Deviation from social norms


Deviation from social norms

  • Norms are specific to the culture we live in
    • May be different for each generation and every culture
    • Relatively few behaviours that would be considered universally abnormal on the basis that they breach social norms
    • E.g. homosexuality still seen as abnormal in some cultures and was seen as abnormal in our society in the past.
  • Example: antisocial personality disorder
    • Impulsive, aggressive and irresponsible
    • 'Absence of prosocial internal standards associated with failure to conform to lawful or culturally normative ethical behaviour'
    • Making the social judgement that a psychopath is abnormal because they don't conform to our moral standards.
    • Would be considered abnormal in a very wide range of cultures.
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Not a sole explanation

  • Real-life application in the diagnosis of APD
  • Therefore a place in thinking about what is normal and abnormal
  • Other factors to consider
    • Distress to other people
  • Never the sole reason for defining abnormality
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Cultural relativism

  • Social norms vary greatly between generations and communities.
  • Hearing voices is socially acceptable in some cultures but would be seen as a sign of mental abnormality in the UK.
  • Creates problems for people from one culture living in another cultural group.
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Can lead to human rights abuses

  • Historical examples
    • Drapetomania - black slaves running away
    • *********** - Sexual attraction to working class men
  • Clear that these diagnoses were really there to maintain control over minority ethnic groups and women.
  • Classifications appear ridiculous only because our social norms have changed.
  • Radical psychologists suggest that some of our modern categories of mental disorder are really abuses of people's rights to be different.
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