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Definitions of Abnormality. www.psychlotron.org.uk. Defining a person or behaviour as ‘abnormal’ implies something undesirable and requiring change Therefore, we must be careful how we use the term Psychologists need methods for distinguishing ‘normal’ from ‘abnormal’.

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definitions of abnormality
Definitions of Abnormality

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Defining a person or behaviour as ‘abnormal’ implies something undesirable and requiring change
  • Therefore, we must be careful how we use the term
  • Psychologists need methods for distinguishing ‘normal’ from ‘abnormal’
definitions of abnormality1
Definitions of Abnormality

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Our definition of abnormality must be objective:
    • It must not depend on anyone’s opinion or point of view
    • It should produce the same results whoever applies it
  • It must not be under- or over-inclusive
    • It must not label as ‘abnormal’ or ‘normal’ behaviours or traits that aren’t
definitions of abnormality2
Definitions of Abnormality

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Four definitions can be asked for in the examination:
    • Statistical infrequency
    • Deviation from social norms
    • Failure to function adequately
    • Deviation from ideal mental health
statistical infrequency
Statistical Infrequency

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Under this definition, a person’s trait, thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it is rare or statistically unusual.
  • With this definition it is necessary to be clear about how rare a trait or behaviour needs to be before we class it as abnormal
statistical infrequency1

Average IQ in the population is 100pts.

The further from 100 you look, the fewer people you find

Statistical Infrequency

www.psychlotron.org.uk

frequency

70 100 130

IQ Scores

statistical infrequency2

A very small subset of the population (<2.2%) have an IQ below 70pts. Such people are statistically rare. We regard them as having abnormally low IQs

Statistical Infrequency

www.psychlotron.org.uk

frequency

70 100 130

IQ Scores

deviation from social norms
Deviation from Social Norms

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Under this definition, a person’s thinking or behaviour is classified as abnormal if it violates the (unwritten) rules about what is expected or acceptable behaviour in a particular social group.
  • Their behaviour may:
    • Be incomprehensible to others
    • Make others feel threatened or uncomfortable
deviation from social norms1
Deviation from Social Norms

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • With this definition, it is necessary to consider:
    • The degree to which a norm is violated, the importance of that norm and the value attached by the social group to different sorts of violation.
    • E.g. is the violation rude, eccentric, abnormal or criminal?
failure to function adequately
Failure to Function Adequately

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Under this definition, a person is considered abnormal if they are unable to cope with the demands of everyday life.
  • They may be unable to perform the behaviours necessary for day-to-day living e.g. self-care, hold down a job, interact meaningfully with others, make themselves understood etc.
failure to function adequately1
Failure to Function Adequately

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Rosenhan & Seligman (1989) suggest the following characteristics:
    • Suffering
    • Maladaptiveness (danger to self)
    • Vividness & unconventionality (stands out)
    • Unpredictability & loss of control
    • Irrationality/incomprehensibility
    • Causes observer discomfort
    • Violates moral/social standards
deviation from ideal mental health
Deviation from Ideal Mental health

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Under this definition, rather than defining what is abnormal, we define what is normal/ideal and anything that deviates from this is regarded as abnormal
  • This requires us to decide on the characteristics we consider necessary to mental health
deviation from ideal mental health1
Deviation from Ideal Mental Health

www.psychlotron.org.uk

  • Psychologists vary, but usual characteristics include:
    • Positive view of the self
    • Capability for growth and development
    • Autonomy and independence
    • Accurate perception of reality
    • Positive friendships and relationships
    • Environmental mastery – able to meet the varying demands of day-to-day situations