Definitions of Abnormality Study Notes and Interactive Quiz -Psychopathology

Definitions of Abnormality 


Definition 1  

Statistical infrequency = Implies that a disorder is abnormal if its frequency is more than two standard deviations away from the mean incidence rates represented on a normally distributed bell curve. 


Evaluation of Statistical Infrequency Definition  ( A03)  

Objective=The mathematical nature of this definition means that it is clear what is defined as abnormal and what is not. 

Limited Explanatory Power= Statistical infrequency assumes that any abnormal characteristics are automatically negative, which is not always the case. For instance, abnormal levels of empathy (qualifying as a Highly Sensitive Person) or having an IQ score above 130 (being a genius) would not necessarily be negative. 


Definition 2 

The failure to function definition =The failure to function adequately of abnormality was proposed by Rosenhan and Seligman (1989) and suggests that if a person’s current mental state is preventing them from leading a ‘normal’ life, they may be considered as abnormal. 


Evaluation of Failure to function definition (A03) 

Empirical/Observable= If someone is not doing well, it's noticeable to people around them. For example, if they struggle to get out of bed or keep a job, others can see that. If the person can't make decisions or take care of themselves, others might need to step in to help. 

— Cultural Relativism= Being able to handle daily life depends on what people consider normal. This can be different from one culture to another. For instance, some people naturally stay up late and don't wake up until noon, but they work well during other hours. In some cultures, taking afternoon naps or moving homes frequently might be normal, while in others, it could be seen as unusual. This makes it tricky to have a clear definition. 


Definition 3 

The Deviation from ideal mental health definition = This is an explanation of abnormality, suggesting that there are different theoretical ideas about what is considered 'normal.' If someone doesn't align with these theoretical norms, their behaviour is considered abnormal. 

One example of a theoretical description of abnormality comes from Marie Jahoda in 1958. She proposed six criteria for ideal mental health or 'normality.' These criteria are as follows: 


Positive Attitude towards the Self
Connected to a person's self-esteem. Ideal mental health requires a good level of positive attitude, ensuring the individual feels content with themselves. 



Being in a state of contentment, feeling that one has reached their fullest potential. 



Independence and self-reliance, the ability to function as an individual without depending on others. 


Resistance to Stress 

The individual should not feel overwhelmed by stress and should be capable of handling stressful situations competently. 


Environmental Mastery 

Adaptability to new situations and ease in handling various life circumstances. 


Accurate Perception of Reality 

Focuses on how the individual sees the world. Ideal mental health requires a perspective similar to how others perceive the world, addressing distortions of thinking that some individuals, like those with schizophrenia, may experience. 

Jahoda emphasised that for ideal mental health, an individual should meet all these criteria. If some are not fulfilled, difficulties may arise for the person. 


Evaluation of the Deviation from Ideal Mental Health definition (A03) 


+Idiographic Approach= From an idiographic perspective, a notable advantage lies in the capacity of this definition to facilitate personalised intervention for an individual encountering challenges in aligning with societal norms. Consider a scenario where targeted measures can be implemented to address distorted thinking, thereby aiding the individual in transitioning their behaviour towards a more normalised state. This approach acknowledges the interconnected nature of cognition and behaviour, recognising that rectifying biased thinking can contribute to the normalisation of corresponding behaviour. 


— Ethnocentrism=The idea of autonomy, or independence, may make collectivist cultures – where people focus on the greater good and working together – seem different. In many Western cultures, which are more individualistic, Jahoda's criteria make sense. But for non-Western cultures, these criteria might not make as much sense. This means the definition isn't suitable for everyone around the world. 


Definition 4 

The Deviation from social norms definition= This is one way to describe abnormal behavior. Basically, abnormality is when someone's actions don't match what is considered okay in a particular society. For instance, in the UK, it's normal to stand in line at a store and wait for your turn. If someone skips the line and goes straight to the cashier, people would see it as abnormal based on this definition. 


Evaluation of the The Deviation from Social Norms definition (A03) 

+Real World Practical Applications= Abiding by social norms implies that society is structured and predictable. This is considered to be advantageous. 

For instance, when individuals follow traffic regulations, it enhances road safety as everyone knows what to expect. This notion of order and predictability is viewed as beneficial for the overall well-being of society. 


—Cultural Differences= The diversity across cultures can pose a weakness for this definition, as it's not always evident what is considered abnormal or normal in different societies. Deciding what is abnormal often requires immersing oneself in the culture for a period to make an informed judgment. 



Now, try the quiz below after reading the summary information to see how much you can recall. 


Definitions of Abnormality Quiz

Definitions of Abnormality Quiz

Question 1: What does the Statistical infrequency definition of abnormality imply?

Question 2: What is a limitation of the Statistical infrequency definition?

Question 3: According to the Failure to function definition, when might a person be considered abnormal?

Question 4: What is an advantage of the Failure to function definition?

Question 5: According to the Deviation from ideal mental health definition, what is one of the criteria proposed by Marie Jahoda?

Question 6: What is a strength of the Deviation from ideal mental health definition from an idiographic perspective?

Question 7: According to the Deviation from social norms definition, what is considered abnormal behaviour?

Question 8: What is an advantage of the Deviation from social norms definition in terms of practical applications?

Question 9: What is a limitation of the Deviation from social norms definition related to cultural differences?

Question 10: According to the information provided, which definition of abnormality focuses on observable behaviours and emphasises societal structure and predictability?

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