☑ Scientific Approach
- One strength of the biological approach is that it is classified as being a scientific approach.
- It is deemed to be scientific because it uses the scientific method to investigate its assumptions.
- For example, research on drug therapy has investigated the links between psychoactive drugs and the production of certain neurotransmitters (such as dopamine) and linked this to behaviour.
- Additionally, Raine et al made use of PET scans to compare 14 areas of the brain in murderers (pleading NGRI) compared with non-murderers.
- This is a strength because the scientific method allows researchers to control conditions (decide which variables to manipulate and which to control), make objective measurements (take measurements that are unbiased), validate or falsify a theory (support or reject a theory) and replicate their investigations and results (conduct the same study again and again).
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☑ Deterministic Approach
- A strength of the biological approach is that it is classified as being a deterministic approach.
- It is deemed to be deterministic because it states that all behaviour is predetermined by physiological factors, such as the genes we inherit, different parts of our brains, neurochemicals and/or our hormones.
- Psychologists seek, for example, to understand the functioning of neurotransmitters so they can predict the effects of neurotransmitters on normal and abnormal behaviour.
- For instance, the neurotransmitter dopamine has been linked with the mental disorder of schizophrenia.
- For example, the 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.
- This is a strength because if we know what pre-determines mental disorders, we are more likely to be able to help treat people suffering with such disorders.
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☒ Reductionist Approach
- One weakness of the biological approach is that it is classified as being a reductionist approach.
- It is deemed to be reductive because its explanations reduce complex behaviour to a set of simple explanations, for example, intelligence is genetically inherited; low levels of serotonin cause depression.
- Reductionism is a weakness because simple explanations of behaviour may not provide us with a full or real understanding of behaviour, for example, the biological 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.
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☒ Individual Differences
- Another weakness of the biological approach is that it is classified as being a nomothetic approach.
- It is deemed to be nomothetic because it tries to make general statements or predications about behaviour.
- It tends to ignore differences between individuals.
- For example, 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.
- In fact, research on biological systems has tended to use male rather than female participants because female hormone cycles may interfere with biological research.
- Such research bias could produce an erroneous picture of behaviour: one with a male bias.
- This is classified as a weakness because nomothetic approaches tend to ignore the differences between individuals.
- Even though biological research has been conducted on animal subjects and human participants it might be incorrect for us to assume that the biological systems of all animals or humans would behave in the same way. For example, it may be incorrect to generalise the findings of twin studies to the rest of the population.
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