Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Normal vs. Abnormal Psychology

Normal vs. Abnormal Psychology
            Psychology is defined as the scientific investigation of mental processes and behavior (Kowalski & Westen, 2011). In psychology normal and abnormal psychology share a common similarity but also differ. In comparison normal and abnormal psychology are similar because both share an involvement with mental processes and behaviors, regardless if determined normal or abnormal. Normal psychology refers to the study of normal behaviors or behaviors within a normal range that do not affect mental processing. Normal psychology sets a normal range whereas behaviors can occur without behaviors considered to be abnormal and examines the general psychological and behavioral responses of individuals. Individuals classified as normal do not display signs of psychological disorders or adverse behaviors.  
In contrast, abnormal psychology is a field of psychology that studies abnormal mental processes and behaviors or psychopathology. These behaviors normally interfere with an individual’s functioning and are of interference to other individuals. Individuals classified as abnormal display signs of psychological disorders or adverse behaviors. Abnormal psychology uses different perspectives to explain abnormalities, such as behavioral, medical, and cognitive perspectives. The focus of the behavioral perspective is observable behaviors. Cherry (2012), “in behavioral therapy, the focus is on reinforcing positive behaviors and not reinforcing maladaptive behaviors” (p. 1). The focus of the cognitive perspective is how perceptions, reasoning, and internal thoughts contribute to the occurrence of psychological disorders (Cherry, 2012).  
Cherry (2012), “cognitive treatments typically focus on helping the individual change his or her thoughts or reactions” (p. 1). Cognitive behavioral therapy refers to using cognitive therapy in conjunction with behavioral methods (Cherry, 2012). The focus of the medical perspective is biological causes of mental illness (Cherry, 2012). Cherry (2012), “this perspective emphasizes understanding the underlying cause of disorders, which might include genetic inheritance, related physical disorders, infections and chemical imbalances” (p. 1).
To understand the difference between normal and abnormal psychology, one must put aside the bias of cultural norms to understand normal and abnormal occurrences of mental processes and behaviors. To understand this one can determine when abnormal behavior signifies a mental disorder.


Cherry, K. (2012). About.com: Psychology. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/abnormalpsychology/f/abnormal-psychology.htm

Kowalski, R., & Westen, D. (2011). Psychology (6th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

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