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Outline the behavioural model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations

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Outline the behavioural model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations (18 marks) The behavioural model of abnormality assumes that abnormal behaviour is learnt through conditioning. This means that it is learned through experience and abnormal behaviour is not different from normal behaviour but that the principles of classic and operant conditioning can be applied to explain all behaviour. This includes learning through association and learning through reinforcement. Little Albert is a good example of the impact of learning through association. Watson and Rayner (1920) aimed to provide experimental evidence that fear could be learnt through association. They worked with an eleven month old boy who was known as Little Albert. They tested his response to white fluffy objects including a white rat, a white rabbit and white cotton wool. Little Albert produced no fear response to the stimulus(neutral stimulus). They then set about creating a conditioned response to these stimuli. They did this using a four foot steel bar. When Little Albert reached for the white rat, the bar was struck with a hammer behind Little Albert's head in order to startle him. ...read more.


The behavioural model also suggests that the mind is an unnecessary concept and that it is sufficient to explain behaviour in terms of what can be observed. Therefore behaviourists believe that there are no such things as mental illnesses because the mind in itself is an unnecessary concept. The behavioural model also believes that, according to the principles of evolution, all animals are formed from the same basics. Therefore they believe that conducting research on animals, which are not human, allows generalisations to be made to human behaviour. The behavioural model in itself offers an explanation as to the experiences people have affecting people, including the forms of conditioning to which they are exposed to playing a role in the development of abnormality and mental illness. There is evidence such as the Little Albert study, which does suggest that abnormal behaviour can be learnt. However, it must be taken into account that many of the experimental studies/research into conditioning is based on animals and generalised to humans therefore is more applicable to animals and may not be relevant in explaining human behaviour. ...read more.


It is a reductionists' way of looking at abnormality: it reduces behaviour into stimulus and the response to the stimulus. Alone, the behavioural model cannot account for all abnormality. It may provide an insight as to why certain disorders occur but it does into account for things such as the way in which the individual deals with the stimulus, for example, not all people who are bitten by dogs develop phobias of dogs, which suggests that there is more to the development of phobias than conditioning alone. However, the model does provide a humane way of explanation not to blame the patient for the illness in the way that the cognitive model of abnormality does. It could be argues that the Little Albert study was unethical due to the high amount of stress it caused to Little Albert. The main criticism of the behavioural model in terms of treatment is that it treats symptoms not causes which could, according to Freud, lead to symptom substitution. ...read more.

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