PSYCHOLOGY PART 1: CORE
Biological level of analysis
Outline principles that define the biological level of analysis.
1) Behavior can be innate, because it is genetically based. Evolution may play a
key role in behavior.
2) Animals may be studied as a means of understanding human behavior.
3) There are biological correlates of behavior. Cognitions, emotions and
behaviors are products of the anatomy and physiology of our nervous and
Explain how principles of the biological level of analysis may be demonstrated in
1) Correlational studies: Study by Buss, who hypothesized that across cultures,
men will prefer to marry younger women because of greater reproductive
capacity and women will place greater value on a potential mate's earning
potential to provide survival advantages. This evolutionary hypothesis was
tested in 37 cultures by sending out questioners.
2) Twin studies (type of correlational studies) compare trait similarities in
identical and fraternal twins (Minnesota twin study by Tellegen, Buchard).
3) Experiment: Split-brain experiments by Gazzaniga & Sperry, brain plasticity
experiments by Rosenzweig and Bennett. Neurotransmission experiment by
Martinez and Kesner.
4) Case studies: Phineas Gage studied by Dr John Harlow and Oliver Sack's
study on Dr P.
Discuss how and why particular research methods are used at the biological level
Biological researchers often adopt a reductionist approach to the study of human
behavior. They work on a micro-level of research, breaking down complex behavior
into its smallest parts (e.g. genes, neurotransmitters or proteins). This approach is
sometimes criticized for being overly simplistic, but it is important to have detailed
information of the components of human behavior in order to understand the
interaction of several factors.
Kasamatsu and Hirai studied a group of Buddhist monks who went on a 72-hour
pilgrimage to a holy mountain in Japan. During this time the monks did not eat, drink
or speak and were exposed to cold, autumn weather. About 48 hours later they started
to have hallucinations, often about their ancestors. The researchers took blood
samples from the monks before the ceremony and immediately after the monks
reported seeing hallucinations. They found that serotonin levels had increased in their
brains. Serotonin activated the hypothalamus and the frontal cortex resulting in
hallucinations. They concluded from this study that sensory deprivation triggered the
release of serotonin, which actually altered the way the monks experienced the world.
The application of such research has improved the lives of many people, because
drugs have been developed stimulating or blocking certain neurotransmitters.
Psychologists however, consider the role of neurotransmitters on behavior, but do not
solely rely on it to explain behavior.
Brain technology has developed rapidly during the past century and is now used
extensively in neuropsychology because it provides an opportunity to study the active
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