Chapter Two: Current Paradigms and the Role of Cultural Factors
• In this chapter, we consider current paradigms of abnormal behaviour and treatment
• A paradigm: is a set of basic assumptions, a general perspective, that defines how to conceptualize and study a
subject, how to gather and interpret data, and even how to think about a particular subject.
THE ROLE OF PARADIGMS
• Paradigm is the conceptual framework or approach within which the scientist works.
o Specify what problems scientists will investigate and how they will go about the investigation.
o An intrinsic part of a science, serving a vital function of indicating the rules to be followed.
o Also injects biases into the definition and collection of data and may also affect the interpretation of facts: the
meaning or importance given to data may depend to a considerable extent on the paradigm.
• There are four essential paradigms: biological, cognitivebehavioural, psychoanalytic, and
humanisticessential. (the diathesisstress and biopsychosocial paradigms will be talked about later, they provide
the basis for an integrative approach)
• Remember that current thinking about abnormal behaviour tends to be multifaceted, and contemporary views of
abnormal behaviour and its treatment tend to involve several paradigms.
THE BIOLOGICAL PARADIGM
• The biological paradigm of abnormal psychology: is a continuation of the somatogenic hypothesis. Holds that mental
disorders are cause by aberrant (abnormal) biological processes. Also referred to as the medical model or disease
• The history of abnormal behaviour is closely linked to medicine however, the germ theory cannot account for all
illnesses. E.g. heart disease – many factors like genetic makeup, smoking, obesity can cause heart disease
o Medical illnesses can differ widely from one another in their causes but they all share one common
characteristic: in all of them, some biological process is disrupted or not functioning normally. That is why we
call this the biological paradigm
• It was the dominant paradigm in Canada and elsewhere from the late 1800s to the middle of the 20 century
o In 1900, Hall thought that the removal of ovarian cysts or their entire ovaries was the appropriate treatment
for illnesses such as melancholia, mania, and delusions.
CONTEMPORARY APPROACHES TO THE BIOLOGICAL PARADIGM
• More sophisticated approaches are used today, and there is now extensive literature on biological factors relevant to
• In many cases, psychopathology is viewed as caused by the disturbance of some biological process: example
depression may result from chemical imbalances within the brain.
• Those working within the biological paradigm assume that answers to puzzles of psychopathology will be found within
• Each chromosome (the carries of genetic information (DNA) passed from parent to child) is made up of thousands of
• Behaviour genetics is the study of individual differences in behaviour that are attributable in part to differences in
• Genotype: the total genetic makeup of a person, including inherited genes
o This is fixed at birth but not a static entity. • Phenotype: is the totality of a person’s observable, behavioural characteristics, such as level of anxiety.
o Changes overtime and is seen as the product of an interaction between the genotype and the environment.
Ex: you could have a high intellectual capacity (genotype) but reaching your full potential depends on
environment, education, and upbringing (phenotype)
• Diathesis: a predisposition
• The study of behaviour genetics relies on four methods to uncover whether a predisposition for psychopathology is
o Comparison of members of a family
o Comparison of pairs of twins
o The investigation of adoptees
o Linkage analysis.
• The family method (research strategy in which the frequency of a trait or of abnormal behaviour is determined in
relatives who have varying percentages of genetic background) can be used to study a genetic predisposition among
family members because the average number of genes shared by 2 blood relatives is known
o Parents and children, and siblings share 50% of their genes (1 degree relatives)
o Nephews/nieces and their uncles/aunts share 25% of their genes (2 degree relatives)
o If a predisposition for a mental disorder can be inherited, a study of the family should reveal a relationship
between the number of shared genes and the prevalence of the disorder in relatives
• To begin: you need to collect Index cases/ probands: a sample of individuals who bear the diagnosis in question.
o If a genetic disposition to the disorder being studied os present, 1 degree relatives of the index cases should
have the disorder at a higher rate than found in the general population
• In the twin method: both monozygotic (MZ) and dizygotic (DZ) twins are compared. Twin studies begin with diagnosed
cases and then search for the presence of the disorder in the other twin. When the twins are similar diagnostically, they
are said to be concordant.
o But the data that this method obtains is not always easy to interpret: the greater number of children with the
illness in question could reflect the childrearing practices of the parent (who also have that illness), as well as
the children’s imitation of adult behaviour. In other words, the data may show that the disorder runs in
families, but that a genetic predisposition is not necessarily involved.
• Equal environment assumption: (the ability to offer a genetic interpretation of data from twins’ studies depends on this)
is that the environmental factors that are partial causes of concordance are equally influential for MZ and DZ pairs. But
there is still a need for further study of this assumption
• Researching using the adoptees method: researchers study children with abnormal disorders who were adopted and
reared apart from their parent. If a high frequency of a disorder exists in the children reared apart
from their parents who also had the same disorder, we would have support for the theory
that a genetic predisposition figures in the disorder.
• Molecular genetics is a highly advanced approach that goes beyond mere attempts to show whether a disorder has a
genetic component; it tries to specify the particular gene or genes involved and the precise functions of these genes.
• Allele: any one of several DNA codings that occupy the same position or location on a chromosome. A person’s
genotype is his/her set of alleles.
• Linkage analysis: is a method of molecular genetics that is used to study people. The occurrence of a disorder in a
family is evaluated alongside a known genetic marker (an inheritance pattern of characteristics whose genetics are fully
understood). Researchers using this method usually study families in which a disorder is heavily concentrated.
• Researchers in this area often hypothesize geneenvironment interactions. This is the notion that a disorder or related symptoms are the joint product of a genetic vulnerability and specific environmental experiences or conditions.
o When such interactions were seen in the past they were view as rare and atypical.
o A focus of geneenvironment interactions is important in qualifying the perceived influence of genetic factors.
One notion is that an exclusive focus on genetic factors promotes the notion that illness and mental
illness are predetermined.
NEUROSCIENCE AND BIOCHEMISTRY IN THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
• Neuroscience is the study of the brain and nervous system.
• Each neuron has 4 parts: (1) the cell body; (2) several dendrites; (3) one or more axons of varying lengths; and (4)
terminal buttons on the many end branches of the axon
• When a neuron is properly stimulated at its cell body or through its dendrites, a nerve impulse, which is a change in the
electric potential of the cell, travels down the axon to the terminal endings. Between the terminal end of the sending
axon and the cell membrane of the receiving axon, there is a small gap known as the synapse.
• Neurotransmitters: are chemical substances that allow nerve impulses to cross the synapse. The receiving or
postsynaptic neuron contains proteins called receptor sites that are configured so that specific neurotransmitters can fit
• Several key neurotransmitters have been implicated in psychopathology: norepinephrine is involved in producing states
of high arousal and thus may be involved in anxiety disorders; serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitters of the
brain. Serotonin may be involved in depression and dopamine in schizophrenia.
• Contemporary research has focused to a large extent on the possibility that the receptors are at fault in some
psychopathologies. If the receptors on the postsynaptic neuron were too plentiful or too easily excited, the result would
be akin to having too much transmitter released: there would be more sites available with which neurotransmitters could
interact, increasing the chances that the postsynaptic neuron would be stimulated. Example: delusions and
hallucinations of schizophrenia may result from an overabundance of dopamine receptors.
FOCUS ON DISCOVERY 2.1: Structure and Function of the Human Brain
• The brain is enveloped within three layers of nonneural tissue membranes referred to as meninges. The brain is
divided into two symmetrical cerebral hemispheres. The cerebrum is the “thinking” centre of the brain. The major
connection between the two hemispheres is a band of nerve fibres called the corpus callosum.
• The cerebral cortex: the thin outer covering of each of the cerebral hemispheres; tightly packed neuron bodies that
make up the grey matter of the brain. The ridges on the cortex are called gyri, and the depressions between them are
sulci, or fissures.
o The frontal lobe: lies in front of the central sulcus; in the front of the brain; active in reasoning and other higher
mental processes, the regulation of fine voluntary movement
o Occipital lobe: in the back of the brain; responsible for reception and analysis of visual information and for
some visual memory
o Parietal lobe: situated behind the central sulcus and above the lateral sulcus; the receiving centre of the
sensations of the skin and of bodily position
o Temporal lobe: situated below the lateral sulcus and in front of the occipital lobe; contains primary auditory
projection and association areas and general association areas
• The left hemisphere of the brain generally controls the right half of the body, is responsible for speech. The right
hemisphere controls the left side of the body, discerns spatial relations and patterns, and is involved in emotion and
intuition. However not all responsibilities can be located exclusively on one side of the brain, both the left and right
hemispheres communicate via the corpus callosum.
FOCUS ON DISCOVERY 2.2: The Neuroscience of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
• ADHD clients experience delays in cortical maturation, as reflected by obtaining peak levels of cortical thickness at an
older age. This delay in maturation was most evident in the lateral prefrontal cortex, which is the region responsible for working memory and attention.
• The dopaminergic hypothesis is that ADHD is due to a dopamine deficit believed to be genetic in origin.
BIOLOGICAL APPROACHES TO TREATMENT
• Certainly, of a deficiency in a biochemical substance is found to underlie or contribute to some problem, it makes sense
to attempt to correct the imbalance by providing appropriate doses of the deficient chemical. A clear connection
between the cause of a disorder (biological defect) and its treatment (biological intervention) exists. The use of
psychoactive drugs has been increasing
o Tranquillizers (Valiums) reduce tension associated with anxiety disorder
o Antidepressants (Prozac) – reduce depressed episodes
o Antipsychotic (Clozaril) – used in treatment of schizophrenia
o Stimulants (Ritalin) – employed in treating children with ADHD
• In contrast to psychological interventions, drugs can act efficiently and often provide quick improvements
• Functional imaging: could ultimately prove useful to monitor treatment effects and facilitate choice of intervention.
Example – MRIs
• A clinical scientist can believe in a biological basis for a mental problem yet recommend psychological intervention.
Contemporary workers realize that nonbiological interventions can have beneficial effects. Example – Cognitive
behavioural therapy (CBT) with people who suffer form OCD
EVALUATING THE BIOLOGICAL PARADIGM
• Reductionism: refers to the view that whatever is being studied can and should be reduced to its most basic elements
or constituents. This is something you don’t want to have happen. In the case of mental disorders, this position
proposes reducing complex mental and emotional responses to simple biology. In its extreme form, reductionism
asserts that psychology, psychiatry, and psychopathology will ultimately be nothing more than biology.
• Nervous system dysfunction is not always due to biological causes. It can be a result of psychological or social factors.
• Note the psychological interventions can be as effective as drug treatment and produce changes in the functioning of
THE COGNITIVEBEHAVIOURAL PARADIGM
• Cognitive in their emphasis, but key principles from a behavioral or learning perspective have been incorporated into
THE BEHAVIOURAL PERSPECTIVE
• Psychologists operating primarily from a behavioural perspective view abnormal behaviour as a response learned in the
same ways other human behaviours are learned.
THE RISE OF BEHAVIOURISM
• John B. Watson: key figure in behaviourism. He, like many others used behaviourism as a response to introspection: a
procedure whereby trained subjects are asked to report on their conscious experiences.
• John B. Watson promoted a focus on behaviourism by extrapolating from the work of psychologists who were
investigating learning in animals. He helped change the focus of psychology from thinking to learning.
• Behaviourism: an approach that focuses on observable behaviour rather than on consciousness. There are three types
of learning classical, operant, and modelling
• Classical conditioning: discovered by Ivan Pavlov, is a basic form of learning, in which neutral stimulus (bell sound) is
repeatedly paired with uncontrolled stimulus (UCS meat) that naturally provokes a certain desired response
(unconditioned response UCR – salvation). After repeated trials with the UCS, the neutral stimulus becomes the
conditions stimulus (CS) and evokes the same or similar response, now called the controlled response (CR). As the number of paired presentations of the CS and UCS, the number of CR increases.
• Extinction: refers to what happens when the repeated use of the CS (bell sound) are later not followed by the UCS
(meat powder); fewer and fewer responses are elicited, and gradually the CR (salvation) disappears.
• Watson and Rayner: discovered that classical conditioning could instill pathological fear: introduced a white rat (NS) to
an 11 year old boy, who indicated no fear towards the animal (UCR). Whenever the boy reached for the rat the
experimenter would create a great sound (UCS) that would frighten the young boy. After 5 trials, the sight of the rat
(CS) caused fear (CR) in the young boy.
• Contemporary research in abnormal psychology has implicated classical conditioning in the development of anxiety
• Operant conditioning: introduced by B.F. Skinner, this is the elimination of acquisition of a response as a function of
environmental contingencies of reward and punishment.
• B.F. Skinner formulated the law of effect by shifting the focus from the linking of stimuli and responses to the
relationships between responses and their consequences or contingencies/possibilities
• Positive reinforcement: strengthening of a tendency to respond by virtue of the presentation of a pleasant event: you
want to clean your room because you’ll get your allowance.
• Negative reinforcement: also strengthens a response, but does so via the removal of an aversive (provoking dislike)
event, such as the cessation/end of electric shock. Example – taking prescribe drugs to remove the pain of a surgery
• We all learn by watching and imitating others, a process called vicarious learning or modelling. Experimental research
by Albert Bandura and others proved that the behaviour of children may change into the unexpected after witnessing
such unexpected behaviour from others.
o There are four key processes in this form of observational learning:
o Attention: noticing the model’s behaviour
o Retention: remembering the models behaviour
o Reproduction: personally exhibiting the behaviour
Motivation: repeating imitated behaviours if they received positive consequences
CANADICAN CONTRIBUTION 2.1: ALBERT BANDURA: THE WORLD’S GREATEST LIVING PSYCHOLOGIST?
• Bandura’s more recent work is a cognitive selfregulation theory known as social cognitive theory that focuses on the
concept of human agency and selfefficacy, an individual’s perceived sense of being capable.
• Behavioural therapy: a new way of treating psychopathology that emerged in the 1950s. This therapy applied
procedures based on classical and operant conditioning to alter clinical problems (behaviour modification)
o Attempts to change abnormal behaviour, thoughts and feelings by applying in a clinical content methods used
and discoveries made by experimental psychologists in their study of both normal and abnormal behaviour
o There are 3 theoretical approaches in behavioural therapy: modelling, counterconditioning and exposure, and
the application of operant conditioning
Counterconditioning and Exposure
• Counterconditioning: relearning achieved by eliciting a new response in the presence of a particular stimulus. A
response (R1) to a given stimulus (S) can be eliminated by eliciting a new response (R2). Example – treating a boy’s
fear of rabbits by feeding him in the presence of a rabbit
• The counterconditioning principle is behind an important behaviour therapy technique, systematic desensitization:
developed by Joseph Wolpe. A procedure that has a fearful person, while deeply relaxed, imagine a series of
progressively more fearsome situations. The two responses of relaxation and fear are incompatible and fear is repelled.
This is useful in treating psychological disorders which anxiety is the principal difficulty • Aversive conditioning: a stimulus attractive to the client is paired with an unpleasant event in hope of endowing it with
negative properties. Used to reduce smoking, drug use, socially inappropriate desires. Example, a problem drinker
bring asked to smell alcohol while being made nauseous by a drug.
Operant Conditioning as an Intervention
• Making positive reinforces contingent on behaviour is used to increase the frequency on desirable behaviour. Example,
a socially withdrawn child could be reinforced to playing with others
• Problems treated with this method: autism, mental retardation, bedwetting
• The same learning conditions and processes that created maladaptive behaviour can also be used to change
maladaptive behaviour (unlearning the behaviour)
• Successive approximation: response that closer and closer resemble the desire response
o Eg. The woman going from wearing 11kg of closing to 1.5kg by no longer obtaining the reinforcement (meals)
if she weighed to much
THE COGNITIVE PERSPECTIVE
• Cognitive: a term that groups together the mental processes of perceiving, recognizing, conceiving, judging and
• Cognitive paradigm: focuses on how people (and animals) structure there experiences, how they make sense of them
and how they relate their current experiences to past one that have been stored in memory
THE BASICS OF COGNITIVE THEORY
• Cognitive psychologists regard the learner as an active interpreter of a situation, with the learner’s past knowledge
imposing a perceptual funnel on the experience. The learner fits new information into an organized network of already
accumulated knowledge – schema
o Our schema acts as filters to our experiences of the world
BECK’S COGNITIVE THERAPY
• Aaron Beck: developed a cognitive therapy (CT) for depression based on the idea that depressed mood is caused by
distortions in the way people perceive life experiences
o A depressed person will focus exclusively on negative happenings and ignore positive one or interpret
positive experiences in a negative manner
o Beck’s therapy tries to persuade clients to change their opinions of themselves and the way in which they
interpret life events – altering their negative schema and dysfunctional beliefs and attitudes
o Beck dismissed the old psychoanalytical theory that depression is selfdirected hostility. He replaced it with a
model of negative cognitive bias – an automatic misprocessing of information
RATIONALEMOTIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY
• Albert Ellis: another leading cognitive therapist with a thesis that sustained emotional reactions are caused by internal
sentences that people repeat to themselves and these selfstatements reflect sometimes unspoken assumptions
(irrational beliefs) about what is necessary to lead a meaningful life
o In his REB therapy, the aim is to eliminate selfdefeating beliefs through a rational examination of them. Ex.
Anxious people make unrealistic demands of themselves like “I must get the love of everyone”
o He gets his clients to realize that their beliefs are so strict that they cant possible live comfortably
Clinical Implementation of REBT
• This was an example of a session with a young man who had inordinate fears about speaking in front of groups. The
therapist guides the client to view his inferiority complex in terms of the unreasonable things he may be telling himself.
• Ellis and his followers provide clients with homework assignments designed to help them experiment with the new self
talk and to experience the positive consequences of viewing life in less catastrophic ways
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOUR THERAPY
• Cognitive behaviour therapy: incorporates theory and research on cognitive and behaviour processes and represents a blend of cognitive and learning principles.
o It pays attention to private events – thoughts, perceptions, judgments, selfstatements, and tacit
(unconscious) assumptions – and have studied and manipulated these processes in their attempt to
understand and modify overt and convert disturbed behaviour
• Cognitive restructuring: term for changing a pattern of thought that is presumed to be causing a disturbed emotion or
o Implemented in several ways by CBT therapists
Meichenbaum’s CognitiveBehaviour Modification
• Donald Meichenbaum: leading CB therapist who was trained in the principle of behaviour modification. He has shifted in
a constructivist direction emphasizing the narrative organization of