Outline principles that define the biological level of analysis.

Principle #1: Innate
Principle #2: Animal Research
Principle #3: Genetics

Approaches: Interactionists Approach, Reductionist Approach, Deterministic Approach, Correlational Approach, Bidirectional Approach, Nature v. Nurture.


Principle #1: Innate

The biological level of analysis focuses on the many physiological factors that play a role in behavior – brain processes, neurotransmitters, hormones and genes. Biological researchers therefore take a reductionist approach to the study of behavior – breaking complex human behavior into its smallest part eg. focusing on the role of a gene, a neurotransmitter, or a localized part of the brain. This can be seen in the case studies of Phineas Gage and David (Bruce / Brenda Reimer). Phineas Gage was a railroad worker who suffered a personality change after an iron rod shot through his brain. Damasio et al (1994) used imaging techniques to reconstruct the exact path of the iron rod. They were able to create a three-dimensional model of Gage's skull that showed that the iron bar went through prefrontal areas of the brain, thus showing a link between a specific part of the brain and social and emotional reasoning. Similarly the case of David (Bruce/Brenda Reimer. 1974 ) born an intersexed boy, shows the influence of physiology. The gender-neutral theory of John Money meant the boy was reassigned and raised as a girl, but the experiment did not go according to plan as David’s behavior remained masculine. Such a case demonstrates that psychosexual development is not determined by external genitalia and socialization but by chromosomes and hormones. This case raised a number ethical issues. However behavior is not the result of biological systems alone, it is also important to consider how the environment and cognition may interact with biological systems and affect physiology. This relationship is bidirectional i.e. biology can affect cognition and cognition can affect biology. This can be seen in the case of hippocampal damage and memory impairment, and emotions and cognition.

Principle #2: Animal Research

The biological level of analysis assumes that individuals may have a genetic predisposition towards certain behaviors. Human cell division may lead to changes in DNA sequences, change the genetic code and therefore cause genetic mutations. Genetic mutations may lead to variations in human physical and mental capacities. Although researchers are not able to identify the role of specific genes in specific behaviours numerous studies have shown a link between genes and behavior. Two keys ways of researching this link are through correlational ( twin and adoption studies) and linkage studies. 2 http://ibpsychologynotes.wordpress.com/ One of most well known and largest studies into twins is the Minnesota Twin Study ( Bouchard et al, 1990), a longitudinal study that has been ongoing since 1979, conducted at the University of Minnesota.The study tracks down separated twins from across the world and participants complete approximately 50 hours of medical and psychological assessments including personality traits, occupational interests and mental ability. He found that an identical twin reared away from his or her co-twin seems to have about an equal chance of being similar to the co-twin in terms of personality, interests, and attitudes as one who has been reared with his or her co-twin. This leads to the conclusion that the similarities between twins are due to genes, not environment, since the differences between twins reared apart must mainly be due to the environment Grove et al ( 1990) studied 32 sets of MZ twins who were separated and raised apart shortly after birth. A continuous score for anti-social behavior in both childhood and adulthood was derived by interviewing each subject with a standardized interview schedule; as such this assessment of antisocial behavior was a self-report measure. Statistically significant heritabilities were obtained for anti-social behavior in both childhood (0.41) and adulthood (0.28) Brunner’s (1993) linkage study found the same genetic mutation in 28 members of a Dutch family all with a history of anti-social behavior. Over the course of four years Brunner and his colleagues analyzed the X chromosomes of all men and found a mutation in the gene for MAOA, a neurochemical in the brain. A MAOA deficiency is associated with impulsive, aggressive behavior . The same mutation was not found in any of the control group of ‘non-aggressive’ males.

Principle #3: Genetics
If we accept the principle that behavior is innate – genetically based – then it is logical to believe that evolutionary processes may have played a key role in genetic mutations and transmissions. Evolutionary processes include Darwin’s theory of natural selection – natural selection is the process by which species adapt to their environment. Natural selection leads to evolutionary change when individuals with certain characteristics (adaptations) have a greater survival or reproductive rate than other individuals in a population and pass on these inheritable genetic characteristics to their offspring Evolutionary psychology applies this process to human behavior - for example adaptations which would have promoted survival and reproduction such as aggression might be understood as an adaptive necessity in the competition for limited resources. This is widely demonstrated in research. For example, a study by Chartrand & Bargh (1999 ) examined the chameleon effect in humans. The chameleon effect is the natural tendency to imitate each other’s each other’s body postures, hand gestures, speaking accents, and other behaviours. Their study showed that people who enagaged in more imitative behavior rated the person they imitated higher in terms of likeability, suggesting that mimcry (imitation) facilitated social interaction and bonding, an important adapative behavior for the success of the group.





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