Outline and Evaluate the Behavioural Approach to Psychopathology
The behaviourist approach assumes that all behaviours are learnt. It suggests that there are three ways in which this learning can happen, these are classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning.
The first method is classical conditioning this is when behaviour is learnt through association; via a stimulus and a response. This is an explanation for phobias, an abnormal behaviour can be learned by associating an environmental stimulus; a dog, with a biological response; fear and pain when bitten by the dog. Therefore, every time a person previously bitten by a dog sees a dog, they experience the same fear they felt when being bitten. Thus, the person would develop a phobia of dogs. Another example is, the fear of small spaces, this may develop if fear is felt in a situation involving a small space – an elevator for ...view middle of the document...
If this were to be continued to an extreme, it may result in anorexia.
Lastly, social learning. This is the combination of both and involved individuals observing their role models behaving in particular ways and imitating their behaviours. This can apply to phobias and disorders. So, is a child is reared by parents with the fear of spiders, the child will learn this by copying their behaviour, thus becoming afraid of spiders also. In terms of disorders, if an individual was to idolise a model who was skinny and followed new diets, they may choose to follow the same diet. However, this only becomes a disorder when the diet follows into anorexia or bulimia.
The behaviourist approach focuses on the present behaviour of an individual and not take into account on the past events, this is a strength as memory can sometimes not be reliable and the most fundamental aspect is the patient’s condition and finding a cure to prevent it rather than focusing on the cause. For example, in the case of phobias, this approach attempts to unlearn it rather than find the cause. However, this may only temporarily cure the phobia as the cause is unidentified due to this approach.
Another strength is that there are practical applications. The model suggests that abnormal behaviours are learnt, thus the best way to treat it to unlearn faulty learning. This suggests that this model can improve the quality of people’s lives, for example desensitisation can be used to treat those with phobias.
A weakness is that this approach doesn’t establish the cause of abnormal behaviour. Critics say that just because abnormal behaviour can be changed by therapy, it does not mean that it was learnt. For example therapy can lead an anorexic person to put on weight, this does not mean they are cured, because they will never reach the optimum of their health due to the underlying cause of anorexia still being there. This weakness suggests that this model is not always scientific.
Another weakness is that this approach is reductionist because it overstates learnt factors in abnormality and ignored other factors like genetics. This suggests that this model is too simplistic.