What is the Biological Perspective?
The biological perspective is one of the major approaches to doing psychological research, which is focused on the idea that behaviors have biological causes. Also known as physiological psychology or biopsychology, it has strong links with many different sciences, particularly neurology and genetics. Common types of biological studies on behavior include things like the effects of physical child abuse on future adult actions, how injuries such as head trauma affect behavior, or whether or not criminal behavior can be explained by genetics.
This approach is used in many different types of research, including in comparative psychology, the study of physiological motivators for behavior, and the study of genetic behavioral traits. In terms of comparative psychology, it's used to study how behavior compares across species, particularly humans and other mammals. This is based on the idea that behavior is defined by genetics regardless of the species of the animal being studied.
Psychologists also study the biology behind behavior by looking at how exposure to chemicals affects the body and behavior. This includes both the natural chemicals found in the nervous system and hormones, as well as synthetic chemicals like those found in medications. The findings from this type of research are used in looking at the side effects of drugs and how mood is affected by chemical imbalances in the body.
Additionally, the biological perspective is used in genetics research. Some researchers believe that traits like intelligence or a tendency to having certain mental disorders are inherited genetically. Studies done with this approach minimizes the effect of external things like a person's upbringing, and instead focuses on possible genetic causes of behavior. For instance, a geneticist studying a person with an anger disorder would likely look for inherited biological traits that could cause the person to have a short temper, while another type of researcher might focus more on the person's family life to find the cause.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The main strength of this approach is how its findings are backed up by scientific experiments. Research done from the biological perspective is often seen as very reliable, since it uses a strict scientific methodology to define and study human behaviors. Practical interventions based on the biological perspective have proven reliable, including drug therapies and certain types of neurological surgical procedures.
Despite this, the biological perspective is often seen as limited, since it neglects other possible causes for behavior, like external events in a person's life, the impact of different cultural upbringings, mental states, and emotional desires. For example, a psychologist may conclude that a certain hormone causes a behavioral pattern, while in reality the pattern is linked to a complex interplay of different hormones, genetic influences, and multiple environmental triggers. Additionally, some researchers doubt that the comparative study of other animals provides information relevant to human behavior.
The biological perspective is just one school of thought in psychology. Other methods, like humanism or cognitive psychology, focus more on a person's desires and state of mind rather than biological causes for behavior. Similarly, behaviorism focuses mainly on the effect of external motivators, while psychodynamics focuses on how a person's unconscious shapes his or her actions. These approaches overlap with each other in many settings. For instance, if someone was researching juvenile delinquents, he or she would likely look for biological causes of their behavior, like a serotonin imbalance, external factors, like a stressful home life, and psychodynamic factors, like an inferiority complex.
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However contentious the biological perspective may be, it has led to some fascinating and useful research. One such example relating physiological state to cognitive experience is the discovered link between posture and expression and mood. While not drastic, the effect of body posture and facial expression on mood is significant (e.g. smiling leading to increases in happiness or slouching and clenched fists causing a slight souring of disposition).
Psychologists attribute an imbalance in the chemical neurotransmitter serotonin to psychological diseases such as Depression and Bipolar disorder. A high level of serotonin in certain animals can influence their social ranking. This raises the question of whether social position is a biological factor.
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