The Biological Perspective of Psychology (Biopsychology)

The Biological Perspective or Biopsychology is a latest development in the field of psychology which has acquired increasing importance as a specialized branch of psychology in recent times. This branch of psychology is also known by different names like Psychobiology, Biological Psychology, Behavioural Neuroscience and Physiological Psychology.

The Biological Psychology attempts to analyze the relationship between physiological or biological processes on the behaviour or psychological processes. This specialized branch of psychology studies how our brain or the neurotransmitters and other biological parameters influence our psychology and behaviour, feelings as well as thoughts.

Bio-psychologists pay attention to understanding how various biological factors or parameters influence our mental processes, emotions and cognitive functioning.

Bio-psychologists attempt to relate the psychological or behavioural variables with the biological, genetic or physiological variables. Bio-psychologists key area of focus is on understanding the functioning of brain for understanding behaviour, since central nervous system controls or influences human behaviour. The major areas of focus are:

  • perception & sensation,
  • memory & learning,
  • movement control,
  • motivated behaviours for obtaining food,
  • clothing & shelter,
  • human emotions,
  • biological rhythm and sleep.

With the advancements in technology and in research techniques, various advanced issues such as decision making, reasoning, language and consciousness, are now considered to be the focus areas of investigation. Brain scans or Brain Imaging techniques like PET scan, MRIs, CT scan, etc provide a clear view on the functioning of the human brain to the scientists or the investigators.

Behavioural Neuroscience has excellent contributions towards treating various kinds of mental or neurological disorders, even those which fall within the purview of clinical psychology.

Neuropsychologists play the role of medical practitioners who scientifically investigate brain injuries and various mental disorders for providing the required medical attention and support.


Biopsychology as a specialized discipline gained its importance during 18th and 19th centuries. Eminent philosopher Rene Descartes propounded the physical model for explaining the behaviour of animals and humans. According to him, the Pineal gland which exists in the brain of many organisms is the point of connection between body and brain.

Descartes was also responsible for introducing the concept of reflexes which led to muscle responses, though this was later denied by the researchers with an argument that spinal cord is responsible for muscular responses. William James in his works “The Principles of Psychology”, 1890, tried to highlight that the study of psychology should be aligned with an understanding of the biological parameters.

Knight Dunlap first coined the term “psychobiology” in his work “An Outline of Psychobiology” in 1914. In a nutshell, the philosophers were engaged in understanding the relationship between the physical and mental worlds.

Ever since 18th and 19th centuries, the researchers have contributed some important research findings which explain the functioning of human brain and unveiled crucial findings on neurons, functioning of the nervous system and neuro-transmitters.

A bio-psychologist will be mainly interested in studying three crucial biological components that is:

  • the brain,
  • the central nervous system and
  • the neuro-transmitters.

Relevance of Biological Perspective in Psychology

One of the major perspectives in psychology is biological perspective, which involves the study of brain, genetics, immune system and also the nervous system. Various schools of thought in psychology since very long have centred around a debate on nurture versus nature.

The school of thought which supports the nurture aspect of the debate strongly hold that the environment plays a crucial role in moulding or influencing behaviour. While, those who support the nature facet believe that the biological factors influence human behaviour.

Psychology and Physiology relationship has been under investigation since many years ago. It was Charles Darwin who introduced the idea that genes and evolution influence behaviour. The biological perspective analyzes human issues and actions.

Let’s consider the example of aggression and how different perspectives interpret aggression. The psychoanalytic perspective might view aggression as an outcome of early childhood experience or unconscious desires. The behavioural perspective may look at aggression as a behavioural pattern which is moulded by way of association, punishment and reinforcements. Social perspective on the other hand, views group pressures or social forces as the major influencers of human behaviour.

Biological perspective, will try to analyze the biological factors or the roots which may lead to an aggressive behaviour, which may equally involve considering the brain injury or genetic factors which can be the major contributors for demonstration of aggressive behaviour. Areas of interest for the bio psychologists are:

  1. Understanding how traumatic conditions of the brain will have its influence on the behavioural patterns.
  2. Investigating how degenerative diseases of the brain will impact the way the people act.
  3. Analyzing the link between genetic factors and aggressive behaviour; studying how mental disorders can be an outcome of damage to the brain.
  4. Studying the similarities and dissimilarities amongst twins for determining which characteristics are an outcome of genetic factors and the characteristics which are an outcome of environmental factors.

Strengths and Limitations of Biological Perspective

Biological perspective is considered as the most scientific form of investigation, as it relies heavily on experimental techniques which provide validity to this approach. Studies which are held using this approach are performed in controlled lab settings and their research results are reliable as well as predictable.

The research results achieved are also objective as the findings are based on scientific investigation of the biological variables instead of subjective factors or mere observations. As a result of which, biological perspective has excellent contributions towards treatment of serious psychological or mental disorders.

One of the major limitations of this approach is that it is considered to be restrictive as the biological perspective fails to take into consideration the other influences on behaviour such as environmental factors, socio-cultural influences, childhood experiences and human emotions.

Biological perspective is one amongst the various perspectives in psychology, which has helped the psychologists in understanding the association between physiological forces, brain, neuro-transmitters and human behaviour. The perspective has helped researchers in discovering real world solutions or practical applications for dealing with behavioural or psychological problems.

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