after food poisoning or drinking too
much alcohol. Finally after conditioning, the conditioned stimulus (CS) has now been associated with
the unconditioned stimulus (UCS) to create a new conditioned response (CR). For instance a person
(CS) who has been associated with nice perfume (UCS) is now found attractive (CR). This has been
supported by studies like Watson and Rayner (1926) who investigated how a response could be
conditioned with a baby called "Little Albert" and the influence of fluffy white objects. They
concluded from their study that a fear response to white fluffy objects had been conditioned in Little
Albert, showing that abnormal behaviour can be learned.
Operant conditioning is the idea you learn from the consequences of actions. Actions that have a
good outcome either through positive or negative reinforcement shall be repeated. Actions that
have a bad outcome (punishment) shall not be repeated. Some examples of this are maintaining
phobias this is negative reinforcement because you're preventing anxiety. Bulimics feel guilt and
disgust so they're sick to balance this which is another form of negative reinforcement. Schizophrenia
patients are rewarded for socially acceptable behaviour this is a form of positive reinforcement. A
study to support Operant Conditioning is Skinner (1948) who put a rat in his very own "Skinner Box"
when the lever was pushed a pullet was dispersed and the electric shock stopped. Skinner found that
the reward of food was conditioned as positive reinforcement whilst the electric shock acted as a
negative reinforcement to urge the rat to press the lever.
The last learning method is the Social Learning Theory which was developed by Albert Bandora and
others in the 1900s. Human participants can learn by watching human models who were rewarded
for particular behaviours. Learning from others actions and consequences is known as vicarious
learning. Social learning explanations can be applied to areas such as eating disorders; young women
look at celebrities as role models for weight and looks which they can learn from. It is hard to explain
causes of many disorders, it is easier to see how operant conditioning can contribute. For instance
disorders like anorexia are partly repeated because they gain attention from family and also the
change they've caused in their body leads them to feel a regaining of control over their life which is
rewarding.
Overall the behavioural model to abnormality provides convincing explanations for psychological
abnormality but in contrast ignores the cognitive approach and emotive contributions to the
development of Psychopathology. It allows for effective treatment to be given to patients but
doesn't allow any role for genetic contribution. It has a vast range of studies to support its theory
however some of these studies raise ethical issues "Little Albert" was psychologically damaged
because his mother removed him from the researchers rehabilitation process to get rid of the fear.
Also Skinner's Box raised ethical issues concerning animal cruelty because animals went through

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The Behavioural Approach is centred on the present rather than the past as the past
may incorporate acceptable behaviour which is now abnormal in the present yet no consideration is
given in the behavioural approach.…read more

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