The Biological Approach

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 03-05-15 16:49


  • Behaviour Can Be Explained In Terms Of Brain Structures and Localisation.
    • The organisation of the brain is known as localisation.
    • The cerebral cortex is divided into four lobes, including the occipital lobe.
    • Damage to the brain could affect a bodily function; for example, damage to the occipital lobe can cause sight problems.
  • Behaviour Can Be Explained By Neurons and Neurotransmitters.
    • Messages are passed across neurons via synapses.
    • Then to the brain via neurotransmitters.
    • For example, seretonin is implicated in the aetiology of depression.
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Selye's GAS Model

  • General Adaptation Syndrome:
    • General: The same response to all agents.
    • Adaptive: The healthiest way to cope with extreme stress.
    • Syndrome: Severel symptoms are in the stress response.
  • Alarm Reaction:
    • Stressor is recognised.
    • The hypothalamus triggers the production of adrenaline from the adrenal glands.
    • This prepares you for the fight or flight response.
  • Resistance:
    • The body is adapting, but physiologically deteriorating.
  • Exhaustion:
    • The body can't maintain normal functioning, so symptoms reappear.
    • The immune system can't cope, so illness occurs.
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Selye's GAS Model

  • The aim was to test his (Selye's) hypothesis:
    • No matter the stressor, the reaction will always be the same.
  • Rats were exposed to various stressors, such as extreme cold, extreme heat, surgical injury, production of spinal shock, etc.
  • During the first stage (Alarm Reaction), all stimuli produced an enlargement of adrenal glands, ulcers in the digestive system, and the shrinkage of the immune system.
  • If the treatment continued, the appearance and function of organs returned to normal.
  • However, after 1-3 months the rats lost their resistance and the original symptoms returned.
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  • Psychosurgery is a surgical procedure performed on the brain with the aim of relieving stress, anxiety and depression in patients who haven't responded to any other treatment.
  • Links with the assumption that behaviour can be explained by brain structure and localisation.
  • Leucotomy:
    • Developed by Moniz (1935).
    • Involved a narrow device, called a leucotome, being inserted into the frontal lobe through holes in the skull.
    • The leucotome blade was extended and rotated to lesion the brain tissue in order to destroy pieces of the frontal cortex.
  • Transorbital Lobotomy:
    • Developed by Walter Freeman (1950s).
    • Involved inserting an 'ice pick' under the eyelid and into the eye socket.
    • It broke through the skull, into the brain, and moved around to destroy connections to the frontal area.
    • It was done bilaterally.
  • Pippard (1955) reported worthwhile/good results in 50% of people with mood disorders; 95% of these had no more than slight personality changes.
  • Comer (2002) found that early lobotomies had a fatality rate of 6%.
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  • Bilateral Cingulotomy:
    • Locating precise areas of the brain with an MRI scan.
    • Exact parts of the brain that need removing are identified, so there is no need to remove large chunks of the brain.
    • A stereotactic frame is used to measure the point where the brain needs to be operated on.
  • Cosgrove & Rauch (2001) found that the cingulotomy was effective in 56% of OCD patients.
  • Bridges et al (1994) said that this treatment is a last resort, as no controlled trial is possible.
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Evaluating The Biological Approach


  • Scientific:
    • Assumption that behaviour can be explained with hormones, and also neurotransmitters.
    • It has clear variables that can be measured, tracked, and examined.
    • Psychologists can conduct scientific research, for example; psychosurgery.
  • Deterministic:
    • Assumption that all behaviour can be the result of genes, so behaviour is said to be deterministic.
    • It is easier to treat people if we know what predetermines our behaviour.
    • For example; the neurotransmitter dopamine is implicated in the aetiology of schizophrenia.
    • For example; psychosurgery is designed to sever over-active areas of the brain to reduce the symptoms of OCD.
    • So the biological approach allows us to control our world.
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Evaluating The Biological Approach


  • Reductionist:
    • It reduces complex behaviour to simple explanations.
    • For example, it reduces stress to adrenaline.
    • This means that we may lose a real understanding of what we are investigating.
    • It doesn't consider a person as a whole.
  • Nature:
    • It ignores life experiences and psychological factors (such as feelings).
    • It is concerned with adjusting abnormal biological systems, rather than talking to patients.
    • For example; schizophrenia is explained by excess neurotransmitters, and not how patients feel about their illness.
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  • Twin Studies:
    • Concordance Rate: The degree to which two people are similar.
    • Bouchard & McGue (1981) studied the inheritance of IQ in monozygotic (MZ) twins (identical twins) and dizygotic (DZ) twins (non-identical twins).
    • In the MZ twins, they found a concordance rate of 86%.
    • In the DZ twins, they found a concordance rate of 60%.
    • They also used twins that are reared apart, however this was a problem as some twins grew up in the same environment.
    • A concordance rate of 72% was found for MZ twins reared apart.
    • This shows that there is a significant genetic contribution to intelligence.
    • MZ twins share 100% of their genes, so make perfect participants for gene studies and provide useful information for the biological approach.
    • The comparison between MZ twins reared together and apart has allowed psychologists to make sound assumptions about the importance of genes and the environment.
    • Twins share genes, environment and are also treated similarly. So concordance rates may not be reliable as it's difficult to distinguish between genes and environment.
    • Study of twins reared apart is problematic as they are usually raised in similar environments, so it's still difficult to distinguish.
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