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Outline and Evaluate the Behavioural Approach to Abnormality

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Outline and evaluate the behavioural approach to abnormality.

The behavioural approach to abnormality focuses on observable behaviour not what is in the mind. This approach says that behaviour is learned through a process called conditioning. There are three types of conditioning these are; classical, operant and social learning.

The first type of conditioning is classical. Classical conditioning says that behaviours are learnt through a stimulus-response association. This means when someone has an experience (stimulus) and it causes a reaction (response) then that person might associate that stimulus and response every time. For example if someone saw a snake (stimulus) and someone screamed (Response) then a child could associate snakes with screaming and become scared. Classical conditioning is believed to be the cause of phobias. This was shown in the study of Little Albert.

The next type of conditioning is operant. Operant conditioning is the child being conditioned by reinforcement and reward/punishment. Operant conditioning is based on two types of reinforcement, positive and negative. Positive reinforcement is behaving in a particular way because it brings a rewarding feeling, whereas negative reinforcement is behaving in a particular way to avoid a punishing feeling. This was looked at by Skinner and was tested in experiments like Skinner’s rats and Pavlov’s dogs.

This theory can be also used to explain conditions like OCD. This is because being tidy as a child could have been rewarded (positive reinforcement) but if they were messy could be punished (negative reinforcement) so therefore the child will avoid being messy, if that was allowed to become to extreme it could develop into OCD.

The last part of the behavioural theory is social learning. Social learning is looking at how other people are being rewarded and punished for their...

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