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

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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. ...read more.


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 involved in a lot of mental disorders and yet behaviourism doesn?t even acknowledge their existence; therefore it is a somewhat impoverished view of abnormality. The behavioural approach can be seen in a positive light, as it doesn?t label people as ?ill? which can be very damaging and long lasting to a person. The approach however only addresses the symptoms of abnormal behaviour rather than the actual causes, so again it can be seen as an impoverished view of abnormality. ...read more.


There are many strengths and weaknesses of the behavioural approach. One strength of the behavioural approach is that it?s a scientific approach ? it has clear testable concepts, which have been supported in many experiments. However, the limitation of the behavioural approach is that it cannot explain all behaviours because it neglects: 1. The influence of genetics and biology ? for example, how brain functioning affects behaviour. 2. The influence of cognitions ? how thought processes contribute to disorders. Another strength of the approach is that the behavioural therapies can be very effective for treating phobias, eating disorders, obsessions and compulsions. Moreover, the weakness of the approach is that the behavioural therapies are not effective for all disorders, e.g. conditioning doesn?t cure schizophrenia. ...read more.

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