Return to:  The Biological Approach
The biological approach believes us to be as a consequence of our genetics and physiology. We become ill, medically and/or psychologically, because of physiological or genetic damage, disease, or accident. It is the only approach in psychology that examines thoughts, feelings, and behaviours from a medical/biological, and thus physical point of view. Take language. The biological approach says we are biologically hard-wired to acquire language, and possess a language acquisition device. For the existence of a LAD the approach would direct us to structures in our left cerebral cortex such as Broca’s area, responsible for our ability to articulate speech, and Wernicke’s area, responsible for our ability to comprehend speech. Also of assistance in the acquisition of language is memory. We store and retrieve memories of/for sounds in our temporal lobe. We remember what we see using our visual cortex. We recognise and remember patterns using our parietal lobe etc. Thus for the biological approach, psychologically we are the result of our genetics and the workings of our central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and endocrine system. The influence of Charles Darwin has the approach judge that we have evolved both physically and psychologically in response to our environment. Our genetics account for our shared physique and emotions. Common emotions, such as aggression, are understood as a result of our physiology and genetics. Our genetics also influence our individual development, physically and psychologically. Because of the emphasis on a physical/biological cause to psychological difficulties, the approach has been very influential in the use of physical therapies, or chemotherapy, as a treatment for a variety of mental disorders. Schizophrenia is understood caused by the over-production of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Depression comes from physiological changes to neurons that dull them to serotonin. Both disorders are treated with drugs. The symptoms of schizophrenia are controlled by neuroleptics, which have side effects. The symptoms of depression are controlled by anti-depressants such as Prozac, chemotherapy also not without controversy. In both instances there is thought to be an environmental influence to the onset of the disorder, something the biological approach does not explore too well. In its influence into the study of individual differences, the biological approach also suggests genetics plays its part. In consideration of the likes of personality and intelligence, again however, the biological approach plays down the influence of environment on genotype and phenotype. The biological approach finds itself firmly on the genetic, or nativist side of the ‘nature-nurture’ debate on these issues. Its understanding of us as neurons, structures and functions in the brain, hormones, our genome etc. has seen it accused of being reductionist, mechanistic and deterministic. The biological approach has also attracted some attention because of its use of non-human subjects in experimental research.

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