1 The main assumptions of the behaviourist approach to abnormality is that all behaviour,
normal or abnormal is learnt from the environment.
2 Classical Conditioning
2.1 Learning by association. An abnormal
behaviour can be learnt by associating a
dog with the pain of being bitten. So
when they next see a dog they
experience the same fear from the first
time they were bitten.
2.1.1 Little Albert - Watson (1920). Albert did not have a fear of mice but developed a
phobia of white fluffy objects because when presented with a mouse Watson made
a loud noise behind his head (unconditioned stimulus). This forced him to
associate the mouse with the noise and so the phobia developed.
3 Operant Conditioning
3.1 Learning through reward and punishment. For example someone who
exhibits aggressive behaviour may learn that they get what they want. So
they are more likely to exhibit this kind of behaviour again.
4 Social Learning
4.1 Abnormality is learned from
observing and imitating those
who serve as models of
4.1.1 For example a child may learn to starve
herself because she saw her mother do it and
get praised for losing weight
4.1.2 Mineka et al (1984) showed how a phobia developed though
observation alone. Young monkeys raised by parents with fears of
snakes did not develop the disorder - this shows that is not
inherited. However if these monkeys had the oppurtunity to
observe their parents showing fearful reactions to snakes they did
acquire an intense and persistent fear.
4.1.3 Bandura (1961) conducted an experiment and children and bobo dolls. When the
children had watched a clip of adults behaving aggressively towards the doll, they
were much more likely to do the same, especially if they had seen the action being
5 The behaviourist approach is very reductionist as it limits behaviour to
6 This theory is reductionist because it limits abnormality to simple reward and punishment.
While many phobias can be explained in this way, some disorders such as schizophrenia
seem to have biological causes.
7 Much of the research that the behavioural approach was based on is animal resarch, this is limited because it
is unclear how generalisable this research is to humans.
8 The behaviouralist approach is heavily deterministic, seeing behaviour purely as a product of stimuli, rewards and punishments. There is
no room for conscious choice. It suggests that nobody is responsible for their actions because they have no control over them