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Psychopathology – Contextualising Abnormality

4. Behavioural Explanations and Treatments for Phobias

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In this fourth module, we think about behavioural explanations and treatments for phobias, focusing in particular on: (i) unpairing links to reduce phobic reactions; (ii) basic methods of unlearning links, such as simply telling someone that there isn’t one; (iii) systematic desensitisation as a method of working up to the ‘full’ phobia, to desensitise the recipient; (iv) mental flooding, whereby the recipient is ‘thrown in the deep end’ with their fear to demonstrate the irrationality of their phobia.


This course, by Dr Ayoub Bouguettaya (University of Birmingham), explores the concepts of abnormality, phobias, and psychopathy. In the first module, we define abnormality and discuss how social norms, adequate functioning, harm to others, and statistical prevalence play a role in understanding it as a concept. In the second module, we consider the characteristics of phobias and how we define them as abnormal. We then look at learning explanations for the acquisition of phobias, before moving on to think about behavioural explanations and treatments. In the fifth module, we discuss how psychopathy presents itself as an expression of abnormality across a breadth of social interactions, and how that can be reflected in language. The sixth and final module summarises the content from the course and reflects on how this can inform our understanding of these concepts going forward.


Dr Ayoub Bouguettaya is a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Birmingham. His research centres around social psychology and how knowledge from that field can be applied to others, particularly health. Dr Bouguettaya is interested in how we can apply social identity theory to societal problems, as well as investigating the different perspectives one might taken on those issues. His recent publications have spanned a breadth of topics including social identification, eating behaviours, conspiracy theories, and behavioural economics.

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APA style

Bouguettaya, A. (2022, February 16). Psychopathology – Contextualising Abnormality - Behavioural Explanations and Treatments for Phobias [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Bouguettaya, Ayoub. "Psychopathology – Contextualising Abnormality – Behavioural Explanations and Treatments for Phobias." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 16 Feb 2022,

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