What Is the Biological Perspective?

Researchers examining brain scans
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There are many different ways of thinking about topics in psychology. The biological perspective is a way of looking at psychological issues by studying the physical basis for animal and human behavior. It is one of the major perspectives in psychology and involves such things as studying the brain, immune system, nervous system, and genetics.

One of the major debates in psychology has long centered over the relative contributions of nature versus nurture.

Those who take up the nurture side of the debate suggest that it is the environment that plays the greatest role in shaping behavior. The biological perspective tends to stress the importance of nature.

The Biological Perspective on Psychology

This field of psychology is often referred to as biopsychology or physiological psychology. This branch of psychology has grown tremendously in recent years and is linked to other areas of science including biology, neurology, and genetics.

The study of physiology and biological processes has played a significant role in psychology since its earliest beginnings. It was Charles Darwin who first introduced the idea that evolution and genetics play a role in human behavior. Natural selection influences whether certain behavior patterns are passed down to future generations. Behaviors that aid in survival are more likely to be passed down while those that prove dangerous are less likely to be inherited.

The biological perspective is essentially a way of looking at human problems and actions. Consider an issue like aggression, for example. Someone using the psychoanalytic perspective might view aggression as the result of childhood experiences and unconscious urges. Another person might take a behavioral perspective and consider how the behavior was shaped by association, reinforcement, and punishment.

A psychologist with a social perspective might look at the group dynamics and pressures that contribute to such behavior.

The biological viewpoint, on the other hand, would involve looking at the biological roots that lie behind aggressive behaviors. Someone who takes the biological perspective might consider how certain types of brain injury might lead to aggressive actions. Or they might consider genetic factors that can contribute to such displays of behavior.

What Sort of Things Are Biological Psychologists Interested In?

Biopsychologists study many of the same things that other psychologists do, but they are interested in looking at how biological forces shape human behaviors. Some topics that a psychologist might explore using this perspective include:

  • Analyzing how trauma to the brain influences behaviors
  • Investigating how degenerative brain diseases impact how people act
  • Exploring how genetic factors influence such things as aggression
  • Studying how genetics and brain damage are linked to mental disorders
  • Assessing the differences and similarities in twins to determine which characteristics are tied to genetics and which are linked to environmental influences

This perspective has grown considerably in recent years as the technology used to study the brain, and nervous system has grown increasingly advanced.

Today, scientists use tools such as PET and MRI scans to look at how brain development, drugs, disease, and brain damage impact behavior and cognitive functioning.

Reasons to Take a Biological Perspective

One of the strengths of using the biological perspective to analyze psychological problems is that the approach is usually very scientific. Researchers utilize rigorous empirical methods, and their results are often reliable and practical. Biological research has helped yield useful treatments for a variety of psychological disorders.

The weakness of this approach is that it often fails to account for other influences on behavior.

Things such as emotions, social pressures, environmental factors, childhood experiences, and cultural variables can also play a role in the formation of psychological problems. For that reason, it is important to remember that the biological approach is just one of the many different perspectives in psychology. By utilizing a variety of ways of looking a problem, researchers can come up with different solutions that can have helpful real-world applications.

A Word From Verywell

There are many different perspectives from which to view the human mind and behavior and the biological perspective represents just one of these approaches. By looking at the biological bases of human behavior, psychologists are better able to understand how the brain and physiological processes might influence the way people think, act, and feel. This perspective also allows researchers to come up with new treatments that target the biological influences on psychological well-being.

Sources:

Hockenbury, DH & Hockenbury SE. Discovering Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers; 2011.

Pastorino, EE, Doyle-Portillo, SM. What Is Psychology? Foundations, Applications, and Integration. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning; 2015.

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