The Individual Differences Approach

  • Abnormality
  • The Biological Model of Abnormality
  • The Psychodynamic Model of Abnormality
  • The Behavioural Model of Abnormality
  • The Cognitive Model of Abnormality
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  • Created by: Katie
  • Created on: 08-06-10 13:47

Defining Abnormality

1) Deviation from Social Norms

  • Normal Distribution

2) Failure to Function Adequately

  • Dysfunctional Behaviour, Observer Discomfort, Unpredictable Behaviour, Irrational Behaviour, Personal Distress

Jahoda's Six Condition Associated with good Mental Health:

Positive self-attitude, Self-actualisation, Resistance to stress, Personal autonomy, Accurate perception of reality, Adaptation to the environment.

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How Defining Abnormality May Differ

Abnormality Varies with Culture and Time:

  • Cultural Relativism - judgements made about abnormality are relative to individual cultures ie. we may see normal differently.
  • Important whether to work out if abnormality is Absolute (occuring in the same way and frequency across cultures), Universal (present in all cultures but not with same frequency), or Relative (unique to a particular culture).
  • Mental conditions are absolute.
  • Social Norms vary with culture.
  • Depression is universal - occurs in all cultures but mostly with women.

Defining Abnormality may be biased:

Gender Stereotypes, Racial Stereotypes.

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The Biological Model

...assumes Psychological disorders are Physical Illnesses caused by:

  • Genetics
  • Neurotransmitters
  • Infection
  • Brain Injury

Biological therapies: Drugs, Psychosurgery, Electroconvulsive Therapy

+ scientific basis in biology and a lot of evidence showing biological causes can produce psychological symptoms, seen as ethical as people are not blamed for their disorders, the therapies have helped relieve conditions.

- raise ethical concerns (drugs supress symptoms rather than cure), they may not be linked!

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Research into the Biological Model


  • Meta-analysis of 40 twin studies.
  • Having an identical twin with schizophrenia gave you 48% chance of developing the condition, 17% with non-identical twins.
  • Schizophrenia has a strong genetic basis.
  • Eval: field studies - high ec. valid., being treated the same - family environment may influence behaviours.
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The Psychodynamic Model

...based on conflict in development (Freud: id, ego and superego)

Treatment: Psychoanalysis

  • accessing repressed thoughts and unconcscious conflicts. (hypnosis, free association or dream analysis.)
  • patients encourage to deal with 'conflicts'.
  • patients encouraged to focus on the feelings that the repressed thought brought about.

+ helps patients to understand and resolve their problems, first theory to focus on psychological causes.

- dream analysis - hard to test, can be long and costly, focuses on past rather than problems patients are currently suffering.

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The Behavioural Model

...all behaviours are learnt through Classical (creating associations eg. taste aversions) and Operant (postive or negative reinforcement - reward or removal of something bad eg. phobias, anorexia) Conditioning.

Behavioural Therapies: Systematic Desensitisation

  • Patient creates a fear 'hierarchy' (fear least to fear most).
  • Go through each stage of the hierarchy one by one while being encouraged to relax - relaxation and anxiety cannot happen at the same time so this is repeated until the feared event is associated with relaxation.

+ scientific approach with testable concepts, effective when treating phobias, eating disorders, obsessions and compulsions.

- cannot explain all behaviours as it neglects biology and cognitions, not effective for all disorders eg. schizophrenia, ethical issues (distress).

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The Cognitive Model

...concerntrates on thought and beliefs, eg. ABC Model (activating event, belief, consequence).

Cognitive Therapies: Change Fault Cognitions

  • Cognitions identified, therapist tries to show that cognitions aren't true, set goals to think more positively.

+ useful approach to disorders like depression and anorexia, successfully treated on depression, anxiety, stress and eating disorders, person takes control.

- long and costly, work better with some conditions than others, person could feel like they are to blame for their problems.

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great notes

very helpful

thanks :)

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