Psychologists studies in Individual Differences (Abnormality)

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Rosenhan and Seligman (1989)

Suggested characteristics of abnormality associated with with Failure to function adequately:

  • Observer discomfort: causes discomfort, stress to friends/family.
  • Unpredictability: unpredictable or uncontrollable sometimes.
  • Maladaptiveness: behaviour interfeers with daily routine, everyday life. Central to FFA.
  • Irrationality: behaviour lacks coherence, reason and purpose.
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Jahoda (1958)

Introduced Deviation from mental health. Different to other definition as trys to explain normal rather than abnormal. Includes features:

  • In touch with feelings
  • Resistant from stress
  • Focus on future, self-actualisation(achieves full potential in life)
  • Show empathy, sympathy to others.


  • Cultural relativity, based on western individualistic values of personal growth and achievement-hard to apply to collectivist cultures. 
  • Repreent deviation from an ideal state, everyone fails to match to all. Also unclear on how far a person has to be to be defined as abnormal.
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Psychodynamic model original had 2 key elements: human personality and psychosexual development:

  • Superego, is your conscience developing phallic stage of development from identification wth parents, dominance lead to problems ansd guilt when pleasured and adult anxiety and depression. Ego, conscious self, develops in early childhood balancing instinctual demands of id, operates on reality principle, if ego fails to balance demands of id and superego psychological disorders occur. Id, libido operates on pleasure principle constantly gratifying instincts through sex and aggression, dominant impulses lead to conduct disorders in children and agressive disorders in adults.
  • 3 stages in psychosexual development; 1: to 18 months centered on mouth, the oral stage, fixation leads to over dependance in relationships and over indulgence in smoking, drinking and eating. 2: 18m-3y centred on anus, the anal stage, fixation leading to obsession with hygiene and cleanliness, mabye obsessive-compulsive disorder. 3: 3-5y centered on genitals, phallic stage, oedipal complex development of conscience and moral behavour, problems lead to amoral antisocial tendencies.

Defence mechanisms used by ego protect from anxiety caused by conflicting id, superego or psychosexual stages. Repression into unconsious is best known, psychoanalysis aim is to overcome defence mechanisms.

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Evaluation Freud

  • First to emphasise important unconscious processes in child, adult behaviour, accepted repression of painful child experiences lead to adult disorders, depression, anxiety.
  • Worked with adults with neurotic disorders then associated problems with early experiences, no children involved.
  • Freudian concepts (id,superego,ego) impossible to test in conventional scientific methods. May be wrong as can't be validated.
  • Worked in Vienna, theories reflect historical, cultural period.
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Becks (1979)

Most influential cognitive approach model of depression, has three negative schemata:

  • Negative view of the self: 'I am a failure,do not deserve to be happy'
  • Negative view of the world: 'Hostile, unfriendly place'
  • Negative view of the future: 'Always be problems,never be happy'

Beck's cognitive therapy:

  • Believes depression caused by negative schemata maintained by cognitive bias,pessimistic thoughts about self, world and future. Therapy aims to challenge irrational cognitions, replacing them with more realistic, optimistic thoughts.
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Burt et al. (1995)

  • Asked to recall words,depressed recalled more negative words than non-depressed.
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