Explanations of abnormality.



Biological explanation of abnormality. AO1

  • Behaviour is shaped by internal, biological factors
  • Behaviours are illnesses caused by possible 'BIG B' factors.


Brain Damage

Brown - Schizophrenia. = enlarged ventricles in the brain.


Brown et al (2004) - Schizophrenia. Seasons of birth = flu exposure in the womb.


McGuffin - Schizophrenia. Twin study, MZ 46% - DZ 20% concordance.


Psychological disorders = imbalanced neurotransmitters in nervous system. 

Depression - low levels of seretonin.

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Biological explanation of aabnormality. AO2


There is a concept of no blame, a mentally ill person will see their actions as not their fault.

- Relinquishing Responsibility

Patients become passive, pass their condition over to medical hands.

- Reductionist

This approach is over simplistic. Reduces the complexity of disorders to a single unit = one gene that is responsible? Other factors involved!

+ Evidence

Lots of scientific evidence to support this approach. McGuffin et al (MZ & DZ twins). Real life assumptions are tested, adds reliability and predictability.

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Behaviourist explanation of abnormality. AO1

  • All behaviours are learned in the same way. 
  • Laws that apply to animal behaviour can explain human behaviours.

Classical Conditioning

Behaviour is learned through stimulus and response assosiations. Watson and Raynor (1920) - Phobias.

Operant Conditioning

Behaviour is learned through consequences through positive and negative reinforcement. Skinner (1974) - Repeated behaviour.

Social Learning Theory

Behaviours are learned through watching and immitation of others. Bandura.

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Behaviourist explanation of abnormality. AO2

Thought process.

The behaviourist approach does not include people's thought processes aswell as behaviours.


This approach see's the complex situation as over simplistic. Other factors may be involved.

Focuses on behaviour

Rules out labelling someone as 'abnormal' and focuses on a persons behaviour as adaptive or maladaptive.

Focuses on functioning

Doesn't class unusual behaviour as 'abnormal', as long as it doesnt harm or cause problem to others. 

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Cognitive explanation of abnormality. AO1

  • Argues that there is a thinking process between stimulus and response.

Irrational thinking - ABC model

Ellis (1962)

A - An event (stimulus)

B - Belief

C - Consequence (response)

distorted thinking can lead to abnormality.. these thoughts include;

Polorized thinking, Over-genererisation, Tyranny of must-should-ought, Catastrophizing. 

Cognitive triad and Illogical thinking

Beck (1967) negative thoughts underlin mental disorders.

  • negative views about the world
  • negative views about the future
  • negative views about oneself
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Cognitive explanation to abnormality. AO2

Fails to examine the origins of irrational thinking..

Is abnormality caused by irrational thinking or the effect of irrational thoughts?

Beck (1967) cognitive processes may be the consequence rather than the cause of the problem.

It suggests the the person is soley responsible for the problem..

Cognitive approach lays the blame for psychological problems on the person rather than the environment.

Ellis had little sympathy for people suffering from depression - he see's it as an indulgence of self defeating thoughts.

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