Discuss the behavioural approach to explaining psychological abnormality. (12 marks)

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Discuss the behavioural approach to explaining psychological abnormality.  (12 marks)

The behavioural approach believes that all mental disorders are learned

through experience.  Classical and operant conditioning plus social learning

theory can explain the formation of maladaptive behaviours known as

abnormal behaviour.  For instance with operant conditioning if a person is

rewarded with attention for displaying depressive behaviour then they will

repeat the behaviour.  Anorexia can be seen as being caused by people

observing and imitating super-thin role models presented in a positive light by

the media.  This is a social learning theory explanation.  Behaviourists believe

the mind is an unnecessary concept and so therefore there is no such thing as

mental disorders or mental illnesses, only abnormal behaviours.  Also if

abnormal behaviours are learned, then they can be unlearned and it is this

idea that underpins behavioural treatments.

Behaviourism is very good at explaining disorders that do have an

environmental component, for instance a lot of phobias are learned through

experience.  However, there are also a lot of mental conditions, such as

schizophrenia, which cannot be explained in this way.  Thoughts and emotions

have been shown to be

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