The same applies to psychology. Any person who displays attributes that are outside the two standard deviation limits is psychologically abnormal. This definition is probably the simplest because it basically involves gathering data, computing means and standard deviations, and then using the standard deviations to classify anybody who contradicts their limits as abnormal (Rosenhan, 1973:254). Consider psychological trait like intelligence, which has a normal distribution whose average figure is 100. Individuals whose IQ scores are two standard deviations below 100 are, therefore, abnormal (intellectually disabled). Strengths and Weaknesses The benefit of this definition is that it is purely statistical and, as is often the case with numbers, it is easy to decipher patterns.
In fact, numbers often lead to a positive/negative inference. In addition, anybody can interpret numbers; one does not need professional qualifications to elucidate simple figures. The problem with this definition is that despite the existence of patterns, people can still interpret numbers differently (Comer, 2013:34). For example, an individual with superior intelligence might be considered normal despite falling beyond other averages like social behaviour. Finally, the progressive nature of research means that new data is regularly generated, meaning today’s averages might not be the same tomorrow.
This can create confusion when seeking a common benchmark for classifying abnormal psychology. Social Norm Deviation Every society has written and unwritten rules that define acceptable behaviour. In fact, most human behaviour is determined by norms – societal standards of right and wrong conduct. Some examples of norms include eating habits and dietary composition, eye contact, proper dressing, etiquette and courtesy, gender roles, etc (Davies, 2013:71). Any individual who regularly contradicts these informal laws is viewed as abnormal.
This definition is simple, compelling, and powerful. It is based on common sense, and norms are usually so firmly embedded that they appear absolute. Strengths and Weaknesses The benefit of this definition is that social norms are so powerful that they are virtually impossible to ignore. As a result, they can be relied on to develop conclusive classifications of individuals. The methodology is simple: any person who “betrays” the norm is abnormal. This definition has two major weaknesses. The first is that it is impossible for society to be perfect (Ray, 2014:17).
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