• Created by: Rachael
  • Created on: 19-05-14 10:56

Defining Abnormality - DSN

Deviation from Social Norms: 

Not conforming to social norms such as queuing can be seen as evidence for abnormality 


  • DSN may be a result of eccentricity of context 
  • Social norms change over time 
  • Social norms vary accross cultures 
  • Criminal activity is a deviation from social norms, but in most cases a person is assumed to have free will and be responsible for their actions, not to have an abnormality 
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Defining Abnormality - FFA

Failure to Function Adequately: 

People not able to attain a normal pattern of behaviour 

Rosenhan and Seligman's Characteristics: 

  • Observer discomfort: behavior causes distress to friends and family 
  • Unpredictabilty: behaviour is unpredictable and uncontrolled
  • Maladaptiveness: behavior interferes with a usual daily routine 
  • Irrationality: behaviour lacks reason and purpose 


  • Context dependent 
  • May not be due to a psychological disorder 
  • Disorders are not always associated with FFA, as some do not prevent this 
  • Cultural relativity is not an issue 
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Defining Abnormality - DIMH

Deviation from Ideal Mental Health: 

Defines what is normal rather than abnormal

Features of Ideal Mental Health: 

  • In touch with feelings
  • Resistance to stress
  • Focus on future and self-actualisation 
  • Show empathy and understanding 


  • Cultural relativity ( based on Western individualistic values. Collectivist cultures would not recognise self-actualisation) 
  • Represents deviation from an ideal state, however most of us would fail to reach all characteristics, yet we would not all be classified as abnormal 
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The Biological Approach

Assumptions (AO1): 

  • All behavious is associated with changed in brain function, as a result in changed in levels of neurotransmitter or brain structure
  • Behaviours involve some genetic component and inheritability 
  • Schizophrenia is Linked to changes in brain fucntion, increase in dopamine and genetic components 
  • Use of brain scanning can prove a link between brain structure and activity of neurotransmitters and abnormality 

Evaluation (AO2): 

  • Drug treatments that target neurotansmitter pathways have been proved to be effective in treating certain conditions 
  • Wealth of scientific evidence to support the approach (e.g brain scanning) 
  • A human approach that allows for development of effective treatments 
  • Reduces diagnosis to physical sympotoms and does not account for experiences (reductionist) 
  • Testing on animals may not provide valid results suitable for generalisation to humans 
  • Drug treatements are not effective for all people 
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The Psychodynamic Approach

Assumptions (AO1):

  • Assumes that all behaviour occurs as a result of unconscious processes 
  • The Id: demands immediate satisfaction. Operates on the pleasure principle 
  • The Super Ego: contains morals and is our conscience. Devleopes through identifcation with a parent and internalisation of the rules of society 
  • The Ego: balance demand between super ego and id and regulates interaction with environment. Operates in the reality principle 
  • When the ego fails to balance id and super ego, psychological disorders result 
  • Fixation at any of the psychosexual devleopment stages can form conflicts resulting in later problems 

Evaluation (AO2):

  • Stresses importance of psychological problems resulting in physical symptoms 
  • Impossible to scientificaly test
  • Places too much emphasis on sexual factors rather than social relationships 
  • Culturally and historically significant to C19 Vienna (phallocentric) 
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The Behavioural Approach

Assumptions (AO1): 

  • Concentrates on observable behaviour and its measurement and cause 
  • Suggests that all behaviour is learnt through classical and operant conditioning and vicarious learning 

Evaluation (AO2):

  • Research has used animals so findings can not be generalised 
  • Research carried out in artificial situations so don't reflect complexities of real life
  • Deterministic and suggests people have no free will 
  • Conditioning and social learning can explain much of human behaviour 
  • Uses standardised and objectively defined terminology 
  • Includes an element of cognitive processing 
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The Cognitive Approach

Assumptions (AO1): 

  • Studies individual thought processes and their effect on behaviour
  • Suggests that bahaviour is affected by an individuals thoughts 
  • Beliefs are an important cognitive component and can be affected by cognitive bias
  • Cognitive Bias: Minimisation, maximistation, selective abstraction and all or nothing thinking 
  • Views people as being like computers and studies inputs, outputs and processes
  • Beliefs are main influence on emotional wellbeing 

Evaluation (AO2):

  • Research conducted in laboratories so has low ecological validity 
  • No real evidence for abstract concepts such as memory 
  • Reductionist and underplays biological and environmental influences
  • Mechanistic 
  • Dominant and successful 
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Biological Therapies


  • Most widely used treatment, and for disorders such as schozophrenia they are the only option 
  • Widely available and relatively cheap 
  • Effective for conditions such as schizophrenia and depression
  • Suppress symptoms but do not treat causes 
  • Have physiological and psychological side effects and can lead to physical dependency 
  • Ignores cognitive, emotional and environmental influences on a disorder
  • Ineffective in treating phobias and eating disorders 
  • Ethical problems with giving informed consent 

Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT): 

  • Passing a small electric current through the brain, producing a convulsion 
  • Electrical discharge alters levels of neurotransmitters 
  • A barabric assault on the brain 
  • Can cause long term memory issues 
  • Ethical problems 
  • Has been effective in in treating depression  
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Psychological Therapies


  • Conflicts and fixations that cause disorders are buried in the unconscious and can not be accessed 
  • Techniques are used to overcome defence mechanisms so unconscious issues can be resolved 
  • Free Association: Ps encourgaged to talk about anything that comes to mind, so that a therapist can identiy key themes and issues to further explore and analyse 
  • Dream Analysis: ego defence mechanisms do not operate in dreams, so they reflect unconscious wishes. Mainfest content reveals the latent content after analysis 
  • Client has to be willing to undergo self analysis 
  • Complex, so is very time consuming 
  • Ethical problems. Free association can lead to distress
  • Effective in treating anxiety and depression 
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Behavioural Therapies

Sytematic Desensitiation (SD): 

  • A form of counter-conditioning, where the fear response is replaced by an alternative respnse of relaxation 
  • The client creates an anxiety hierarchy relatated to a phobia 
  • They are then trained in deep relaxation techniques, and work through the hierarchy using them 
  • Client becomes counter-conditioned to associate relaxtion instead of fear with a stimulus 


  • Exposing the client to the most feared stimulus with no escape, with the idea the high levels of anxiety can not be sustained and will therefore reduce 

Aversion Therapy: 

  • Pairing a punishing stimulus with undesirable behaviour 

Can be effective in treatment of phobias 

Target symptoms rather than causes 

No evidence of effectiveness in conditions such as schizophrenia 

Serious ethical issues with exposing people to high levels of stress amd anxiety 

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Cognitive Therapies

Beck's Cognitive Therapy: 

  • Believed that depression is caused by negative schemata maintained by congnitive bias 
  • Therapy aimed to challenge negative cognitions and replace them with more realistic and optimistic thoughts 
  • Therapist helps client identity key negative thoughts, and then they are challenged (reality testing) 
  • Behavioural techniques are used to encourage more positive behaviour 
  • As effective as drugs in treating depression and anxiety 
  • Long lasting improvement 
  • Targets causes, not just symptoms
  • Less effective for phobias and sever disorders such as schizophrenia 
  • Ignores genetic and biological factors 
  • Some may find self-monitoring stressful 
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