Biological approach evaluation


Biological approach evaluation


  • Scientific approach - behaviour can be explained in terms of he brain, neurotransmitters, localisation of brain function. Biological explanations have clear variables that can be measured, tracked and examined. Enables psychologists to conduct scientific research studying these variables. Research on drug therapy has investigated the links between psychoactive drugs and the production of certain neurotransmitters such as dopamine linked to behaviour.
  • Raine et al. made use of PET scans to compared 14 areas of the brain in murderers pleading NGRI compared with non-murderers. Examples show this approach fulfils scientific aims to conduct objective, well-controlled studies and ideally to demonstrate causal relationships. Supports biological explanations.
  • Deterministic - if we know what predetermines our behaviour, we are more likely to be able to treat people with abnormal behaviour. Psychologists seek to understand the functioning of neurotransmitters on normal and abnormal behaviour. Dopamine has been linked with schizophrenia. Drug amphetamine is known to increase levels of dopamine and the large doses of the drug can cause some of the symptoms associated with schizophrenia e.g. hallucinations.
  • Second evidence comes from the drugs that treat schizophrenia, antipsychotics which reduce some of the symptoms and are known to reduce dopamine levels. This suggests that high levels of dopamine are causing the symptoms.
  • The strength of causal understandings is that they enable us to control our world. If we understand that prolonged stress causes physical illness then we can reduce the negative effects by treating stress in the short term. If mental illness is caused by biological factors, then we can treat mental illness using biological methods. Provides explanations about the causes of behaviour so that we can use such understanding to improve lives.
  • Succesful applications - the biological approach has led to many succesful applications. Research into the relationship between abnormal levels of neurotransmitters and criminal behaviour has implications for offering pharmacological treatments to criminals, leading to lowered recidivism rates and safer societies. Cherek et al. 2002 showed that males with conduct disorders and criminal behaviour had reduced levels of aggression and impulsivity after a 21 day course of SSRI antidepressant compared to a control group taking placebos.
  • The approach has led to many forms of treatment for mental disorders such as drug therapy and psychosurgery. Drug therapy produces rather mixed results because drugs affect people differently. However, it is a particularly popular form of treatment because it is easy and enables many to live with mental disorders to live relatively normal lives outside mental hospitals. Bipolar disorder (manic depression) has been succesfuly treated with drugs - Viguera et al. 2002 report that more than 60% of bipolar patients improve when taking the drug lithium.


  • Reductionist approach - Biological explanations reduce complex behaviours. Reducing the experience of stress to the action of the hormone adrenaline. Reductionism is a part of understanding how systems work but the problem is that in the process we may lose a real understanding of the thing we are investigating. The approach suggests that an illness such as schizophrenia is basically a complex physical-chemical system that has gone wrong. The psychiatrist R.D Laing 1965 claimed that such an approach ignores the experience of distress that goes along with any mental illness and is therefore at best an incomplete explanation. A simplified explanation may prevent us reaching a true understanding of the target behaviour.
  • Nature over nurture - mental illness has multiple causes, yet the biological approach focuses on just biology, tending to ignore life experiences and psychological factors such as how people think and feel. The approach to explaining schizophrenia is concerned with abnormal levels of certain neurotransmitters rather than with how patients feel about their illness. The biological approach to treatment is therefore concerned with adjusting the abnormal biological systems rather than talking to patients about how they feel.
  • Individual differences - The biological approach is a nomothetic approach looking to make generalisations about people and find similarities. It tends to ignore differences between individuals. When stressed some people produce higher levels of adrenaline than others which in turn affects the long term effects of stress.
  • Biological research often focuses on just a few individuals and assumes that everyone's biological systems behave in the same way. Research on biological systems has tended to use male rather than female participants (animals and humans) because female hormone cycles may interfere with biological research.
  • Research bias could produce an erroneous picture of behaviour with a male bias. Taylor et al. 2000 suggest that men usually react to stress with a fight or flight response but women show a tend and befriend response. This gender difference is seen in many species, with females responding to stressful conditions by protecting and nurturing their young (tend), by seeking social contact and support from other females (befriend). The difference has been attributed to the fact that women produce the hormone oxytocin when stressed sometimes called the love hormone.





So helpful thank you! 



REALLY helpful.