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Briefly describe and evaluate the behaviourist approach to abnormality

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Introduction

Briefly describe and evaluate the behaviourist approach to abnormality According to the behaviourist approach to abnormality, individuals with mental disorders possess maladaptive forms of behaviour which have been learnt. Hence the approach makes use of the leaning theory, which takes the form of classical conditioning and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning was demonstrated first by Pavlov (1927) and used a classical study by Watson and Rayner involving an infant called "Little Albert". This study showed that learning occurs through associating things together. Operant conditioning involves learning a new response as a result of the fact that, in the past, the same response has resulted in a reward or reinforcement as demonstrated by Skinner (1952). ...read more.

Middle

However critics would say that this may lead to "symptom substitution". With reference to symptoms, Eysenck (1960) thought it was sufficient to remove a persons symps at it doesn't find the cause of the real problem, therefore wekaneing the model.The approach doesn't criticise people for being psychologically unwell as it simply describes behaviour as being maladaptive and learnt, but this blurs the distinction between what is meant by normal or abnormal. Another weakness of this model is that it is described as following Ratomorphic psychology (Cohen 1958) because it assumes continuity between species and therefore extrapolates from e.g. rats to humans. Arguably humans thought processes are believed to be more complex than a rats, this raises an ethical issue because in the process humans are dehumanised. ...read more.

Conclusion

This involves the reinforcement of appropriate behaviour through the use of tokens that can be exchanged for privileges. The problem wit this technique is that it arguably dehumanises a patient as it takes away their power and gives it to the staff. Another problem is that patents behaviour may not generalise outside the hospital setting, although in real life people are motivated to do things because of rewards e.g work for money. In conclusion the behavioural model is oversimplified and rather narrow on the scope as it is useful in only treating minor disorders. On the basis of the available evidence, it seems that only a small fraction of mental disorders depend to any great extent on the patient's conditioning history. ...read more.

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