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Describe and Evaluate Two Definitions of Abnormality. in Your Answer You Must Refer to How Dr Padawl Might Explain Definitions of Abnormality to the Volunteers

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Dr Padawl wishes to explain to a group of hospital volunteers how psychologists try to make decisions about abnormality. Dr Padawl decides to start by explaining how abnormality is defined.

Describe and evaluate two definitions of abnormality. In your answer you must refer to how Dr Padawl might explain definitions of abnormality to the volunteers. (12)

Dr Padawl may start explaining that abnormality is defined as ‘deviation from a norm or a standard’, and that by labeling a person or behaviour as ‘abnormal’ implies something undesirable and requires change.

One definition of abnormality that Dr Padawl could use is social norms. He could ask the volunteers to come up with some examples of what they think social norms are. Then provide them with the correct definition that every society sets up rules for behaviours based on moral standards. They can be explicit (i.e. breaking the law), or implicit (unwritten rules i.e. table manners), and breaking these laws would be considered as abnormal as they are seen as rare in the population. After doing so, Dr Padawl could consolidate by asking the volunteers to label their examples whether they are explicit or implicit.

Dr Padawl may also wish to evaluate social norms as a definition of abnormality. One weakness is that cross-cultural misunderstandings are common, as a behaviour that is considered as normal in one society may be seen as abnormal in another, due to cultures and time. i.e. homosexuality was considered as a mental illness until 1973, but it is now acceptable amongst the society. Another weakness Dr Padawl could mention is its subjectivity, as biased judgement is often necessary i.e. the situation factors may be unknown to the observer. Furthermore, it is over inclusive as if all extremes of behaviour are considered as abnormal, then this will include behaviours which are seen as socially desirable as well as undesirable. i.e. everyone has broken a social norm, yet those norms are still not socially accepted.

Another definition Dr Padawl could use is statistical infrequency. He could start off by explaining how a person’s trait, thinking or behaviours is classified as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual. The normal distribution curve could be shown to the volunteers, showing how both extremes considered abnormal (2 standard deviations away from the mean) and the middle region as normal. Dr Padawl could also give examples such as IQs as the majority of people would fall between 85 to 115 points. If an individual score less or more IQ points than that range then they are deemed abnormal.

One weakness Dr Padawl could refer to its subjectivity i.e. questions used to test IQs doesn’t fully reflect ones ability, or who determines the 2% cut-off point in order to distinguish abnormality. Additionally, Dr Padawl could allude to some behaviours or characteristics are regarded as abnormal even though they are frequent. i.e. according to the NIMH 2001, depression affects 27% of elderly people. This would make it common, but is still considered as abnormal. This argues against how a statistically unusual trait is considered to be unusual i.e. 1% of the population suffer from schizophrenia.…...

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