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Lecture 1 Notes

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PSY240 Lecture Notes
Lecture 1
January 11, 2011
What is Abnormal?
What is normal in one culture may be completely abnormal in another culture
Things that catch you off guard as unexpected issue of context
Context is Critical
Rosenhan (1973) tried to highlight importance of context on
interpretation of behaviour and the stigma of labeling behaviours as
oGroup of experimenters pretended to have certain symptoms in
order to be diagnosed had trouble leaving institution, their
normal life actions were interpreted as symptoms (such as
writing notes). Study shows how detrimental it is to label
abnormal behaviour when not actually doing an assessment
context of assessments also is important
How is Abnormality Defined?
Cultural relativism and social norms
oThere are no universal standards for labeling a behaviour as
abnormal, can only be labeled as abnormal in comparison to
social context
oWhat is perceived is normal or abnormal across cultures,
includes religious groups, age groups, and genders
Cultural examples hallucinations being spiritual?
Family members sleeping in the same bed
oAdvantages more acceptance
oDisadvantages can lead to stereotyping
Unusualness or statistical deviation
oWhat is normal can be defined statistically by what is average
behaviour; therefore, what is abnormal can be defined by what is
rare in the population. For example behaviours abnormal in
Western culture transvestites
oAdvantages gives a place to draw the line
oSubjectively perceived feelings of distress and difficulty coping
with lifes demands are signs of abnormality depression,
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oAdvantages over reduce pathologizing (sp?) some particular
behaviours such as homosexuality experience no discomfort of
being gay
oDisadvantages difficult to calibrate feelings, where to draw the
line? How much stress must one experience? Disorders such as
Narcissism doesnt cause individual any discomfort but causes
Mental illness
oAbnormality is the result of a mental illness or disease
oAssumes there is a clear, identifiable physical process that
differs from health
oAdvantages can potentially reduce stigma
oDisadvantages not every disorder has a recognizable cause,
different situations causing people to act out of the norm, no test
to test biological abnormal behaviour, not usually one gene
causing abnormal behaviour usually multiple factors
oThe 3 Ds dysfunction, distress, deviance
Abnormal Psychology
Behavioural, emotional, or cognitive dysfunctions
oUnexpected in cultural context
oAssociated with personal distress and/or substantial impairment
in functioning
oThis definition is adopted by most diagnostic systems (e.g.,
Video (on men who identify with women and are considered female but not
gay) discussion (cultural example)
Case Study
Facebook example - abnormal behaviour even though its relatively common -
It depends where you draw the line
Concluding Remarks
What is considered abnormal changes over time and across contexts
Normal and abnormal behaviours fall on a continuum
Historical Theories of Abnormality
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