Behavioural approach

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Outline; behavioural approach

Understanding abnormality is that all behaviour is learned from the environment. If behaviour associated with positive outcome likely to be repeated, if associated with negative one unlikely to be repeated. 

Classical conditioning; learning by association. Abnormal behaviour acquired by associating environmental stimulus (e.g. a dog) with a biological response (e.g. pain and fear when bitten) so that every time a person that has been bitten by a dog subsequently sees a dog, they experience the fear they felt when they were bitten. Person would develop a phobia of dogs.

Operant conditioning learning through reward and punishment. Abnormal behaviour can be learned if that behaviour results in a positive reinforcement o
r a negative reinforcement. Person who gets what they want when they behave aggressively towards people, aggressive behaviour has been positively reinforced, person is more likely to behave aggressively.

Social learning learning by observation. Theory based on Bandura (1961) in which children observed adult in a room playing aggressively or playing calmly with other toys. When children watched aggressive adult, allowed into room they also played aggressively, those who had observed the calm adult did not. Learn any behaviour by observing another person behaving that way.


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Evaluate; behavioural approach

Free will; focuses on behaviour which can be changed; the abnormally learned behaviour can be ‘unlearned’. Easy to measure concepts; easy to test and measure in laboratory controlled conditions. Support to grounding assumptions. Empirical support (Watson, Pavlov); based on well-established empirical evidence. Well recognised/studied theories; support assumptions that are used to apply these concepts to abnormally learned behaviour and ultimately the development of psychopathologies.

Ignores underlying causes; unconscious – symptoms may just be substituted; focuses on the surface of a person’s psychopathology, doesn’t explore/examine potentially hidden issues. Behaviour at fault/being treated, symptom of deeper underlying issue. If behaviour is corrected, issue may remain. Too simplistic to account for complexity of human disorders; psychopathologies complex disorders, range of symptoms, result from abnormally learned response to stimuli = too simplistic. Reductionist; reduces behaviour to stimulus and response;  Reducing abnormal behaviour down to 1 factor; a response to a stimulus.  Simplistic view of complex human issues. Minimises internal processes role; recognises final behaviour, ignores internal processes behind them.  Behaviour can be changed based on approach, other internal processes may remain. Exaggerates importance of environmental factors focus on behaviour learning, great emphasis on environmental factors.  Minimises role of other biological factors; genetics. gives approach a narrow focus.

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