Individual Differences Assessment

1. Discuss the behavioural approach to explaining psychological abnormality (12 marks) Behaviourists believe that our actions are determined largely by the experiences we have in life, rather than by underlying pathology or unconscious forces. Abnormality is seen as the development of behaviour patterns that are established, through classical or operant conditioning or social learning, to lead happy and productive lives. However, maladaptive and therefore undesirable behaviours can be acquired in the same way. Classical conditioning suggests that learning occurs through association. A neutral stimulus is paired with an unconditional stimulus, resulting in a new stimulus-response link. The neutral stimulus is now a conditional stimulus producing a conditional response. This process applies to emotional learning as well as to behaviours. For example, behavioural explanations of phobias assume that the feared object was associated with fear or anxiety from sometime in the past. The conditional stimulus subsequently evokes a powerful fear response characterised by avoidance of the feared object and the emotion of fear whenever the object is encountered. Operational conditioning suggests that the learning occurs through reinforcement. An animal responds to the environment and some of these responses are reinforced, increasing the probability that they will be repeated. If a response is punished, this decreases the probability that it will be repeated. A psychological disorder is produced when a maladaptive behaviour is rewarded. This means that such behaviours may be functional for the individual. Social learning which is also known as vicarious conditioning suggests that behaviours are learnt by seeing others rewarded and punished. The behaviour model concentrates only on behaviours. Behaviours might be external or internal, as the external behaviours are more observable behaviourists tend to focus their attention on the role of external events and behaviours. All behaviour is determined by external events. Abnormal behaviour is no different from normal behaviour in terms of how it is learned. We can use the principles of learning theory to explain many disorders for which the major characteristics are behavioural. Learning environments may reinforce problematic behaviours, for example, abnormal behaviour lowers anxiety. Society also provides deviant maladaptive models that children identify and imitate, for example, social acceptance by peers for teenagers if they take drugs. As case studies have been used to evaluate the behavioural approach, rich and in depth information that may be over looked may be identified by this method. The advantage of using experiments to observe the behaviours of individuals is that variables can be controlled the effect of different variables on this approach can be seen. However, behaviourist explanations of mental disorders have been criticized for having an extremely limited view of the factors that might Khushbu Shah Page 1

Individual Differences Assessment
cause abnormal behaviours. Behaviourist explanations tend to ignore the role of cognition in the onset and treatment of abnormality, although the emergence of cognitive behavioural theories did take the role of cognition into account. Part of the success of this model comes from the effectiveness of behavioural therapies for treating abnormal behaviour. However, such therapies may not provide a long-lasting solution as they only treat the symptoms and not the causes. This suggests that although the symptoms of a problem may be behavioural the cause itself may not. 2. Explain two ways that psychologists have investigated the behavioural basis of abnormality (3 + 3 marks). As the behavioural model concentrates only on observable behaviours, the most appropriate method of testing behaviourist assumptions is by carrying out experiments. For example, theory predicts that the learning environment of an individual determines the behaviours they acquire. Those which are rewarded will be repeated and those that are not will not be repeated. As a result, researchers may use an ABBA design, with condition A associated with a reward and condition B with no reward or a punishment. After a few trials an individual will produce the behaviour in condition A more readily rather than the behaviour of condition B. Animal studies are used as the same basic laws of the learning theory apply to human and non human animals. This means that it is reasonable to conduct research on non-human animals such as rats, and make generalisations to human behaviour. Much of the behavioural model of abnormality, such as the principles of classical and operant conditioning has been established through the study of non-human animals. 3. For each of these describe one strength and one weakness with the method of investigation (4 marks). 4. Outline key features of the psychodynamic approach to psychopathology (6 marks). 5. Evaluate the psychodynamic approach to abnormality (6 marks). 6. Explain two ways that psychologists have investigated the psychodynamic basis of abnormality (3 + 3 marks). 7. For each of these describe one strength and one weakness with the method of investigation (4 marks). 8. Outline and evaluate the cognitive approach to abnormality (12 marks). 9. Outline and evaluate the psychodynamic treatment of psychological abnormality (12 marks). 10.James is afraid of flying. Just thinking about flying makes him distress and even going to the airport is a problem. In order to overcome this fear, he consults a behavioural psychologist who feels that he may benefit from systematic de-sensitisation. a. Which approach to psychopathology would be most likely to advocate the use of systematic-desensitisation? (1 marks). Khushbu Shah Page 2

Individual Differences Assessment
b. Explain how systematic de-sensitisation might be carried out to overcomes Jame`s fear of flying (6 marks). 11. Evaluate systematic desensitisation as a treatment for mental illness (6 marks). 12.Outline and evaluate the cognitive treatment of psychological abnormality (12 marks).

Khushbu Shah

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