Thought we may be convinced we can tell normal from the abnormal, but the evidence to suggest this is not so compelling.
Different views on normal and abnormal
Rosenhan wanted to test whether diagnosis of abnormal behaviour was easy as so many people believed. He sent 8 psychologically well people to 12 different hospitals. They varied in ages and occupations. At admission they said they were hearing voices saying "empty" hollow" and "thud". They behaved as they normally would on the ward. When asked how they felt they said they were no longing experiencing any symptoms. They were told by staff they would be allowed to go when they had convinced staff they were sane. As a result, they had to behave insane and then pretend to get better so they could be released. All but 1 were admitted with diagnosis of schizophrenia. Upon discharged they were diagnosed with having schizophrenia in remission.
Shows impact of an "abnormal" diagnosis". Once labelled as abnormal a patient is stuck with it
DEFENITIONS OF ABNORMALITY
Hard to define abnormality.
DEFENITION 1- DEVIATION FROM SOCIAL NORMS
Behaviour that is considered anti social or undesirable by majority of society. In each society there are standards of acceptable behaviour. An example of a social norm would be politeness. People who are rude or behaving deviantly. Another example would be sexual behaviour. In the past homosexuality was a deviant behaviour in the UK but not now.
LIMITATIONS OF DEFINITION 1
- Main problem is that social norms vary as times change eg homosexuality. Also in Russia 50 years ago anyone who disagreed with state ran the risk of being regarded as insane and put into mental institution. Therefore hard to define abnormality in terms of social norms. Szasz said the concept of mental illness was simply a way to exclude nonconforming people from society.
- Another problem is the deviance is often related to the context of a behaviour eg person on a beach wearing next to nothing is normal whereas it would be abnormal on a high street.
- The last problem is that social norms are influenced by cultural factors (cultural relativism). Disorders are diagnosed in different ways in different places by different groups. So 1 diagnosis in 1 country may be different in another. What this means in practice is there are no universal standards or rules for labelling a behaviour as abnormal.
DEFINITION 2- FAILURE TO FUNCTION ADEQUATELY
Not being able to cope with day to day life activities.
LIMITATIONS OF DEFINITION 2
- To determine "failure to function properly" there has to be someone who decides if this is the case. It may be that the patient themselves that determines their behaviour is undesirable. Or if the patient is content with their situation or unaware they aren't coping. It is others who are uncomfortable and judge the behaviour as abnormal. eg schizophrenics feel they are normally but others don't.
- Another problem is that some behaviour can be adaptive and functional for the individual eg someone who has an eating disorder may lead to extra welcomed attention.
- Cultural relativism also has en effect. Adequate functioning…