Discuss the Biological Perspective

essay on the biological perspective for PSYB4

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Discuss the Biological Perspective. Refer to at least one topic/approach in your
answer (12 Marks)
It is difficult for us to imagine the enormous impact that the Origin of Species
by Darwin had on the way people think about themselves. Before its publication
people assumed that only human beings had souls and this made us radically
different from other species. The idea that humans evolved out of other species
meant a reassessment of this inflated view of the importance of humans. Many
people found it very difficult to agree that humans should be regarded as members
of the animal kingdom.
Darwin's views have had a major impact on psychology, for example people
recognised the worth in studying human behaviour from a biological perspective ­
Freud's view that sex drive and libido are extremely important in explanations of
human behaviour would have been unthinkable pre-Darwin. Also the study of animals
can be of great relevance in attempts to understand human behaviour ­ leading to
the development of comparative psychology. Darwin emphasised the importance of
heredity and the idea that the offspring tend to resemble their parents. This
suggested to psychologists the need to look for genetic links in behaviours ­ for
example using twin studies to find a concordance. He looked at variation among the
members of a species and, with the idea that evolution selectively favours, the
survival of the fittest ­ this lead to a reawakening of interest in individual differences
and to the study of personality and intelligence.
The biological perspective assumes that all behaviour is determined by the
activities which take place at a cellular and chemical level, and that understanding
biological processes is the key to understanding human behaviour. The study of
heredity and genetic transmission must complement any assumptions that the
environment is influential in human behaviour.
If we consider atypical behaviour we can see how the activities of the
sections of the human nervous system interact to affect the behaviour exhibited. In
a phobic response the individual is overwhelmed by the actions of the sympathetic
division of the autonomic nervous system so that the responses are not controlled
by rational/cognitive thinking, but by physiological changes.
Psychologists have spent much time trying to identify behaviours that are
determined by genes and therefore inherited. Again, atypical behaviour has provided
them with information. It has been established that children born to parents who are
both schizophrenic have a 46% chance of also exhibiting the disorder. If one identical
twin has a diagnosis of schizophrenia then the concordance rate for the other twin is
48%. Of course, the fact that the concordance rates are not 100% means that
environmental factors play a part in the development of the disorder ­ as the Social
Learning Theorists would argue ­ the Biologists say people have a genetic
predisposition to develop schizophrenia ­ they have the genotype but the phenotype
is affected by environmental factors.
There are many substantial methodological problems throughout research
into the Biological perspective. For example, because physiological measurements
are affected by many factors such as temperature, characteristics of the
experimenter etc, these extraneous variables are hard to control and thus the results
may not be reliable, it is difficult to interpret the findings and attribute them solely to
the manipulated stimulus or chemical. The baseline activity of each person is unique.

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Also, the research is conducted in extremely artificial situations, usually
involving stillness and much wiring to monitors. Normal human behaviour is not
possible in such conditions.
The Biological approach is cold and mechanistic. It leaves little room for any
form of free will and consciousness ­ which become merely states if neural activity.…read more

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