Mini Review on Biological Level of Analysis


The biological level of analysis argues that there are physiological origins of many behaviors, and that human beings should be studied as biological systems. This relationship is bi-directional i.e. biology can affect cognition and cognition can affect biology. Many physiological factors can play a role in behavior: brain processors, neurotransmitters, hormones and genes. However, physiology does not work on its own; it responds to environmental stimuli such as stressful experience , an attractive person walking by, or something as extreme as brain damage caused by an accident. One of the major controversies in the history of psychology is the nature nurture debate, in which researchers debate whether human behavior is the result of biological or environmental factors. The interactionist approach used by modern psychologists does not adopt either the biological or environmental, but adopts a more holistic picture of human nature. The biological level of analysis is based on certain principles about human behavior. One of these principles is that behavior can be innate because it is genetically based. If this principle is accepted it is logical to believe that evolution may play a key role in behavior. Another principle is that animal research can provide an insight into human behavior; as a result a significant amount of research is undertaken using animals. A third principle is that there are biological correlates of behavior. The implication of this is that it should be possible to find a link between a specific biological factor (e.g. a hormone) and a specific behavior, and this is the aim of researchers working at the biological level of analysis. Biological researchers often take a reductionist approach to the study of human behavior.

Case Studies

Broca 1861
Aim: To investigate why Tan could comprehend what others were saying but could not form words to express their thoughts. Investigate brain localization
Participants: Tan
Procedure: Longitude study of Tan -Conducted after death autopsy to see which part of brain cause deficiency,
Results: The Broca area involves: -The left side of the brain deals with language -Production of articulate speech -Moves muscles required to speak -Analyze grammatical structure of sentences, help extract meaning from language

Phineas Gage 1846
Aim: To investigate how Phineas Gage's brain damage resulted in behavioral changes and the specific areas of the brain that attributed to Gage's psychological condition
Participant: Phineas Gage
Procedure: On September 13th, 1848, an explosion occurred at a railroad constructing site that caused an iron bar to penetrate through Phineas Gage's head. It entered below his left cheek and through his frontal lobe. Dr. John Harlow nursed him back to health and observed Gage's behavior throughout the years.
Results: Dr. Harlow concluded that Gage’s frontal lobes were indeed damaged in the left pre-frontal region, which accounted for his disinhibited behavior. This exemplifies the theory of localization of function, which states that specific regions of the brain are responsible for different functions.

Harlow and Zimmerman 1959
Aim: To determine which was more important to a baby Rhesus monkey; the comfort of a maternal figure or a food source.
Participants: A baby Rhesus Monkey.
Procedure: A baby Rhesus monkey was placed in a room with 2 inanimate objects. The first object was covered in a soft, comforting material which would act as the mother monkey. The second object was the same shape but made of metal wires which were equipped with a bottle (food source).
Results: 22/24 hours of the day the test monkey would cling to the more comforting fake monkey mother. The monkey would only leave the fake mother when it needed food.