Behavior Model of Abnormal Psychology

One of the most well-described models of abnormal psychology includes the Behavioral model. The behavioral model focuses on actions or how an organism reacts to its surroundings. Behaviors might be internal or external, like going to work or having a feeling or thought. Conversely, Behavioral theorists rely on learning principles to explain and treat behaviors as they alter in response to their surroundings.

Learning as the Main Component of the Behavior Model

Abnormal Behavior arises from a typical learning process but is maladaptive. In other words, abnormal Behavior is subject to the same learning principles as normal behavior and is acquired similarly. As a result, learning is the primary causal factor under the behavioral model. Learning requires memory since development cannot be cumulative without a means of retaining what has been learned. As a result, the Behavioral model's two main psychological pillars are learning and memory.

Theorists View of Behavioral Model

Behaviorist considers learning an important component of this model. Learning involves several forms of conditioning, and we will understand three types of conditioning in detail: classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and modeling.

Classical Conditioning

Learning happens through temporal association in classical conditioning. When two events occur in close succession frequently, they merge in a person's consciousness and are eventually perceived in the same way. If one occurrence results in feelings of delight, the other will do the same; similarly, if one event results in feelings of relief, the other will do the same. The Behavioral model can explain abnormal functioning, as can be seen by taking a closer look at this type of conditioning.

Ivan Pavlov explained classical conditioning through his famous experimentation on dogs. A dog does not necessarily need to learn all things, according to Pavlov (1902). Dogs, for instance, do not learn to salivate whenever they see food, and the dog is born with this reflex.

Then Pavlov added a step, sounding a bell before giving the dog meat powder. After several of these bell tones and the distribution of meat powder combinations, Pavlov observed that the dog started to salivate as soon as it heard the bell.

According to behaviorists, food is an unconditioned stimulus, and salivation is an unconditioned reaction. The sound of a bell is a conditioned stimulus. When the salivation response is produced by the conditioned stimulus rather than by the unconditioned stimulus, it is called a conditioned response (C.R.).

Phobia development has been attributed to classical conditioning. The dreaded item (such as a spider or rat) is connected to fear or worry from the past. After that, the conditioned stimulus triggers a strong fear response defined by avoiding the feared object and experiencing terror whenever it is seen.

Operant Conditioning

Operant conditioning, sometimes referred to as instrumental conditioning, is a type of learning given by B.F. Skinner, in which the likelihood that a response would be repeated depends on its effects.

In operant conditioning, people and animals are taught to act in a certain way in exchange for rewards—consequences of one kind or another—every time they do so. When a response is strengthened, reinforcement takes place. Reinforces depend on the circumstance. That means something that might reinforce in one situation might not be in another. We can understand it thoroughly from the example of how we used to complete our homework fast when we were rewarded for it, and be is being allowed to watch T.V. or getting a toffee for it.

There are two types of reinforcement. In the first type, a desirable Behavior is increased, known as Positive or negative reinforcement. The second type takes measures to lessen an undesirable Behavior, and positive or negative punishment is what this means.

Although it might be helpful in the short term, punishment does not, in fact, permanently or even long-term, cease the undesirable conduct. Instead, it prevents undesirable Behavior for an unforeseen period of time, and punishment does not instruct a person in appropriate Behavior.


Modeling is a type of conditioning in which an individual learns a particular behavior by observing someone and then repeating the same behavior. It often includes a role model that an individual looks up to. You can take an example of how we tend to follow our role models and their behaviors and try to imitate them accordingly.

Behavioral Therapies

Behaviorists have developed certain behavioral therapies to help individuals deal with abnormal or maladaptive behaviors. Let us look briefly at some of the most used behavioral therapies.

  • Systematic Desensitization − It is a technique that is frequently used in phobia cases—a particular and irrational fear. Through this step-by-step process, clients learn to respond to the things or situations they dread calmly rather than with intense terror. First, throughout several sessions, students are taught how to relax. They then create a list of feared things or circumstances, ranking them from least to most dreaded, known as a fear hierarchy.
  • Aversion Therapy − To minimize undesirable Behavior over time, this approach entails associating it with unpleasant stimuli. For instance, a person with an alcohol use disorder can take some medication, which, when coupled with alcohol, can have severe side effects (such as headaches, nausea, anxiety, and vomiting).
  • Behavior Modeling − This technique includes learning through learning and modeling someone else's behavior.
  • Extinction − Stopping Behavior reinforcement to cease the response is another strategy for bringing about Behavior change, known as extinction. The extinction process is perfectly shown through time-outs.


The behavioral model of abnormal psychology is the most widely used model for dealing with abnormal behavior. However, Behavioral therapy frequently needs to be used with other medical treatments for specific psychiatric diseases, including severe depression and schizophrenia. Although Behavioral therapy can assist patients with some aspects of many psychiatric illnesses, it should not be utilized as a stand-alone treatment.