Chapter 1: Abnormality
- Criteria for abnormal vs. normal:
o Maladaptiveness (does this behavior interfere with person’s everyday life)
Dysfunction, Distress and Deviance
o Unusualness (not a behavior that is common in society). Closely tied to cultural
relativism. The unusualness of any behavior depends on the culture of the person
o Cultural relativism (culture does not account for this behavior)- no universal
standards for what is normal vs. abnormal. It all depends on culture. Gender roles
within a culture are also important to consider.
o Discomfort for person with behavior. But some people with abnormal behavior
feel no discomfort. For example: psychopath
o Mental illness (biological characteristics that can explain the behavior. Ex:
neurochemical imbalance)- behavior caused by an identifiable disease? Problem:
no straight forward medical tests that detect psychological problems (many
hormones, neurotransmitters involved)
- Abnormality as harmful dysfunction
o Behavior must be both harmful and dysfunctional
- Historical perspectives
o Biological, supernatural and psychological theories
- Ancient stone age theories
o Supernatural view. Caused by possession by spirits. Treatment would be
exorcism, and trephination.
- Ancient Chinese theories
o Biological. Internal organs control emotion. Balance between positive force (yin)
and negative (yang). Too much of either is not good.
- Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome
o Focus on supernatural and biological. Wandering uterus.
o Hippocrates: all diseases including abnormal behavior are caused by imbalaces in
- Medieval times
o Supernatural. Witchcraft. Psychic epidemics.
- The burning times
o Time when suspected witches were killed
- Moral treatment in the 18 century o Psychological view. Psychological illness as not being able to keep up with fast
evolving society, overcome with stress. More humane treatment of the mentally
ill. Treatment focused on rest and relaxation.
Chapter 2: Contemporary theories of abnormality
- Vulnerability stress model: both have to be present for a full-fledged psychological
disorder to emerge.
- Biological approaches:
o Structural theories- abnormalities in structure of the brain cause mental
disorders. Ex: Phineas Gage. Damage to frontal lobe caused a dramatic change in
personality- he became impulsive, emotional and socially inappropriate
Other key features are the hypothalamus and limbic system
o Biochemical theories- imbalance of neurotransmitter ad hormones, or improper
functioning of these hormones.
Neurotransmitter theories: too much or too little or poor functioning
Endocrine system theories
o Genetic theories- accumulation of mutated genes or disordered genes lead to
mental disorder. Most often multiple abnormal genes have to be inherited for
predisposition for a disorder (vulnerability)
- Pros and cons of biological approaches:
o Take away stigma or blame from the individual for having the disorder
o Our understanding in this area is rapidly increasing- can treat better
o BUT, reductionist and doesn’t take into account influence of society and env.
- Psychological approaches
o Psychodynamic theories: childhood trauma, unconscious conflicts lead to
disorder. Freud is most important. Psychoanalysis was a way of exploring the
mind, as well as treating psychopathology.
Libido, id, ego, superego,
Stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, genital
o Behavioral theories: reinforcement and punishment of certain behaviors lead to
disorders. Also through classical conditioning.
UCSUCR. Pairing of UCS and CS
-operant conditioning through punishment and reward
-modelling and observational learning o Cognitive theories: maladaptive ways of interpreting situations, and negative
thinking lead to disorders
Maladaptive causal attributions – the idea that it’s their fault
Control theory – the idea that they have no control over things
Dysfunctional assumptions (which are not true)
o Humanistic theories: when people don’t pursue their own values and potential,
and try to conform to societal norms, disorders arise
- Social and interpersonal approaches
o Interpersonal theories: disorders are caused by negative relationships which have
roots in early experiences with caregivers
Erik Erickson and psychosocial stages
o Family systems theories: families create and maintain mental disorders in family
members to maintain status quo
Roots of disorders are within the family, not individual
3 types: Enmeshed, disengaged, inflexible, pathological triangular
o Social structural theories: society puts individuals under great stress
Chapter 3: the research endeavor
- Challenges in conducting research in abnormal psych
o Difficult to get people to participate
o Difficult to measure people’s abnormal behavior and feelings
Self-reports are distorted
o Most forms of abnormality have many causes
- Scientific method
o Define the problem
o Come up with testable hypotheses
o Conduct suitable experiment
o Gather and analyze data
- Hypothesis and null hypothesis
- Types of study:
o Experimental studies – IV, DV, operationalization = the way variables are
manipulated and measured
o Case studies – studying an individual who has suffered a disorder Pros of case studies: only way to look at rare disorders, provide rich info
about an individual, good for generating ideas
Cons: low generalizability, low objectivity, cannot be replicated
o Correlational studies: measure strength of relationship between variables.
Pros: good external validity
Cons: do not provide any info about causation.
o Epidemiological studies: frequency and distribution of a disorder in a population
Prevalence = no. of cases at one point in time or a period
Incidence = no. of new cases occurring in a given time period
risk factors, protective factors
- Experimental studies: