Behavioural approach to normal and abnormal psychology - Essay Example

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The behavioural approach to psychology focuses on observable behaviour rather than unobservable,mental phenomena such as feelings and thoughts.It assumes that both normal and abnormal psychology can be explained in terms of environmental factors and is therefore on the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate…
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Behavioural approach to normal and abnormal psychology
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Download file to see previous pages The behavioural approach to psychology focuses on observable behaviour rather than unobservable,mental phenomena such as feelings and thoughts.It assumes that both normal and abnormal psychology can be explained in terms of environmental factors and is therefore on the nurture side of the nature-nurture debate Specifically, the behavioural approach assumes that all behaviour is learned or conditioned, and can be explained in terms of principles of reinforcement. " The gap between normal and abnormal behaviour is reduced, since both are viewed within the same general framework" (Davison & Neale, 1990), and conceptions of normality and abnormality are relative to the social or cultural contexts in which they are considered.Classical conditioning (Pavlov, 1927) refers to a type of learning in which a stimulus that wouldn't normally elicit a particular response eventually comes to do so by being repeatedly paired with a stimulus that would normally elicit the response. For example, if the sound of a bell is repeatedly paired with the presentation of food, the sound of the bell alone will eventually elicit the response of salivation. Food is an unconditioned stimulus that elicits the unconditioned response of salivation; by being repeatedly paired with food, the sound of the bell becomes a conditioned stimulus that elicits the conditoned response of salivation.Whereas classical or respondent conditioning is essentially passive, Skinner (1938) viewed the learner as much more active when he proposed his theory of operant or instrumental conditioning....
esentation of a pleasurable stimulus (eg, food), negative reinforcement refers to the removal of an aversive stimulus (eg, electric shock), and punishment refers to the presentation of an aversive stimulus. Both positive and negative reinforcement strengthen behaviour, increasing the likelihood that it will be repeated, while punishment weakens behaviour, decreasing its likelihood.
The assumptions of the behavioural approach to normal and abnormal psychology carry some very important implications: If all behaviour is learned by the principles of classical and operant conditioning, then (i) behaviour can be manipulated and predicted, and (ii) maladaptive behaviour can be extinguished and replaced with more adaptive responses. Accordingly, classical and operant conditioning form the basis of a number of therapeutic approaches that attempt to modify abnormal behaviour, cognition, and affect. Approaches based on classical conditioning principles include implosion and flooding, systematic desensitisation, aversion therapy, and covert sensitisation. Therapeutic approaches based on operant conditioning principles include extinction-based and reinforcement-based therapies. Each of these will be considered in turn.
Implosion and flooding have both been used extensively with phobic patients. Implosion requires the patient to vividly imagine their most frightening form of exposure to the phobic object or situation, while flooding exposes the patient to this in vivo (ie, in reality). Both implosion and flooding are intented to maintain anxiety at such a level that it must eventually subside; at the same time, the patient is prevented from making an escape or avoidance response. In this way, the maladaptive bahaviour is extinguished.
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