The Psychology of Abnormal Behavior: Understanding the Criteria & Causes of Abnormal Behavior

First of all, behavior that goes against what is considered normal by society is abnormal; there are four general criteria that psychologists use to identify abnormal behavior. In general, psychologists look at four different criteria for defining abnormal behavior. Each has its strengths, and each has its problems. The first criterion is violation of social norms. Behavior that goes against what is considered normal by society is abnormal.

As we just saw, culture plays a role in social norms, as does age. For example when a guy dance in front of the shopping mall out of sudden is likely to be seen as weird, whereas a four years old boy who does it might just be seen as cute.Violating social norms can be very interesting for the person who is doing it but sometimes people around us can get angry or irritated with our behavior. For example violating personal space, studying in elevator, wear clothes upside down, wearing short skirt and heavy make up during gym classes.

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Another criterion for identifying abnormal behavior is statistical rarity. A person who has an extremely low IQ, for example, might be classified with some type of mental retardation. Because there is only a small percentage of the population with mental retardation, it is consider rare and therefore abnormal.

Of course, the problem with statistical rarity is that people who are exceptionally intelligent are just as rare as those with mental retardation. So according to this criterion, Albert Einstein would be abnormal. For an example one may say that an individual of above or below average IQ is abnormal. This example, however fails to recognize the desirability of the particular incidence. It also implies that the presence of abnormal behavior in people should be rare or unusual but any specific abnormal behavior is not unusual for people to exhibit some form of prolonged abnormal behavior at some point in their lives.

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