- Where Psychology Becomes Easy

Psychology Unit 2

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Dopamine hypothesis

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  • Clinical Psychology
– The branch of applied psychology, that deals with the understanding and treating mental disorders.
  • Statistical definition of abnormality
– This is when behaviour that occurs rarely occurs, and is seen as abnormal because it happens ever so often.
  • Social norms definition of abnormality
– These are accepted standards of behaviour, what the society deems as “normal”. E.g. someone who talked to themselves would be seen to have an abnormality because society does not accept that.
  • Schizophrenia
– A psychotic disorder which involves a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

  • Reliability
– The extent to which a test or other instrument is consistent in its measures.
  • Primary Data
– This is data which has been collected for the experimental purposes and by the experimenter themselves.
  • Secondary Data
– This is data which has been collected by somebody else, for another experiment, but available through many ways to use.


Primary Data

Information collected at first hand by the researchers. The material from an interview or questionnaire you conduct yourself is primary data.



  • Primary data can be qualitative and quantitative allowing researchers to analyse results in various ways
  • Primary data is reliable because the researcher can replicate the procedure to check results as they know the procedure and how data was collected.
  • Since primary data is taken directly from the population, it is one of the best types of data for research methods like the survey.
  • Researchers may be subjective in the types of data they look for, in particular data that ‘fits’ the hypotheses they are trying to test.
  • The data has to be gathered from scratch, which involves finding a large enough population (to make the sample generalisable). This makes it more costly and time consuming than collecting secondary data.
Secondary Data

Secondary Data is data that has already been collected by someone else. 



  • It is cost and time effective as researchers don’t need to experience the costs of data collection for themselves
  • Less likely to be ethical issues such as informed consent, as the data is not collected from people directly and information is already in the publicly shared resources.


  • Reliability/validity of the data are unknown so the analysis may be flawed because of some original errors.
  • There may be problems with the use of and interpretation of data as the data were initially collected to ask a different question.
Twin Studies

When an identical twin is diagnosed with schizophrenia, then the other twin is studied to measure the concordance rate with which both of the twins get schizophrenia. This is compared with the incidence of both of a pair of non-identical twins getting schizophrenia. This is because while twins reared together will share the same environment only identical twins share the same genes. Twins are genetically tested to ensure they are identical. Researchers will use hospital records to identify the first individual of the pair to be diagnosed.



  • Twin Studies generate a large volume of data. This makes the findings more reliable.
  • Twin Studies suggest that genetic components may be involved in a wide range of psychological phenomena.


  • The usefulness of the data from twin studies depend on the instruments used to gather the data (some variables are harder to measure than others).
  • Separated twins may have been separated at different times, so it will be difficult to know whether the similarities between them are a result of genes or the environment.




  • An interview is a more in-depth way of gathering information compared to a questionnaire.
  • The Experimenter and participant are usually together during the interview.
  • The interview allows you and the participant to spend time together and can help to gather data that you can then condense down into small chunks.
  • Interviews a usually manually written down, however they may also be recorded, so that in the future they could be used to produce a transcript.
  • Can be very costly in the sense that to get many people to come and be truthful, they may demand something in return.
  • Types of interviews:

Structured - The Structured Interview is a data-gathering methodology that involves a standard set of questions asked in the same manner and order.



Detailed information can be obtained, also avoids oversimplifying the complex issues.

The participants point of view is taken into account more, because that is the main thing which the experimenter is looking for.

Unstructured interviews may encourage some people to be more relaxed when answering, and also more truthful, as the situation is not as scary as first seemed.


Hard to analyse if the data is mainly qualitative, as drawing up conclusions with other data would not be easy without figures.

The time-consuming factor is key, because this is what puts many people off taking part in an interview, and also, after time they will start to say anything, just to make it go faster.

Fairly expensive (Gathering participants in one place to do the interviews).

Demand characteristics, which is when the participant may give answers which they think the experimenter wants to see.



Schizophrenia (click for doc)

Mental Disorders (DSM)(click for doc)

Cultural Issues and the diagnosis of mental disorders

The DSM was developed in the USA and is widely used in many other cultures. This is valid if mental disorders are clearly defined with specific symptoms and features. However, there are three issues that affect the validity of diagnosis across cultures:

  • Interpretation of symptoms: if a clinician is from a different cultural background to their patient some behaviour may be interpreted as abnormal when they are not considered so in the other culture.
  • Some disorders only appear in certain cultures: Kaijun Kyfusho – a type of social anxiety it’s seen as an intense fear that his/her body parts are offensive to people.
  • Culture can also affect how much information a patient is likely to disclose- this can affect diagnosis as not all symptoms may have been mentioned.

Researchers and governments collect statistics. These statistics can be used to define the ‘norm’ for any group of people. A ‘norm’ is something that is usual or typical. When behaviour is rare (statistically infrequent) it is regarded as abnormal. Characteristics within the population can then be presented on a normal distribution curve. 

  • A problem with the definition is that it fails to take account desirable behaviour. The term ‘abnormal’ is usually used in a negative sense. However, there is behaviour that is statistically rare but desirable and healthy. E.g.: singing.
  • This definition relies on people being diagnosed with mental illness but people may not seek help in some cultures.
  • Some behaviour would be classed as within the normal range because so many people have them, such as anxiety. However this is seen as abnormal in a clinical sense.
  • A positive aspect of the definition is that it is useful for some abnormal behaviour. The definition has helped form the basis for diagnosing severe learning disability. People with an IQ of 70 or below need support in their daily lives, therefore the diagnosis is essential. 

Social norms

Every society sets standards according to which it expects its members to behave.

These standards are called social norms. There are:

  • Explicit rules - clearly written e.g. the law
  • Implicit rules - being suggested but not actually expressed in a formal manner for appropriate conduct.

Anyone who goes against these rules of is seen as abnormal. The behaviour cannot be considered abnormal as long as society accepts it.

This definition is not always useful because breaking social norms can be worthwhile.  Societies can use this definition to gain social control; anybody who does not agree with the government can be diagnosed as abnormal.

Another problem is that norms change over time and that if one type of behaviour is deemed to be normal in one culture, it may be abnormal in another culture.


It enables individuals in need to acquire help. The appropriate help can be found for the individual who displays such behaviour. This may be vital, as some people with a mental disorder are unable to motivate themselves to seek assistance.

Social Approach: Social Causation (Schizophrenia)


  •  This suggests that those from lower social classes are more at risk of developing schizophrenia.
  • Being in a lower social class increases the stress factors for a person. Factors in the environment that might affect the development of schizophrenia seem to be high levels of unemployment, poverty and social isolation.
  • This increased level of stress can trigger the disorder. So families of low social class will, according to this, have a higher incidence of schizophrenics.


  • Evidence: Research by Dohrenwend et al 1992 showed the incidence of schizophrenia in lower classes is significantly greater than in higher classes

  • Application: High, this explanation is that it highlights particular social groups who are most vulnerable in developing schizophrenia. This allows clinicians to understand environmental factors which can trigger the disorder and as a result treatment can be focused on members who come from this part of the community.

  • Nature/Nurture: Low, this explanation focuses on the environmental causes of schizophrenia. It may be better to consider a more rounded. The biological explanations need to be taken into consideration as well.

  • Scientific: Low, this explanation is that the evidence is correlational.  Therefore the explanation can’t be directly observed and measured objectively.

Biological Approach: The Dopamine Hypothesis (Schizophrenia)


  • Schizophrenics have an abnormal number of dopamine receptors on the synapse which lead to the symptoms of the disorder.
  • Excess take up of dopamine in the brain causes schizophrenia and an increase of activity at dopamine synapses.
  • This is associated with increased feelings of paranoia and explains why hallucinations may occur as the brain is too active.
  • The mesolimbic pathway - is responsible for positive symptoms.
  • The mesocortical pathway - is responsible for the negative.


  • Evidence: High, the dopamine hypothesis comes from the evidence that if schizophrenic patients are given amphetamines, more dopamine is released than if the drugs are given to ‘normal’ participants. This supports the idea that schizophrenics are more sensitive to excess dopamine than other people.

  • Application: High, the theory can be applied to real life as phenothiazines(drugs) alleviate the symptoms of schizophrenia and work by blocking dopamine receptors. This shows that the explanation is a useful one to help patients.

  • Reductionist: Low, this is a simplistic theory as research shows there is still unexplained areas. Research has shown that different types of dopamine receptors in different brain areas give different results when the brains of schizophrenic patients are examined.

  • Individual Differences: Low, the explanation can’t explain why some people are not helped by the antipsychotic drugs. This is shown in PET scan studies where patients who had suffered from schizophrenia for 10 years were still experiencing symptoms even when the dopamine receptors were blocked.

  • Scientific: High, the theory is that it is clearly a scientific theory and continues to generate research using objective methods such as PET scans and animal research.


Phobias are classified as anxiety disorders and are the most common of all anxiety disorders.

Three categories of phobia:

  • Agoraphobia: A ‘fear of open spaces,’ people with agoraphobia have an intense fear of being away from home. Most common in women the onset of agoraphobia is generally early adulthood.
  • Social Phobias: a strong fear of social situations and having to interact with others, this can include speaking in public. The age of onset is 15 years with the greatest number of social phobias in people aged 18-29 years.
  • Specific Phobias: related to a fear of a specific object or situation. Onset is in childhood, average age 7-9 years.

Learning Explanation for Phobias

Studies in detail

Describe and evaluate Rosenhan (1973) On being sane in insane places and two other studies. One other study must focus on schizophrenia and one other study must focus on one other chosen disorder.

Study focusing on Schizophrenia

Gottesman and Shields

Study focusing on Unipolar (chosen disorder)