Biological Approach

Biological Psychologists apply the principles of biology to the study of mental processes and behaviour - Biological Approach introduction. They believe that the mind and the brain are the same and that thought processes and behaviour cannot occur without the operation of the central nervous system (CNS). This psychological theory says that an imbalance of chemicals in the brain can cause mental disorders such as bipolar disorder. Thought process and human behaviour have a biological basis and are influenced by both our genetic inheritance and makeup.

These psychologists are of the opinion that human characteristics such as intelligence are due to our DNA and are innate; they also believe that our genes have evolved to help us adopt our behaviour to the environment. The brain and the CNS are the key parts of the biological approach. The CNS consists of the brain and the spinal cord. The brain has three main parts; the brain stem, the cerebellum and the cerebral hemispheres. The right cerebral hemisphere controls left side motor co-ordination and the left side controls right side motor co-ordination. Genetics play a large part in the biological approach.

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Genetics is the study of the genetic makeup of organisms and how genes influence physical and behavioural characteristics. Genes interact with the environment and influence bodily function and structure. There are many different types of gene research such as; Genetic mapping where the genes responsible of each behaviour and function are tracked, genetic engineering where the genetic code is altered to change or eliminate a function or to measure the effects on behaviour and selective breeding where the genetic code is manipulated to produce a prime specimen within a species.

Genes contribute to the genotype of an individual. The genotype is the genetic makeup of an individual. An individual’s presentations of characteristics or phenotype are influenced greatly by their genotype. However phenotype is also affected by the environment. Thomas Bouchard, a biological psychologist, studied twins who had been separated at birth. He found that an identical twin that was reared away from its co-twin has about an equal chance of being similar to the co-twin in terms of personality, interests and attitudes as one who had been reared with their own co-twin.

This leads to the conclusion that similarities between twins are due to genes, not environment as differences in twins must be due to environment. The full impact of genetic makeup on humans is difficult to understand because of a limited amount of research, the ethical implications of using humans in trials and the long lifespan of humans. Due to these reasons more research is carried out on animals with shorter gestation periods such as rats and mice. This is called a comparative method as the results found on these animals are then used when talking about humans e. g. the aggressive mice.

In 1996 Bocke and Goode carried out an experiment on mice. A mouse that was reared alone went to attack other male mice on their first meeting. The mice had not been taught to do this which implies that the mice had biological tendencies towards aggression. The biological approach strongly shows the nature side of the ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate. It uses theories such as Darwin’s theory of evolution to show that our genetics evolve to allow us to survive and it is these changes that become part of our makeup. Examples of these are reflexes shown in newborns such as the rooting or mono reflex.

However the biological approach does not account for the nurture argument. It does not explain the way environment shapes human behaviour and actions. As the biological approach works with the CNS and body cells it has real tangible results to show. The approach does not explain the thought process and bring into account free will. With humans brainpower would they not do more than follow genetically programmed commands? The gene research the biological approach produces can have positive impacts on illnesses such as haemophilia as they can manipulate the genes that carry the illness or disorder.

However there are some ethical implications to this research. It can be used to select certain genes for unborn babies to have so their parents pick all the desired traits. It can also have affects on those who are tested to try out the procedures. The biological approach provides many benefits to psychology such as gene research but also has some negative points. One such point is the lack of explanation of the thought process or the ethical implications of some of the research.

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