1 Approaches to the definition of ‘abnormality’
You may have noticed that we often discuss people with the assumption that there is a ‘normal’ pattern of behaviour, which some people do not conform to, while the rest do. This idea of ‘normality’ is implicitly subscribed to in many areas of psychology. We theorise about ‘normal development’, ‘normal memory functioning’, ‘typical perceptual experiences’, ‘gender appropriate behaviour’, and refer more explicitly to examples of unusual psychological functioning as being of interest, because of what they can tell us about ‘normal’ functioning.
The concept of psychological ‘normality’ is not simple. This course addresses the issues surrounding the idea of ‘normal’ psychological development, and shows that how we define ‘normality’ will influence the way we think about and deal with ‘abnormal’ psychological functioning. To illustrate how ‘abnormality’ is defined in practice, and what issues are important when considering its causes and treatment, we will refer to the specific example of developmental dyslexia. However, these issues will also apply to many other types of ‘abnormal’ functioning.
We need to consider multiple perspectives in psychology, as our understanding of a topic is enhanced by the comparison of research findings from different perspectives. This course shows how research from cognitive, biological and neuropsychological perspectives can be combined to offer a more complete account of conditions like dyslexia. The course therefore presents dyslexia as a ‘case study’ in how different perspectives might be complementary to each other.