Biological Approach

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  • Created by: gracepxx
  • Created on: 13-04-16 11:54

Assumption 1

Behaviour explained in terms of different areas of the brain

Research shows different areas of brain persorm specialised functions 

If areas are damaged, they loose particular functions 

Visual cortexr process visual info - if damaged - unable to see 

Hippocampus deals with abilities to form memories - damanged - can't remember events that have happened

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Assumption 2

Behaviour explained by hormones 

Chemical substances that circulate in blood and only affect target organs 

Produced in large quantities but disappear quickly

Effects are slow compared to nervous system but very powerful

Adrenaline released by adrenal glands when an animal is scared or stressed

Results in fight or flight response (increased heart beat, sweat etc)

Biologial response prepares us to cope with stressful situation by fight or flight

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Theory - GAS - P1

Selye was doctor who notices patients shared common set of symptoms regardless of particular illness

Led him to propose general adaption syndrome theory

Suggested body produces general response to threat (stressor)

Response is adaptive - enables body to cope with extreme stress

Used word syndrome as it refers to a condition containing identifiable symptoms 

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Theory - GAS - P2

Proposed body responds to stress in 3 stages

Stage 1 is alarm reaction - perception of stressor leads to a response 

In physiological terms - hypothalamus sends signal to adrenal glands and adrenaline released 

In behavioural terms - release of adrenaline causes "fight or flight" response - animal is in stage of readiness to deal with sressor by fighting or flight, both of which use energy

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Theory - GAS - P3

Stage 2 - resistance

If stress continues, body needs means of coping with demands of the environment

Body maintains (as far as possible) normal internal functions e.g temperature

Despite outwards appearance of coping, internally, the body is being depeleated of resources such as adrenaline

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Theory - GAS - P4

Stage 3 - exhaustion 

Eventually body can no longer maintain normal functioning 

Symptoms associated with adrenaline return - high blood pressure 

Immune system may no longer be able to cope because production of necessary proteins (e.g cortisol) is slowed in favour of other needs

End result - person may suffer from stress-related illness such as cardivascular disorder, depression or other physical/psychological illness

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Theory - GAS - P5

Selye (1936) demonstrated GAS using rats

Exposed them to variety of unpleasant experiences - extreme cold, drugs, cutting spinal cord

Rats responded with GAS:

First 16-48 hours - physiological triad - englargement of their adrenal glands, ulcers and shrinkage of immune system

Then return to near normal

Within 1-3 months - return of the physiological triad 

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Therapy - Chemo - P1

Links to assumption that mentally disordered behaviour has a physical, biological cause, such as an inbalance of neurotransmitters, and this can be treated with drugs

Psychoactive drugs are used to treat mental disorders

First developed in 1950s and revolutionised treatment of mental disorders

Allow symptoms to be controlled so patients can conduct relatively normal lives 

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Therapy - Chemo - P2

Different kinds of chemotherapy 

Antipsychotic drugs - treat mental disorders such as schizophrenia - associated with high levels of neurotransmitter dopamine 
Conventional antipsychotics block the action of dopamine in the brain by binding to dopamine receptors 

Antidepressant drugs - one cause of depression is thought to be insufficient amounts of neurotransmitter serotonin 
Drugs aim to increase serotonin levels
SSRIs increase levels by blocking the transporter mechanism that re-absorbs the serotonin into the pre-synaptic cell somore is left in the synapse 

Antianxiety drugs - reduce stress & anxiety by slowing down anxiety of nervous system
Beta-blockers (BBs) reduce effect of hormone adrenaline which is released as a response to stress
BBs bind to receptors on cells of the hearts and other parts of body stimulated when person stressed
By blocking receptors it is harder to stimulate cells - hear beats slower 

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Therapy - Chemo - P3

Chemotherapy associated with side effects

Ferguson et al (2005) - patients taking SSRIs are twice as likely to commit suicide 

Kirsch et al (2008) - reviewed trials of SSRIs - only in cases of most servere depression was it advantageous over placebo

Other studies found it was effective, Arroll et al (2005) - found SSRIs were superior to placebos

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Evaluation - Strengths - P1

Approach is scientific

Biological explanations have clear variables (hormones) that can be measured, tracked and examined

Research can investigate effect of psychoactive drugs on certain neurotransmitters by measuring the levels of the neurotransmitters

Examples of research are sceintific as they fulfil aims of scientific research - conduct objective, controlled studies to establish causal relationships

Discovery of causal relationships allow us to make predictions about our world

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Evaluation - Strengths - P2

Approach is deterministic

Proposed that physical elements of body (hormones) cause identifiable behaviour 

High levels of neurotransmitter dopamine suggested as cause of schizophrenia 

Evidence from difference sources such as effects of drugs known to increase levels of dopamine and drugs that increase symptoms of schizophrenia (hallucinations)

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Evaluation - Weakness - P1

Approach is reductionist 

Biological explanations reduce complex behaviour to set of simple explanations 

Reducing experience of stress to action of hormone adrenaline or schizophrenia to action of neurotransmitter dopamine

End result may be that we lose an understanding of thing we're investigating by reducing it to most basic components 

Suggests schizophrenia is a complex physical-chemical system gone wrong

Others such as R.D Laing take a holist view - explanation at best is incomplete and may prevent us reaching true understanding of behaviour 

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Evaluation - Weakness - P2

Approach doesn't consider individual differences 

Studies a few people & assumes everyones biological system behaves in the same way 

Nomothetic approach ignoring differences between individuals 

Research tends to use male Ps because female hormone cycles may interfere with research

Research shows men act aggressively to stress whereas women remain calmer because female hormones moderate affects of adrenaline - Taylor et al (2000)

Results in picture we have of behaviour being wrong - doesn't apply equally to all people 

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Methodology - P1

Brain scanning 
Assumes behaviour can be explained in terms of activity in the brain and nervous system so psychologis seek methods that allow them to view brain activity 

EEG - electrodes placed on scalp and electrical activity in different regions of brain recorded - however, recording can't indicate precise source of electrical activity 

CAT scans - take series of xrays and combrine to form picture of area being scanned 
Advantage- high quality xrays, good for tumours 
Disadvantage- more radiation than normal xray

fMRI scan - provides both anatomoical and functional information by taking repeated scans of brain in action 
Advantage - more detailed and no exposure to radiation 
Weakness - take a long time and can be uncomfortable 

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Methodology - P2

Twin studies 
One assumption is the influence of genes on behaviour - units of inheritence passed to us from parents 
Twin studies allow us to compare effects of genetics (nature) with effects of experience (nurture)

MZ twins - 100% of genes, DZ twins - maximum of 50% - if behaviour genetic then we would expect MZ twins to be more similar than DZ
Bouchard & McGue (1981) - 86% concordance for intelligence in MZ twins and 60% for DZ - indicates strong genetic component for intelligence 
+Strength of study - natural experiment comparing gene influence
-Weakness - Similarities due to shared environment as well as genetics ; newer research revealed that even identical twins have significant genetic differences 

MZ twins reared apart - seperates influence of genetics and environment 
Bouchard & McGue found 72% concordance for MZ twins reared apart
Continues to show significant genetic contribution to intelligence 
+Strength - attempts to control for shared environment 
-Weakness - similarities may be due to having been still raised in similar environments as samples are small

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