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Physiological psychology focuses on the relationship between our biological makeup and
our behaviour and experiences.
This area of psychology can be very convincing. For example we do know that the
structure of our nervous system (including our brains) and the action of chemicals can
have an effect on our behaviour.
Some physiological psychologists take a reductionist argument to answer the above
question. That is, they argue that behaviour and experiences can be explained in terms
of brain structure and chemicals. This reductionist argument has led to such
psychologists making great discoveries, for example, in the affect of drugs on mood
However, other psychologists (including many physiological psychologists) take the
view that we cannot explain complex human behaviour and experience just in terms of
brain structure and chemicals. There are other psychological variables which need to
be considered, for example, how we act alone, compared to how we behave in groups.
That the structure of the brain changes in response to environmental demand.
That the mental map of the city of London is stored in the posteria hippocampi
in taxi drivers.
That normal activity can induce changes in the structure of the brain and that
this has many implications for rehabilitation after brain injury.
The sample is not representative as it only contains 16 males in each group. Further
research would need to include females and left-handed individuals.
This study does not have any serious ethical issues. However, the non-taxi
drivers probably were unaware that their brain scans were being used, although
they had probably signed a general medical disclaimer at the time of scan. But,
using a brain scan as a comparison is not really an issue.
This was a highly controlled experiment, therefore it is replicable. The results are
reliable as the expert analysing the scans did not know which were the taxi driver
scans. However, it would be better to conduct a longitudinal study, so that
changes to brain structure over time could be traced.
This study does lack validity as it only considers one factor, the volume of the
hippocampi, in relation to navigational skills. In reality it is likely that this complex
memory skill is governed by many separate areas of the brain.
This study suggests that training can affect brain structures; this has clear
implications for the treatment and therapy of brain damaged patients.
Alternatively, it could be argued that these taxi-drivers always had differences in
their hippocampi, and that it was this that led them to become taxi drivers. In
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Dement W & Kleitman
The authors conclude that this research provides support for the idea that dreams can
be studied in an objective way. This then open up other areas of research e.g.
investigating the effects of environmental stimuli, stress and drugs on dreaming.
An obvious weakness of the study is its lack of ecological validity. The situation in
which the participants had to sleep was unusual and could have affected their sleep
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Sperry argued that his studies give considerable support to his argument of
lateralisation of function. That is, that different areas of the brain specialise on
different tasks, such as the left hand side is responsible for language.
He also went on to argue that each hemisphere has its own perceptions and memories
and experiences.…read more
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There is also some evidence of gender differences whereby women show less
lateralisation than men. So, the left-right specialism could be more prevalent in men
than women.…read more