Biological Approach in Psychology: Definition, Lesson & Quiz

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Chris Clause

In this lesson you will learn what the biological approach to psychology is and how it is used to better understand the human experience. Following completion of this lesson you will have an opportunity to test your knowledge with a short quiz.

We also recommend watching Intro to Biological Psychology and Biological Treatments for Psychological Abnormalities

Definition

The biological approach to psychology is one way to conceptualize and explain the human experience. The biological approach seeks to explain mental processes and behavior by focusing on the function of the nervous system at the cellular and structural level.

Introduction

Most people conceptualize the field of psychology as being the study of mental processes and behavior. While mental processes and behavior are distinct entities that can be examined and studied independently, they are directly linked to one another. Even more than that, they have a strong influence on each other. As an example, think of the last time you had the blues. Maybe your best friend moved away, or you didn't do as well as you hoped on your last psych exam. Whatever the case, I'd bet that your mood had some impact on your behavior. Maybe you didn't feel like going out dancing with your friends that weekend, or going for a drink with your co-workers after work. This type of experience is something that we can all relate to and is a normal part of the human experience. So how does it happen?

The answer to that question has a lot to do with the approach you choose to take. Based on your own knowledge and experiences, how do you prefer to explain the interaction of mental processes and behavior? There are a lot of ways to conceptualize and explain the human experience. Psychologists have explained the interactions of mental processes and behavior from a variety of approaches. Many psychologists prefer to explain human behavior from an evolutionary approach to psychology, while others attempt to explain the human experience from a cognitive or behavioral approach. People like Sigmund Freud popularized the psychodynamic approach. And still others will focus on sociocultural influences to explain mental processes and behavior. The focus of this lesson will be on a different approach from all of these, one that most people don't initially associate with psychology: biology.

Neuropsychology

Biology is, of course, its own distinct field of study, focusing on cells and structures of living organisms, among other things. Much like mental processes and behavior, biology and psychology are separate entities, but strongly influence one another. In fact, the two are so closely linked that the biological approach to psychology has its own name: neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists examine mental processes and behavior using a biological approach. They want to know what is happening at the cellular and structural level within the nervous system and how it is influencing the way that people think and subsequently behave.

The human brain is made up of a network of billions of interconnected cells, or neurons, as well as numerous brain structures that are designed to carry out various tasks. These billions of neuronal connections and associated brain structures are responsible for the thoughts that we have running through our mind and the behaviors that we subsequently engage in as a result of those thoughts.

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