Psychology - Mr Findlay

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Compliance - Going along with the majority, even if you don't share their views, in order to fit in. This is normative social influence.

Internalisation - following along with the majority and believing in their views, you've accepted and internalised them so they're now your own too. In situations where you don't know how to behave, you might look to others to learn how to behave. This is called informational social influence.

Situational behaviour - when people behave due to the social situation they’re in

Disposional behaviour - when people behave according to their internal characteristics

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Conformity - Asch

  • Carried out a laboratory experiment with an independent groups design.
  • In groups of 8, participants judged line lengths by stating which matched the standardn line. Each group only contained one real participant; the rest were condederates.
  • In control trials, participants gave the wrong answer 0.7% of the time.
  • In critical trials, participants conformed to the majority 37% of the time. 75% conformed at least once.
  • The control condition showed that the task was easy to get right, however, 37% were wrong on critical trials. They conformed to the majority - this was normative social influence.
  • It was a lab experiment, so there was good control of the variables, minimising the effects of extraneous variables. 
  • Strict control of the variables means that you could easily repeat the stuy.
  • The study lacks ecological validity as the participants weren't in a natural situation.
  • The participants were deceived.
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Conformity - Sherif

  • Laboratory expermient with a repeated measures design.
  • Sherif used a visual illusion called the autokinetic effect, where a stationary spot of light, viewed in a dark room, appears to move.
  • Participants were falsely told that the experimenter would move the light, and they had to estimate how far it had moved. They were then put into groups of 3 people, where they each made their estimate with other present. Finally they were retested individually.
  • When alone, participants developed heir own stable estimates (personal norms), which varied between participants. Once put in a group, estimates tended to converge and become more alike. When participants were retested on their own, their estimates were more like the group estimates.
  • Participants were influenced by the estimates of other people, and a group norm developed. Estimates convereged becase participants used information from others to help them - they were affected by informational social influence.
  • Lab experiment; strict control of variables, so less likely to be affected by extraneous variables, and can establish cause and effect. Also means it can be replicated.
  • Experiment created an artificial situation, so the study lacks ecological validity.
  • Sample was limited to all males; results can't be generalised to everyone.
  • Participants were deceived; the light didn't actually move.
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Conformity - Zimbardo et al

  • Male students recruited to act as either guards or prisoners in a mock prison. Randomly given the roles of prisoner or guard, and their behaviour was observed. Prisoners were 'arrested' at home, taken to 'prison' and given uniforms and numbers.
  • The guards also wore uniforms and mirrored sunglasses.
  • Initially, guards tried to assert their authority and prisoners resisted by sticking together. Prisoners then became more passive and obedient, while the guards invented nastier punishments. The experiment was abandoned early because some prisoners became very distressed.
  • Guards and prisoners adopte their social roles quickly. Zimbardo claims this shows that our social role can influence our behaviour - seemingly well-balanced men became unpleasant and aggressive in the role of guard.
  • Controlled observation; good control of variables.
  • It was artificial, so cannot be generalised to real-life situations.
  • Some participants found the experience very distressing.
  • There was observer bias.
  • Doesn't take into account individual differences.
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Conformity - Reicher and Haslam (BBC)

  • Controlled observation in a mock prison, filmed for television.
  • Participants were 15 male volunteers who had responded to an advert. Randomly assigned to 2 groups of 5 guards and 10 prisoners.
  • They had daily tests to measure levels of depression, compliance with rules and stress. The prisoners knew that one of them, chosen at random, would become a guard after 3 days. An independent ethics committee had the power to stop the experiment at any time.
  • Guards failed to form a united group and identify with their role. They didn't always exercise their power.
  • In the first 3 days, the prisoners tried to act in a way that would get them promoted to guard status. After one was promoted, they became a much stronger group because they knew there were no more chances of promotion.
  • The unequal system collapsed due to the unwillingness of the guards and the strength of the prisoner group.
  • Participants didn't fit into their expected social roles, suggesting they're flexible.
  • Participants may have played up to the cameras.
  • Artificial situation - results can't be generalised.
  • Good ethics - participants were not deceived, gave informed consent, were debriefed.
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

Factors affecting conformity

  • Group size - With only two confederates, the real participant conformed on only 14% of the critical trials. With three confederates, conformity rose 32%. There was little change to conformity rates agter that. Small majorities are easier to resist than larger ones. But influence doesn't keep increasing with the size of majority.
  • Social support - When one of the confederates agreed with the participant rather than with the other confederates, the rate of conformity fell to 5.5%. A fellow dissenter (someone who agrees with the majority) made it easier for the participant to resist the pressure to conform.
  • When Asch debriefed his participants, he found a common factor of confidence in the people who hadn't conformed. If someone felt confident in their judgements, they were more able to resist group pressure.
  • Wiesenthal et al found that if people felt competent in a task, they were less likely to conform.
  • Gender - women are more likely to conform as they're more concerned with group harmony and relationships, whereas men are less likely to conform, as they value assertiveness and independence.
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

Locus of control

  • Rotter developed a questionnaire to measure a personality characteristic called locus of control.
  • It indicates how much personal control people believe they have over events in their lives.
  • The questionnaire involved choosing between paired statements like the following:
    - 1. Misfortune is usually brought about by people's own actions.
    - 2. Things that make us unhappy are largely due to bad luck.
  • If you agree with the first statement, you have an internal locus of control. This is categorised by a belief that what happens in your life results from your own behaviour or actions.
  • If you agree with the second statement, you have an external locus of control. This is a belief that events are caused by external factors, like luck or the actions of others.
  • People with an internal locus of control feel a stronger sense of control over their lives than people with an external locus of control.
  • This means that they're more likely to exhibit independent behaviour. 
  • People with an external locus of control may be more likely to conform. 
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

Moscovici et al - minority influence

  • It was a laboratory experiment into minority influence using 192 women.
  • In groups of 6 at a time, participants judged the colour of 36 slides. All of the slides were blue, but the brightness of the blue varied. 
  • Two of the six participants in each group were confederates. In one condition, the confederates called all 36 slides 'green' (consistent) and in another condition, they called 24 of the slides 'green' and 12 of the slides 'blue' (inconsistent). A control group was also used which contained no confederates.
  • In the control group, the participants called the slides 'green' 0.25% of the time In the consistent condition 8.4% of the time participants adopted the minority position and called the slides 'green'. 
  • 32% of the participants called the slides 'green' at least once. In the inconsistent condition the participants moved to the minority position of calling the slides 'green' only 1.25% of the time.
  • The minority's views influenced the real participants. The use of the two conditions showed that the minority had more influence when they were consistent.
  • Lacked ecological validity, doesn't allow for gender differences, results can't be generalised to men.
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

History - Minorities and social change

The Suffragettes

  • In the early 1900s in Britain, a small minority began to campaign for women to be allowed to vote (the suffragette movement).
  • Suffragettes chained themselves to railings outside Downing Street and Buckingham Palace.
  • The suffragettes' campaign involved violent methods such as assault and arson.
  • In 1913 a suffagette threw herself under the feet of the King's horse. She died from her injuries.
  • Eventually the majority was influenced by the suffragettes' point of view and in 1928 women were finally given the right to vote on the same terms as men.
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

Martin Luther King

  • In the 1950s in America, black people did not have the same rights as white people. For example, in parts of America, buses were segregated and black people had to give up their seats to white people.
  • Reverend Martin Luther King challenged the views of the majority to bring about political and social rights for black people. He and other activists used peaceful protests like marches and sit-ins. This was known as the Civil Rights Movement. His ideas were so unpopular that during this time his home was bombed by activists, he was subjected to personal abuse, and he was arrested.
  • In the end though, the actions of civil rights activists influenced the majority. Nowadays there are laws that ensure people are given equal rights regardless of racial origin, and in 1964 Martin Luther King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
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Independent Behaviour and Social Change

Gay Rights Movement

  • Homosexuality used to be illegal in the UK. It was decriminalised in England and Wales in 1967, but the age of consent was 21 (higher than for heterosexual people), and homosexuals were still treated negatively.
  • Over the last decade, there have been moves towards equality as a result of Gay Rights Movements. These minorities have successfully changed attitudes. For example, the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) 2007 made it illegal to discriminate against gay men and women in the provision of goods and services.
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Obedience to Authority


  • Conducted laboratory experiments to test factors that affect obedience.
  • Took place at Yale University. 40 men took part, responding to newspaper adverts seeking volunteers for a study on 'memory and learning'.
  • They received payment for attending, which didn't depend on them proceeding with the experiment. 
  • The experimenter wore a grey technician's coat. Each participant was introduced to a confederate. They drew lots to see who would act as 'teacher' and 'learner' but this was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher.
  • The participant witnessed the confederate being strapped into a chair and conncected up to a shock generator in the next room.
  • The switches rnged from 15V to 450V. The participant taught the learner word-pairs over an intercom. When the learner answered incorrectly, the participant had to administer an increasing level of shock. As the shocks increasedd, the leaerner started to scream and ask to be let out.
  • After the 300V shock, he made no further noise. If participants hesitated, the experimenter told them to continue.
  • 65% administered 450V and none stopped before 300V.
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Obedience to Authority


  • Male participants - 65% administered 450V.
  • Female participants - 65% administered 450V.
  • Learner's protest can be heard - 62.5% administered 450V.
  • Experiment run in seedy offices - 48%
  • Learner in same room as participant - 40%
  • Authority in another room, communicating by phone - 23%
  • Other teachers (confederates) refuse to give shock - 10%
  • Other participant (confederate) gives shock instead - 92.5%
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Obedience to Authority


  • Internal validity - It's possible that participant didn't really believe they were inflicting electric shocks, but were just going along with the experimenter's expectations (demand characteristics). But Milgram claimed participants' stress reactions showed they believed the experiment was real.
  • Ecological validity - Milgram's participants did a task that they were unlikely to encounter in real life, so the study lacks ecological validity. However, because it was a laboratory experiment there was good control of the variables, so it's possible to establish cause and effect.
  • Ethical issues: The participants were deceived as to the true nature of the study. This means they couldn't give informed consent. They weren't informed of their right to withdraw from the experiment. In fact, they were prompted to continue when they wanted to stop. The participants showed signs of stress during the experiment, so they weren't protected. However, they were debriefed and 84% said they were pleased to have taken part. As well as this, at the time of the experiment there weren't any formal ethical guidelines in place.
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Obedience to Authority

Factors affecting obedience

  • Presence of allies: When there were three teachers (one participant and two confederates), the real participant was less likely to obey if the other two refused to obey. Having allies can make it easier to resist orders than when you're on your own.
  • Proximity of the victim: Milgram's results suggest an important factor was the proximity (closeness) of the learner. In the 'remote learner' condition, 65% gave the maximum shock. This dropped to 40% with the learner in the same room, and 30% when the participant had to put the learner's hand onto the shock plate. Proximity made the learner's suffering harder to ignore.
  • Proximity of the authority: When the authority figure gave prompts by phone from another room, obedience rates fropped to 23%. When the authority figure wasn't close by, orders were easier to resist.
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Obedience to Authority

Agency Theory

  • When people behave on behal of an external authority (do as they're told), they're said to be in an agentic state.
  • This means they act as someone's agent, rather than taking personal responsibility for their actions.
  • The opposite of this is behaving autonomously - not following orders.
  • Milgram claimed that there were some binding factors that might have kept his participants in the agentic state:
    - Reluctance to disrupt the experiment: participants had already been paid, so may have felt obliged to continue.
    - The pressure of the surroundings: the experiment took place in a prestigious university. This made the experimenter seem like a legitimate authority.
    - The insistence of the authority figure: if participants hesitated they were told that they had to continue the experiment.
  • There's lots of experimental evidence to suuport agency theory - Milgram's participants often claimed they were just following orders.
  • Sometimes people resist the pressure to obey authority. This can be because of the situation or individual differences. Agency theory doesn't explain this. 
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Obedience to Authority

Why people obey authority

1. Agentic state

  • Milgram's agency theory stated that when we feel we're acting out the wishes of another person, we feel less responsible for our actions.
  • This effect has been seen in Milgram's studies. Some participants were concerned for the welfare of the learner and asked who would take responsibility if he were harmed. When the experimenter took responsibility, the participant would often continue.
  • This agentic state was also in the experiment's set up. The participants voluntarily entered a social contract with the experimenter to take part and follow the procedure of the study.
  • People can start off acting in an autonomous way, but then become obedient. This is known as an agentic shift. When Milgram's participants arrived for the experiment they were in an autonomous state, but as soon as they started following orders they underwent an agentic shift, and entered an agentic state.
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Obedience to Authority

2. Gradual commitment

  • Gradual commitment means agreeable to something gradually - in small steps. It makes it harder to refuse the next request. In Milgram's study, participants were asked to deliver only a 15V shock at the start. This was gradually built up to very large shocks.
  • Participants might have been more reluctant to obey if they'd been asked to deliver the 450V shock at the start. They obeyed at the lower levels, so it was harder for them to justify disobeying the later requests.
  • Gradual commitment is also known as the 'foot-in-the-door' effect. Once you've gone along with a minor request, the request could be gradually increased until you're doing something you might never agreed to in the first place.
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Obedience to Authority

3. Justified authorities

  • We're socialised to recognise the authority of people like parents, police officers, doctors, teachers etc.
  • These kinds of people are justified authorities - they're given the right to tell us what to do. This means we're more likely to obey them.
  • When Milgram re-ran his study in some run-down offices, obedience rates were lower than when the study was run in the university.
  • Bickman conducted a field experiment where researchers ordered passers-by to do something like pick up a bit of litter. They were dressed either in a guard's uniform, as a milkman, or just in smart clothes. People were much more likely to obey the person in a guard's uniform. This was because he seemed to be the most legitimate authority figure.
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Obedience to Authority

4. Buffers

  • Buffers are things that protect us - in this case from the consequences of our actions.
  • Milgram's participants were more obedient in conditions where they could not see or hear the victim receiving the shocks. When they were in the same room as the learner, there wasn't any buffer.
  • So, losing the buffer made it harder for Milgram's participants to act against their conscience and go along with someone's unjust orders to hurt the learner.
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Obedience to Authority

Reasons people resist the pressure to obey authority

1. The situation

  • More of Milgram's participants resisted orders if there were other participants present who refused to obey. This suggests that people find it easier to stand up to authority if they have support from others, because they no longer have to take full responsibility for rebelling.
  • Gamson et al found that support can help people resist authority, particularly if the request is unreasonable or unjust. They studied a group of participants who felt they were being manipulated. Participants rebelled against the unjust authority figure. This happened through a process of minority influence - with one or two people resisting the authority's requests at first. This rebellion then spread to the whole group.
  • This ties in with Asch's research on conformity. He found that participants were more likely to resist the pressure to conform if one of the confederates agreed with them.
  • People are more likely to display independent behaviour if they've got support from others.
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Obedience to Authority

2. Individual differences

  • If an individual has a high leel of moral reasoning they may be more able to resist an order that goes against their conscience.
  • One of Milgram's participants had experienced a Second World War concentration camp. She refused to administer any level of shock, because she didn't want to inflict pain on another person.
  • Those who resisted may have still felt personally responsible - they weren't in an agentic state.
  • Rotter claimed that people could be categorised as having an internal or external locus of control. People with an internal locus of control take responsibility for their actions more than people with an external locus of control. This means that they're more likely to exhibit independent behaviour - they're less likely to conform or be obedient than people with an external locus of control.
  • Sometimes people feel that they're being pushed too far or a rule restricts them too much. In this situation they might react by doing the opposite of what they're told. This is known as the 'boomerang effect'.
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Research into Conformity and Obedience

Milgram's findings were revolutionary

  • Before the study Milgram asked different experts on human behaviour (e.g. psychiatrists) to predict the results. They thought the maximum average shock that participants would go up to was 130V, and that only someone with a psychopathic personality disorder would administer a 450V shock.
  • He actually found that 65% of participants went up to 450V, even when they clearly didn't want to.
  • Milgram's study completely changed what people thought about obedience, and it's had a huge impact ever since.
  • It showed that his participants deferred responsibility for their actions onto the authority figure. 
  • Milgram found the highest rate of obedience when the experiment took place in a university and he wore a lab coat. This exposed the huge amount of trust that people have in justified authorities. 
  • Hofling et al also showed this when they got nurses to break hospital rules because they thought they were following a doctor's orders.
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Research into Conformity and Obedience

Zimbardo looked at the effect of deindividuation

  • Deindividuation is when people lose their personal identity (stop feeling like individuals), and identify with a group.
  • Zimbardo replicated Milgram's experiment and examined the effect of different conditions.
  • He compared participants who wore their own clothes and were treated as individuals, to ones who wore hoods covering their faces and were spoken to as a group.
  • He found that the average level of electric shock doubled when the participants were wearing a hood.
  • When the participants were deinviduated, they became more obedient and more antisocial. 
  • Zimbardo later demonstrated this in the Stanford Prison Experiment. The prison guards wore uniforms and sunglasses, and they quickly became aggressive towards the prisoners.
  • It seems that they stopped taking personal responsibility for their actions, and changed their behaviour to fit into their social role.
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Research into Conformity and Obedience

People in groups feel pressure to conform

  • Sherif and Asch showed that participants' responses to tasks changed when they were in a group.
  • In Sherif's study this was because they were in an unfamiliar situation, so they looked to other people for information on how to behave.
  • Asch's participants fet pressure from the group to give the wrong answer, just so they would fit in.
  • These findings have wider implications for society, as we rely on groups to make important decisions.
  • Janis found that groups having to make important decisions can be guilty of Groupthink. This happens especially in very cohesive groups, which are isolated from other influences, and have very powerful leaders.
  • Janis composed ways of combating Groupthink:
    - Initially, group leaders shoudn't express their opinions, so other members won't feel pressured to agree with them.
    - One member should be given the role of devil's advocate (always expressing the opposite argument) to make sure that all possibilities are explored.
    - Objective people outside of the group should be consulted. 
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Research into Conformity and Obedience

Research into conformity and obedience has ethical implications

  • Despite feeling pressured during the studies, a high proportion of Milgram's participants said they were pleased to have taken part.
  • This was because they felt they'd learned valuable lessons about themselves.
  • Research into conformity and obedience can lead to social change.
  • Studies like Milgram's raised awareness of the possible negative outcomes of blind obedience.
  • Janis's ideas on Groupthink showed that some conflict within a group is necessary, not destructive. His ideas have been taken on board by group leaders to help ensure they make the best decisions.
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Defining Abnormality

  • Abnormality can be described as deviation from social norms
  • All societies have their standards of behaviour and attitudes. Deviating from these can be seen as abnormal.
  • But cultures vary, so there isn't one universal set of social 'rules'.
  • One problem with defining abnormality as deviation from social norms is that it can be used to justify the removal of 'unwanted' people from a society.
  • The concept of deviation from the majority can be expressed statistically in terms of the normal distribution, however there are problems with defining abnormality simply in terms of statistical frequency:
  • It doesn't take account of the desirability of behaviour, just its frequency. For example, a very high IQ is abnormal, but having a high IQ is desirable whereas having a low IQ is undesirable.
  • There's no distinction between rare, slightly odd behaviour and rare, psychologically abnormal behaviour.
  • There's no definite cut-off point where normal behaviour becomes abnormal behaviour.
  • Some behaviours that are considered psychologically abnormal are quite common e.g. mild depression.
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Defining Abnormality

Failure to function adequately is another definition of abnormality

You can't function adequately if you can't cope with the demands of day-to-day life. Various criteria are used for diagnosis, including:

  • Dysfunctional behaviour - behaviour which goes against the accepted standards of behaviour.
  • Observer discomfort - behaviour that causes other individuals to become uncomfortable.
  • Unpredictable behaviour - impulsive behaviour that seems to be uncontrollable.
  • Irrational behaviour - behaviour that's unreasonable and illogical.
  • Personal distress - being affected by emotion to an excessive degree.

If you can tick the bx for more than one of the above criteria, the person's behaviour is considered to be abnormal.

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Defining Abnormality


Identified six conditions associated with good mental health:

  • Positive self-attitude
  • Self-actualisation (realising your potential, being fulfilled)
  • Resistance to stress
  • Personal autonomy (making your own decisions, being in control)
  • Accurate perception of reality
  • Adaptation to the environment.

It can be hard to meet all the standards set in this list, and they're subjective (ideas of what is required for each will differ from person to person).

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Defining Abnormality

Symptoms associated with mental illness

The Department of Health provides a guide to assess symptoms associated with mental illness. To be classified as a mental illness, there should be one or more of the following (not temporary) symptoms:

  • Impairment of intellectual functions, such as memory and comprehension.
  • Alterations to mood that lead to delusional appraisals of the past or future, or lack of any appraisal.
  • Delusional beliefs, such as of persecution or jealousy.
  • Disordered thinking - the person may be unable to appraise their situation or communicate with others.
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Defining Abnormality

The concept of abnormality varies from one culture and time to another

  • Cultural relativism means that judgements made about abnormality are relative to individual cultures. That's because what's normal in one culture is sometimes considered to be abnormal in another. So definitions of abnormality are limited because they're culturally specific.
  • It's important to work out whether an abnormality is absolute (occurring in the same way and frequency across cultures), universal (present in all cultures, but not necessarily with the same frequency) or culturally relative (unique to a particular culture).
  • Many physical conditions are absolute. The same goes for some mental conditions. However, social norms vary from one culture to another. This can affect how these conditions are perceived.
  • Some abnormal behaviours are universal e.g. depression occurs in all cultures, but is more common in women and in industrial societies.
  • Some abnormal behaviours are culturally relative - these are known as culture-bound syndromes.
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Defining Abnormality

Attempts to define abnormality may be biased


  • Factors such as biological or hormonal differences, and the different ways that men and women are brought up, could lead to gender differences in the frequencies of disorders.
  • However, the gender stereotype can lead people to believe that women are generally moodier, and men are generally more violent and antisocial. This could be a factor in clinicians tending to diagnose more mood disorders in women and m ore antisocial disorders in men - they expect to find them.


  • Several studies have found that very large numbers of black people in Britain are being diagnosed with schizophrenia.
  • Immigrant groups in Britain are more likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic than native-born people.
  • It was thought that it was genetic or biological actors, however it isn't, therefore possible reasons include racial stereotypes and greater stress.
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Defining Abnormality

Classification systems pigeon-hole people

  • Diagnosis - when people report how they feel 'psychologically', these are subjective feelings (they differ from person to person). A more idiographic approach would be useful - that is, focusing on each unique case and viewing patients on their merits.
  • There are many different theories of abnormality - psychodynamic, learning, cognitive, etc. They all have their own definitions and ideas of what causes abnormality.
  • There's little evidence of validity. It's hard to find a central cause (aetiology) for most disorders. And, if patients have more than one disorder it can be difficult to spot symptoms of one disorder.
  • Psychiatrists may not always agree from category to category, so classification systems may not always be reliable.
  • Treatment - grouping patients can be useful for prescribing treatments, but treatment often depends on diagnosis. Therefore, if the diagnosis is subjective initially, the treatment may not be correct.
  • Labelling theory argues that if people are treated as mentally ill, their behaviour will change and become more like that expected from their diagnosis.
  • Szasz said illness was a bodily problem, so 'mental' illness could not exist. He believed the term was used to exclude non-conformists from society.
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The Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality

The psychodynamic model is based on conflict in development

  • The model is based on Freud's division of personlity into the id, ego and superego.
  • It also uses his stages of development - the oral, anal, phallic, latency and genital stages.
  • The model suggests that conflict and anxiety may occur during childhood because the ego is not yet developed enough to deal with the id's desires, understand real-world issues or cope with the superego's moral demands.
  • Psychological disorders may also come from conflict or anxiety which happens in a certain stage of development. For example, during the anal stage, conflict may occur during potty training.
  • Anxiety from the conflicts is repressed into the unconscious mind. Stress or trauma in adulthood may 'trigger' the repressed conflicts, leading to psychological disorders.
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The Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality

Psychoanalysis is used as a treatment in the psychodynamic model

  • Freud introduced psychoanalysis as a treatment in the early twentieth century.
  • Its aim was to allow the patient to access repressed thoughts and unconscious conflicts - Freud called this 'insight'.
  • Patients were then encouraged to deal with the conflicts.
  • Freud recognised that this process would be painful and cause anxiety, and that people would be resistant at first. However, patients were encouraged to focus on the feelings that the repressed thoughts brought about.
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The Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality

Hypnosis: Hypnosis is an altered mental state, involving deep relaxation. Freud believed that people could access repressed thoughts whilst in this state. He gradually lost interest in the technique for two main reasons - he found it difficult to hypnotise people, and also found that people became very suggestible when hypnotised.

Free association: In free association, the patient is given a cue word and is asked to say any ideas or memories that come into their mind. Freud believed that by doing this repressed thoughts would eventually emerge, giving an insight into the unconscious problems causing abnormal behaviour.

Dream analysis: Dream analysis was also used by Freud. It was thought that a certain part of the mind keeps repressed thoughts in the unconscious and that this part is less active during sleep. Therefore, Freud believed that repressed thoughts are likely to appear in dreams.

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The Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality


  • It's quite a unique approach to abnormality, suggesting that disorders may be linked to unresolved conflicts related to biological needs.
  • It offers methods of therapy which may also uncover unconscious conflicts. The client can then understand the causes of their problems and so resolve them and release their anxieties.
  • It was the first theory to focus on psychological causes of disorders. Before this, the focus had been on physical causes or things like possession by evil spirit.


  • Freud's claims are based on his subjective interpretations of his patient's dreams, etc. Therefore they're hard to scientifically test and so can't be proved right or wrong.
  • Psychoanalysis may take a long time and so be very expensive. The childhood conflicts that are 'uncovered' may be emotionally distressing and possibly inaccurate, depending on the reliability of the patient's memory, the techniques used to uncover them and the analyst's interpretations.
  • The focus is on the patient's past, rather than the problems they're currently having.
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The Behavioural Model of Abnormality

  • Behaviourists argue that abnormal behaviours are learnt in the same way that all behaviours are learnt - through classical and operant conditioning.
  • Behaviourists reckon that classical conditioning can be used to explain the development of many abnormal behaviours, including phobias and taste aversions.
  • Watson and Rayner experimented with an 11-month-old boy 'Little Albert', producing fear of a white rat by associating it with a loud, scary noise.
  • Taste aversions are often created if you're ill after a certain food or drink. Its taste will become a CS, producing a CR of nausea.
  • Operant conditioning is learning from the consequences of actions. Actions which have a good outcome through positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement will be repeated.
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The Behavioural Model of Abnormality

Behavioural therapies are based on changes through conditioning

  • Operant conditioning therapies are often used in psychiatric hospitals. They control abnormal behaviour by removing the reinforcements which maintain the behaviour, and giving new reinforcements for better behaviour. For example, psychiatric patients might receive tokens for behaving 'normally'. These can be exchanged for reinforcements, such as sweets or being able to watch TV. This is called a token economy.
  • Behavioural therapies can also use classical conditioning to change behaviour, for example...

1. Aversion Therapy

This removes an undesired behaviour by associating it with unpleasant feelings. For example, alcoholics are given alcohol at the same time as a drug that naturally produces nausea. Nausea becomes a conditioned response to alcohol, so they should then feel no urge to drink, but instead feel sick at the idea of it.

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The Behavioural Model of Abnormality

2. Systematic Desensitisation

  • This is a treatment for phobias.
  • First, the phobic person makes a 'fear hierarchy'. This is a list of feared events, showing what they fear east through to their most feared event.
  • When put in the situation of their least feared event, they're anxious.
  • Then they're encouraged to use a relaxation technique.
  • Relaxation and anxiety can't happen at the same time, so when they become relaxed and calm, they're no longer scared.
  • This is repeated until the feared event is only linked with relaxation.
  • This whole process is repeated for each stage of the fear hierarchy until they are calm through their most feared event.
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The Behavioural Model of Abnormality


  • It's a scientific approach - it has clear testable concepts, which have been supported in many experiments.
  • Behavioural therapies can be very effective for treating phobias, eating disorders, obsessions and compulsions.


  • It cannot explain all behaviours because it neglects:
    - The influence of genetics and biology - for example, how brain functioning affects behaviour.
    - The influence of cognitions - how thought processes contribute to disorders.
  • Behavioural therapies are not effective for all disorders.
  • The procedures sometimes raise ethical issues.
  • It only treats the behaviour, so it doesn't address any underlying causes for it. 
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The Cognitive Model of Abnormality

Different versions of the model

  • Ellis (1962) - The 'ABC model' claims that disorders begin with an activating even (A), leading to a belief (B) about why this happened. This may be rational or irrational. The belief leads to a consequence (C). Rational beliefs produce adaptive consequences. Irrational beliefs produce maladaptive consequences.
  • Beck (1963) - Beck identified a 'cognitive triad' of negative, automatic thoughts linked to depression: negative views about themselves, about the world and about the future.

Cognitive behavioural therapy:

  • The therapist and client identify the client's faulty cognitions.
  • The therapist then tries to show that the cognitions aren't true.
  • Together, they then set goals to think in more positive or adaptive ways.
  • Although the client may occasionally need to look back to past experiences, the treatment mainly focuses on the present situation.
  • Therapists sometimes encourage their clients to keep a diary - they can record their thought patterns, feelings and actions.
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The Cognitive Model of Abnormality


  • The cognitive model offers a useful approach to disorders like depression and anorexia. This is because it considers the role of thoughts and beliefs, which are greatly involved in problems like depression.
  • Cognitive therapies have often successfully treated depression, anxiety, stress and eating disorders.
  • It allows a person to take control and make a positive change to their behaviour.


  • Faulty cognitions may simply be the consequence of a disorder rather than its cause. For example, depression may be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.
  • Cognitive therapies may take a long time and be costly. They may be more effective when combined with other approaches.
  • The treatments work better with some conditions than others.
  • The person could begin to feel like he or she is to blame for their problems.
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