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Give two limitations of the definition of abnormality in terms of statistical infrequency (3 + 3) Just because certain behaviours are statistically infrequent does not necessarily mean they are seen as abnormal of indicating a psychological disorder, for example being a genius is very rare but is not viewed as undesirable. Certain behaviours may statistically infrequent in particular groups in society but not in others, For example, night-clubbing may rare amongst pensioners but amongst people in their 20’s. b) Outline two assumptions of the cognitive model in relation to the causes of abnormality (3+3)

This model assumes people’s thoughts direct their emotions and behaviours, therefore abnormal behaviours and emotions arise from abnormal thoughts such as ‘irrational assumptions’ and ‘negative perceptions’. Abnormal thought processes are learnt through experience and exposure. c) Consider whether research supports the view that eating disorders are caused by psychological factors (18)

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The behaviourist’s view of anorexia is that it is a learned behaviour that is maintained by positive reinforcement. A person may begin by dieting and receive admiration and praise from others for looking slim as this is a desirable characteristic in Western society. This dieting may then become more extreme and eventually develop into anorexia, A number of researchers have noted the pleasure and pride which anorexics feel from not eating or eating very little (Gilbert, 1986). These feelings may develop into the main reinforcement for the disorder.

Behaviourist research such as Gilbert does suggest that psychological factors play an important role in the maintenance of eating disorders such as anorexia, but this particular psychological approach is weaker when attempting to explain the origins of the disorder. It doesn’t explain why, for instance the fact that not every dieter becomes anorexic in the pursuit of positive reinforcement. Behavioural models also tend to ignore the role of cognition’s.

The cognitive view is another psychological model. It focuses on how abnormal thought processes are linked to eating disorders, Garner and Bemis (1982) identify a number of cognitive errors or errors in thinking which underlie the behaviour of anorexics. They include ‘selective abstraction’ which involves selecting small parts of a situation and coming to conclusions on this basis whilst ignoring other evidence, for example ‘I am a very special person if I am thin’ and magnification’ which involves exaggerating the importance of events, for example, ‘Gaining a pound will push mw over the brink’. These kind of conclusions help to maintain the disorder. Cognitive errors are also found in bulimics (de Silva, 1995).

Cognitive models help to explain the maintenance of eating disorders. However, as with behavioural models cognitive models largely fail to explain why some dieters develop an eating disorder and some do not. That is, they are not very good at explaining the origins of eating disorders.

Despite the evidence supporting the view that psychological factors play some part in causing eating disorders there is also evidence to suggest biological factors may also influence their development. Holland et al (1984) found that if an identical twin suffered from anorexia their was a 55% chance that their twin would also suffer from the disorder. This compared with a 7% chance with fraternal twins. This would seem to suggest that being related to a person with an eating disorder means an increased risk of developing the disorder. This would be a non-psychological factor. However, these findings could reflect similarity in upbringing and not genetic similarity and so support a psychological view.

Give a brief account of the biological (medical) model of abnormality and consider its strengths and limitations (18) The biological model regard psychological and behavioural abnormality as a sign or symptom of an underlying physical or organic disorder – usually some dysfunction of the brain or nervous system.

There are various types of biologically based explanation for abnormality such as genetic inheritance, neurotransmitters or anatomy. Treatments for behavioural abnormality aim to treat the underlying physical dysfunction which should then effect a behavioural/psychological change, these include drug therapy, gene therapy, electroconvulsive therapy and brain surgery. One strength of the biological model of abnormality is that in recent years advances in biochemistry and genetics have increased our understanding of the biological aspects of psychological disorders. However this understanding is far from complete. There are still many aspects which we do not understand.

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