Outline and evaluate the behavioural explanation of psychopathology

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Outline and evaluate the behavioural explanation of psychopathology

The essence of the behavioural approach to psychopathology is that adaptive and maladaptive behaviours are learned by the same procedures. This is true for the actions that we typically display when faced with an examination situation. The behavioural model concentrates only on behaviours and the responses a person makes to their environment, these can be external or internal. Behaviourists have tended to focus their attention on the role of external events and behaviours as these are more observable and therefore make gaining results easier. This means that not all aspects of abnormality are considered.

Classical conditioning is where learning occurs through association and is a process that applies to emotional learning as well as behaviours. For example, behavioural explanations of phobias assume that the feared object, such as spiders or rats was associated with feat or anxiety sometimes in the past. As in the classical conditioning process, a neutral stimulus paired with an unconditioned stimulus, resulting in a new stimulus- reposes link. The neutral stimulus is now therefore a conditioned stimulus producing a conditioned response. The conditioned stimulus subsequently evokes a powerful fear response characterized by avoidance of the feared object and the emotion of fear whenever the object is encountered.

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Operant conditioning suggests learning is done through reinforcement. An animal responds to the environment and some of these responses are reinforced, increasing the probability that they are repeated. If a response is punished, this decreases the probability that it will be repeated. Psychological disorder is produced when a maladaptive behaviour is rewarded. This means that such behaviours may be functional for the individual, at least at the time they are learned. For example if a child finds that he or she gets more attention from a parents when they have a panic attack, these attacks may well become more frequency ...

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