Biological and behavioural explanation of abnormality

Biological explanation- Behaviour is shaped by the internal, physiological factors. Abnormal behaviours are 'illness' caused by possible combination of genetic, biochemical, hormonal and neurological factors.

Behavioural explanation- This focuses on the behaviour of a person in order to explain psychological problems. They claim abnormal behaviour is learned through eperience.

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Biological explanations of abnormality! AO1


mwntal illness can be passed through genes. Some people may be genetically at risk of developing a mental disorder.


Neurotrasmitters are thought to be imbalanced in the nervous system of people suffering from psychological disorders. Excessive amounts of activity have been associated with schizopherehia.


It has been found that the flu can give rise to mental illness such as schizopherehia- 14% of cases can be linked to the flu virus in the womb during the first trimester.

Brain structure/Damage

Abormal behaviour can occur if the structure of the brain is damaged. For example people with larger ventricles tend to suffer from schizophrenia. Also alzheimer's disease is a type of dementia caused by loss of cells i the nervous system.

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Biological explanations of abnormalitiy! AO2

No Blame-

This means that if someone is said to be mentally ill, their actions aren't their fault.

Relinquishing responsibility-

It can be criticised as relinquishing responsibility as they are passing on the responsibility of their ill ness to someone else.


It can also be criticised as reductionist as it breaks down a complex issue into simpler terms.

McGuffin et al(1996)-

He conducted research into twins who could possibly develop depression... He found 46% concordance in MZ twins and 20% concordance in DZ twins for depression. However these results can be hard to interpret as they cant find a cause and effect.

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Behaviourist explanations of abnormality! AO1

Classical conditioning-

This explains how behaviour is learned through stimulus and response association. An event in the environment resulting in physiological reaction.

- Fear of heights, being on a all building and feeling ill they will associate feeling ill with being in the tall buildng>> Vertigo.

Operant conditioning-

Skinner(1974) explains that behaviour is influenced by the consequences of our actions in terms of positive and negative reinforcement.

- Childhood aggression is reinforced this behaviour is likely to be repeated. Anxiety or depression may lead to rewards making the behaviour be repeated.

Social learning theory-

bandura suggests that if we observe others behaviour at the right opportunity we will repeate the behaviour. If there are reinforcements this behaviour will also be repeated at any opportunity.

- Child observing a model who is rewarded this may lead to imitation, however some phobias can occur due to observations.

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Behaviourist explanations of abnormality! AO2


Focuses on behaviour- therefore looking at your behaviour before coming to the conclusionyou are abnormal.

Focuses on functioning- providing the behaviour has no problems there is no reason for them to be labled as abnormal.


Ignors the causes- saying we learn our behaviour they dont look at the cause.

Reductionist- This is because it's simplifying a complicating procedure.

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