Abnormal Psychology

The field devoted to the scientific study of abnormal behavior to describe, predict, explain, and change abnormal patterns of functioning

workers in psych field

Clinical scientists
Clinical practitioners

Deviance (the four D's)

Different, extreme, unusual, perhaps even bizarre

Distress (4 D's)

Unpleasant and upsetting to the person

Dysfunction (4 D's)

Interfering with the person's ability to conduct daily activities in a constructive way

Danger (4 D's)

Posing risk or harm

Szasz argues that

because of the influence of culture, the whole concept of mental illness is invalid, a myth of sorts

Treatment or therapy

is a procedure designed to change abnormal behavior into more normal behavior

According to Jerome Frank, all forms of therapy have three essential features

A sufferer who seeks relief from the healer
A trained, socially accepted healer, whose expertise is accepted by the sufferer and his or her social group
A series of contacts between the healer and the sufferer, through which the healer, often with the aid

Deviance (from what?)

From behaviors, thoughts, and emotions that differ markedly from a society's ideas about proper functioning

Distress (from what?)

According to many clinical theorists, behavior, ideas, or emotions usually have to cause distress before they can be labeled abnormal


Abnormal behavior tends to be dysfunctional - it interferes with daily functioning
Culture plays a role in the definition of abnormality as well
Dysfunction alone does not necessarily indicate psychological abnormality


Abnormal behavior may become dangerous to oneself or others
Behavior may be consistently careless, hostile, or confused
Although cited as a feature of psychological abnormality, research suggests that being dangerous is the exception rather than the rule

The Elusive Nature of Abnormality

Ultimately, each society selects general criteria for defining abnormality and then uses those criteria to judge particular cases


the systematic search for facts through the use of careful observations and investigations


the degree to which events or characteristics vary with each other

Positive correlation (slope is upward and to the right) =

variables change in the same direction

Negative correlation (downward slope) =

variables change in the opposite direction

Unrelated (no slope) =

no consistent relationship

High magnitude =

variables which vary closely together; fall close to the line of best fit

Low magnitude =

variables which do not vary as closely together; loosely scattered around the line of best fit

Statistical significance

means that the finding is unlikely to have occurred by chance


a research procedure in which a variable is manipulated and the manipulation's effect on another variable is observed

Manipulated variable

independent variable

Variable being observed =

dependent variable

control group

a group of research participants who are not exposed to the independent variable, but whose experience is similar to that of the experimental group

Three features are included in experiments to guard against confounds:

A control group
Random assignment
Blind design

In science, the perspectives used to explain events are known as

models or paradigms


influence what investigators observe, the questions they ask, the information they seek, and how they interpret this information

Historically (models/abnormality)

clinical scientists of a given place and time tended to agree on a single model of abnormality - a model greatly influenced by the beliefs of their culture

Today (models/abnormality)

several models are used to explain and treat abnormal functioning

The Biological Model

Adopts a medical perspective

Focus of the Biological Model

is that psychological abnormality is an illness brought about by malfunctioning parts of the organism

Biological Model typically focuses on the


The brain is composed of

100 billion nerve cells (called neurons) and thousands of billions of support cells (called glia)

Within the brain, large groups of neurons form distinct areas called

brain regions


do not actually touch each other; they are separated by a space (the synapse), across which a message moves

When an electrical impulse reaches a nerve ending

the ending is stimulated to release a chemical called a neurotransmitter (NT), that travels across the synaptic space to receptors on the dendrites of neighboring neurons

abnormal activity in certain NTs

can lead to specific mental disorders

Endocrine glands

release hormones which propel body organs into action. Abnormal secretions have been linked to psychological disorders


Sources of biological abnormalities

Each cell in the human body has

23 pairs of chromosomes, each with numerous genes that control the characteristics and traits a person inherits

Biological practitioners

attempt to pinpoint the physical source of dysfunction to determine the course of treatment

Three types of biological treatment

Drug therapy
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Drug therapy

1950s = advent of psychotropic medications
Greatly changed the outlook for a number of mental disorders

Four major drug groups:

Antianxiety drugs (anxiolytics; tranquilizers)
Antidepressant drugs
Antibipolar drugs (mood stabilizers)
Antipsychotic drugs

Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT):

Used primarily for depression when drugs and other therapies have failed

Neurosurgery (or psychosurgery

Historical roots in trephination
1930s = first lobotomy
Much more precise than in the past
Considered experimental and used only in extreme cases

The Psychodynamic Model

Oldest and most famous psychological model

The Psychodynamic Model believes

a person's behavior (whether normal or abnormal) is determined largely by underlying dynamic psychological forces of which she or he is not consciously aware

Father of psychodynamic theory and psychoanalytic therapy

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)


guided by the Pleasure Principle


guided by the Reality Principle


guided by the Morality Principle

three UNCONSCIOUS forces

Id, Ego, Superego

Developmental stages

Oral (0 to 18 months of age)
Anal (18 months to 3 years of age)
Phallic (3 to 5 years of age)
Latency (5 to 12 years of age)
Genital (12 years of age to adulthood

Psychodynamic Therapies

Range from Freudian psychoanalysis to modern therapies
All seek to uncover past trauma and inner conflicts
Therapist acts as a "subtle guide

Psychodynamic Therapies

Utilize various techniques:
Free association
Therapist interpretation
Dream interpretation
Working through

(the behavioral model)Like psychodynamic theorists, behavioral theorists believe that our

actions are determined largely by our experiences in life

the behavioral model

Concentrates wholly on behaviors and environmental factors
Bases explanations and treatments on principles of learning

the behavioral model began

in laboratories where conditioning studies were conducted

Several forms of conditioning

Operant conditioning
Classical conditioning

Operant conditioning

Humans and animals learn to behave in certain ways as a result of receiving rewards whenever they do so


Individuals learn responses by observing and repeating behavior

Classical conditioning

Learning by temporal association:When two events repeatedly occur close together in time, they become fused in a person's mind; before long, the person responds in the same way to both events

Father of Classical Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov

Behavioral Therapies

Aim to identify the behaviors that are causing problems and replace them with more appropriate ones

Classical conditioning treatments may be used to change

abnormal reactions to particular stimuli

The Cognitive Model

Seeks to account for behavior by studying the ways in which the person attends to, interprets, and uses available information

The Cognitive Model argues

that clinicians must ask questions about assumptions, attitudes, and thoughts of a client

Maladaptive thinking is the cause of

maladaptive behavior

Beck's Cognitive Therapy

The goal of therapy is to help clients recognize and restructure their thinking

Combination model

The humanist view
Emphasis on people as friendly, cooperative, and constructive; focus on drive to self-actualization

Combination Model

The existentialist view
Emphasis on self-determination, choice, and individual responsibility; focus on authenticity

Researchers have learned that spirituality can

in fact, be of psychological benefit to people

Rogers's Humanistic Theory and Therapy

Believes in the basic human need for unconditional positive regard

Humanistic approach

Goal is to guide clients toward self-recognition through challenge and frustration

who developed Humanistic approach?

Fritz Perls

Existential Theories and Therapy

Belief that psychological dysfunction is caused by self-deception; people hide from life's responsibilities and fail to recognize that it is up to them to give meaning to their lives

The Sociocultural Models

Argue that abnormal behavior is best understood in light of the social and cultural forces that influence an individual

How Do Family-Social Theorists Explain Abnormal Functioning

Focus on:
Social labels and roles
Diagnostic labels (example: Rosenhan study)
Sick role
Social networks

How Do Family-Social Theorists Explain Abnormal Functioning

Focus on:
Family structure and communication
Family systems theory argues that abnormal functioning within a family leads to abnormal behavior (insane behavior becomes sane in an insane environment)


refers to the set of values, attitudes, beliefs, history, and behaviors shared by a group of people and communicated from one generation to the next

Studies have found that members of ethnic and racial minority groups tend to show

less improvement in clinical treatment than members of majority groups

Integrative therapists are often called "eclectic" -

taking the strengths from each model and using them in combination