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Abnormality: Behaviour that departs from the norm or is distressing
to the individual or those around them, or violates society's ideas of
what is an appropriate level of functioning.
Alex Cavan…read more

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Definitions of Abnormality…read more

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Rosenhan & Seligman (1989).
Failure to Function Adequately
·Suffering, R&S suggest a set of ubiquitous
·Maladaptiveness, characteristics of abnormality that, when
·Vividness & Unconventionality of applied, allow us to show degrees of
Behaviour, abnormality. The more characteristics
·Unpredictability & Loss of Control, displayed, the more abnormal someone is,
·Irrationality & Incomprehensibility, the less displayed; the more normal the
·Observer Discomfort, person in question is.
·Violation of Moral and Ideal Standards,
Advantages. Disadvantages.
Gives scope for degrees of + From a negative perspective,
+ Involves making subjective judgements,
Supports the concept of a
`dysfunction' that is subjective but + Some of the features can apply to totally
allows us to view the experience from mentally healthy people, e.g. Vegetarians,
the victim's viewpoint.…read more

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Marie Jahoda (1958).
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health
Jahoda argued that the concepts of `abnormality'
·Self-Attitudes, and `normality' were useless because they rely on
·Personal Growth, the identification of a reference population. She
·Integration, identified six idiosyncracies of mentally healthy
·Autonomy people, using a scale operating on an opposite
·Perception of Reality, format to R&S: the more characteristics displayed,
·Environmental Mastery, the more mentally healthy the subject is and vice
Advantages. Disadvantages.
Takes a positive viewpoint and
+ Doesn't provide useful criteria for diagnosing
therefore can set aims for
+ Inevitably culture-bound,
Provides useful criteria from
which you can judge someone as
+ Who is within their power to point at a
`normal' or otherwise,
behaviour and label it `abnormal'?…read more

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Deviation from Social Norms.
This theory states that what is `abnormal' is what is currently considered to be
reprehensible or wrong by the society in which the behaviour is exhibited. For instance,
cannibalism is considered deeply wrong by Western societies, however, in Burma there
are cannibalistic tribes where it is considered 100% `normal' to do so, and it is
`abnormal' to not do so. Therefore, under this definition, cannibalism would be `normal'
in certain circumstances, `abnormal' in others.
Advantages. Disadvantages.
Totally eliminates any aspect of + Dependent upon culture & time
ethnocentricity, period,
+ Ignores desirability of behaviour,
Precise & objective,
+ Ignores the personality of the subject,…read more

Slide 6

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Cultural Relativism.
This is the view that behaviour cannot be judged properly unless viewed in the context
in which it originated. It explains the phenomena of Culture-Bound Syndromes (CBSs)
like koro and dhat and is useful when combined with the Deviation from Social Norms
view. It classifies abnormal disorders as: absolute, universal or relative (CBSs)
· Koro ­ The belief that the penis is shrinking and will eventually totally retract into the body and
cause death. Often found in Chinese cultures. Symptoms include physiological and behavioural
responses to the anxiety and fear of the belief, and also behavioural countermeasures against the
shrinking e.g. clasping the penis or tying counter-weights e.t.c to it.
·Dhat - The belief that semen is leaking out of the body and sapping the body's power. Symptoms
include anxiety and concern in reaction to the belief, and also feelings of exhaustion, lethargy and
·Amok ­ A short and sudden burst of violent or murderous aggression mainly found in Malaysia.
·Kuru ­ A progressive dementia and psychosis found in cannibalistic tribes of New Guinea. Thought
to be due to the ingestion of proteins that induce a variant of Creuzfeldt-Jacobs Disease (CJD).
·Pibloktoq (AKA: `Arctic Hysteria') ­ A sudden and short-lasting period of frantic, bizarre and
dangerous behaviour, exhibited in Inuit cultures in Greenland but also throughout the Arctic.…read more

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