Biological approach, GAS and chemotherapy for WJEC PSY1

I teach A level psychology and these are notes made for my students. They cover everything need to know in detail including strengths, weaknesses, methodology and theory. Also has some practice questions. Hope it helps! Everything you need to know to achieve an A*

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  • Created on: 20-12-12 15:16
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Biological approach
Biology is defined as the study of life (from the Greek bios meaning `life' and logos meaning
`study'). A biological perspective is relevant to the study of Psychology in three ways:
1. Comparative method: different species of animal can be studied and compared.
This can help in the search to understand human behaviour.
2. Physiology: how the nervous system and hormones work, how the brain functions,
how changes in structure and/or function can affect behaviour. For example, we could
ask how prescribed drugs to treat depression affect behaviour
through their interaction with the nervous system.
3. Investigation of inheritance: what an animal inherits from its parents,
mechanisms of inheritance (genetics). For example, we might want to know whether
high intelligence is inherited from one generation to the next.
Each of these biological aspects, the comparative, the physiological and the genetic, can
help illuminate human behaviour. If we want to understand all aspects of behaviour, perhaps
we should start with one of the smallest units, the basic building block of the body, the cell.
The biological approach is concerned with how our genetic inheritance, evolution of the
human species and the nervous system (both central and peripheral) affect how we think,
feel and behave. The biological approach, because of the influence of Darwin's theory of
evolution and the idea of the `survival of the fittest', looks at how well a person adapts and
adjusts in life. An inability to adapt or adjust to the ups and downs of everyday life may result
in a person suffering from psychological disorders such as schizophrenia or depression, or
being aggressive towards other people. The biological approach seeks to discover how the
genes we inherit from our parents may have a role to play in these and other types of
maladaptive behaviours. The biological approach is also concerned with understanding how
our central and peripheral nervous systems, particularly the brain, affect how we think, feel
and behave. Questions arise within the biological approach, such as how the brain, a physical
organ, can produce the psychological experience of awareness of things around us and
consciousness. These are matters that physiological psychologists find difficult to answer.
The biological approach also raises the issue of the relative contribution of nature (genetics,
evolution, etc.) and nurture (experiences since birth) to mental abilities such as intelligence,
and actual behaviours (such as schizophrenia and aggression). This is commonly called the
nature/nurture debate or the debate about the relative contribution of heredity and
environment. A recent development in biological psychology is called evolutionary
psychology, which is defined as follows:
Evolutionary psychology is the study of the evolutionary origin of human
behaviour patterns...that may influence everything from sexual attraction,
infidelity and jealousy to divorce. (Coon,2002: 519).
One area that has been extensively researched within the biological/evolutionary approach is
that of human mating or sexual preferences. Buss (1994) studied attitudes and behaviours
of men and women across 37 different cultures towards sexual behaviour. Buss found, for

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By contrast,
women prefer older partners, are less upset by sexual infidelity but more upset by a man
becoming emotionally involved with another woman. Buss attributes these differences to
mating preferences that have evolved in response to the reproductive demands placed on
men and women. Generally, women are more involved in nurturing offspring and men in
providing for the family, although this traditional pattern has changed dramatically in
westernised societies.…read more

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1. The central nervous system, especially the brain, plays an essential role in thought
and behaviour. To explain human thought and behaviour, it is necessary to
understand the functions and structure of the brain and the nervous system more
2. Chemical processes in the brain are responsible for many different aspects of
psychological functioning. An imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain may cause
abnormal behaviour and thought ­ for example, bipolar mood disorder.
3.…read more

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Each of these lobes has specific parts which are specialised for different functions, as
identified above. Each of these lobes of the cortex can be divided into two areas, as follows:
1 Primary areas. These process incoming sensory information from our different
senses. The occipital or visual cortex receives information from our eyes, and the
temporal or auditory cortex receives information from our ears. The primary areas in
each lobe also control motor functions to do with the senses.…read more

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Sensory cortex: This receives sensory information from the nerve endings in
different parts of the body.
Prefrontal cortex: This receives information from all the senses and different parts
of the body. It is involved in the highest mental functions and complex, planned
Both the motor cortex and the sensory cortex are organised to reflect the density of
neurons in different parts of the body.…read more

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There are a number of different kinds of cells in the body, but the one Psychologists are
most interested in is the nerve cell or, as it is more often called, the neuron. The human
brain is made up of around 10,000,000,000 neurons. The total collection of nerve cells in the
body is called the nervous system and the major part of the nervous system, consisting of
the brain and the spinal cord, is called the central nervous system (CNS).…read more

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Neurotransmitters: Substances which transmit signals between neurons. There are over 40
different kinds and their functions are not completely known. Some of them have been
found to have effects on behaviour.
Serotonin: Influences mood and food intake. Research shows that it plays a part in
depression and also anorexia.
Acetylcholine: Important for learning, memory and muscle movement.
Dopamine: Important for movement and frontal lobe activity (aggression).
Research and treatment involves using drugs to see the effects of changes in
neuro-transmitters.…read more

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These chemical messengers take longer to transmit their
information than the nervous system, but their effects are usually longer lasting.
The endocrine system - hormones
The endocrine system is composed of many glands which secrete hormones into the blood
system. A hormone is a chemical that travels around the body and affects the actions of the
target organs. Hormones influence our thinking, behaviour and emotions and influences our
response to stress.…read more

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Behaviour comes from our genes
The gene
If a cell in examined under a microscope, one particular structure can be seen that is central
to all cells: the nucleus. The nucleus of every cell in the human body (other than sperm or
egg cells) contains 46 thread-shaped structures called hromosomes. These chromosomes
are composed in part of a complex chemical called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). The DNA on
each chromosome carries units of information called genes.…read more

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pressure refers to any property of environment which tends to favour one form of species
over another. What does all this have to do with Psychology? The genes we have today,
that, through interactions with the environment, make us behave in the way that we do,
have evolved via the process of natural selection.…read more


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