• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

AS and A Level: Physiological Psychology

Browse by
4 star+ (14)
3 star+ (41)
Word count:
fewer than 1000 (159)
1000-1999 (121)
2000-2999 (33)
3000+ (15)
Submitted within:
last month (18)
last 3 months (22)
last 6 months (22)
last 12 months (23)

Meet our team of inspirational teachers

find out about the team

Get help from 80+ teachers and hundreds of thousands of student written documents

Five physiological approaches to research

  1. 1 Genetic – seeks to establish the extent to which traits are due to inheritance or environment. Researchers study concordance rates (if one person has a trait or disorder, what is the percentage probability that the relative also has it?) using twin, adoption and family studies e.g. susceptibility to stress.
  2. 2 Evolutionary – seeks to establish continuity between human and other species and explain human behaviours in terms of ecological adaptation, maximising survival and reproduction. Look out for studies on primate or other mammal behaviour that are used to draw conclusions about causes of human behaviour e.g ecological theories of sleep.
  3. 3 Neuroanatomical – seeks to understand the relationship between brain structure and behaviour. Often uses case studies of people with damage to certain parts of the brain or post-mortems of people with abnormal behaviours e.g. case studies of amnesiacs.
  4. 4 Psychobiological – related to the previous approach, but with more of a focus on measuring brain activity using a variety of scanning techniques whilst the individual is engaged in a specific task or activity. Often used for comparisons – eg. the brain activity of diagnosed psychopaths compared against the brain activity of ‘normal’ participants.
  5. 5 Biochemical – related to the previous approach, but with more of a focus on assessing the levels and activity of specified neurotransmitters or hormones and drawing correlations with specific mental states or behaviours e.g. post-natal depression, changes throughout the menstrual cycle.

Five big ideas for physiological psychology essays

  1. 1 Consider the causal nature of research findings – On the other hand, studies that do involve manipulation of an independent variable may require so much control of extraneous variables to produce a robust causal relationship that they can be criticised as being artificial and reductionist.
  2. 2 Consider the scientific nature of claims – Assess the extent to which explanations are supported by scientific research or not. Evaluate the techniques used by psychologists to operationalize mental processes in their research. For example, behavioural responses and psychobiological measures don’t tell us about the nature of thoughts.
  3. 3 Consider determinism – The more scientific the approach, the more determinist it tends to be, because science is the search for causes. Seeking ultimate causes of behaviour or chains of causal links is incompatible with the idea that humans have free will and complete moral responsibility.
  4. 4 Consider reductionism – Reductionism is the principle that one should always seek to understand at the most basic, most fundamental level: e.g reducing our understanding of depression to an explanation about the balance of chemicals in the brain rather than looking at the whole person in their social context. As a rule, the more scientific the approach, the more reductionist it is. Reductionist explanations have the benefit of being able to provide straightforward practical solutions.
  5. 5 Consider the correlational nature of research– Much physiological research is correlational, because it can be unethical to manipulate variables when studying topics such as the relationship between stress and the immune system or extreme sleep deprivation. Such studies can never produce a conclusive causal explanation, no matter how much we would like them to!

Four common brain imaging techniques

  1. 1 fMRI – Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging measures brain activity by measuring blood flow and oxygenation within the brain. When neurons are active they use more oxygen - so higher blood flow in a particular area signifies increased neural activity. fMRI scans are useful for studying the localisation and level of brain activity.
  2. 2 CT– A Computerised Tomography scan builds up an overall picture of the brain based on the way that X-rays are absorbed. Bone and hard tissue absorb more x-rays, soft tissue absorbs less, fluid absorbs very little. CT scans show the main features of the brain but are not so useful for looking at detailed structures.
  3. 3 PET– Positron Emission Tomography uses tiny amounts of radioactive material with very short half-life to map functional processes in the brain. When the radioactive material decays, a positron is emitted and this is detected on the scan. Higher radioactivity is associated with higher levels of brain activity.
  4. 4 EEG – Electroencephalography involves measuring the electrical activity of the brain with electrodes attached to the scalp and coverting the level of activity into an electroencephalogram, which shows the amplitude and frequency of brain waves. EEGs are frequently used in sleep research because it is a non-invasive technique, which can detect minute millisecond length changes in overall brain activity and arousal level.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 12
  1. Marked by a teacher

    The Racist Mind

    In studying these groups thriving on hate and racism, Raphael Ezekiel would attend get-togethers, rallies and group meeting and observes and interacts with them. Through attending these events and with his observations, Ezekiel learned many things about these groups. First, he discovered that for these white racist leaders and groups, there was absolutely no grey area. Meaning, you were either Black person or you were White person, with nothing in-between. "A truck is a truck, a car is a car, a cat is a cat, a dog is a dog, a black is black, a white is white" (Ezekiel).

    • Word count: 844
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Discuss the consequences of disrupting biological rhythms

    rhythms; this makes a person's exogenous zeitgebers out of place which make it harder for a person to sleep in the day making them less alert at night. Soloman, 1993 found that it is difficult to meet friends and spend time with family and divorce rates are as high a 60% among all-night workers. Shift work can lead to sleep deprivation, workers who have to sleep by day often experience sleep problems because when the finish work its daylight and there are other distributions such as noise

    • Word count: 581
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Outline and evaluate two physiological approaches to stress management.

    Drugs offer a quick fix and are sometimes cheaper than using biofeedback. Drugs are brilliant at fixing acute stress problems, drugs also allow for the window of opportunity where they can clam the patient down and offer them an alternative to drug therapy. There are problems though with using drug therapy as you can become addicted to them, patients start to depend on them and can't go with out them.

    • Word count: 441
  4. Marked by a teacher

    S.A.D. is seasonal affective disorder also known as the winter blues.

    these are the people whose episodes are sever and can be controlled with a mood stabilizer such as lithium, the individual might also be diagnosed with bipolar disorder (formerly called manic depressive illness). Six percent of patients are severe enough to require hospitalization. People with S.A.D. whose depression and lack of energy become debilitating to the point that it affects their work and relationships.

    • Word count: 599
  5. Peer reviewed

    Outline and Evaluate the biological model to Abnormality.

    5 star(s)

    Many abnormalities with the brain might occur due to genetic inheritance, which means that the abnormality was passed down from parent to child. A way of investigating this is by studying pairs of identical twins. They can be compared to each other (due to identical genetic structure) , and therefore see, that if abnormality is passed down by genetics, if one twin has a disorder, then the second should also have it, which gives us concordance rates.

    • Word count: 599
  6. Peer reviewed

    Discuss the view that stress is environmentally determined.

    5 star(s)

    Consent and debriefing would have been mandatory, however the sample of government civil servants was biased, which would therefore make it difficult to generalise findings. Nonetheless, Fox et al (1993) also concluded evidence that a personal in a low-control high-demand job would also suffer from stress related illness. The workplace can be deemed stressful due to environmental factors such as noise, temperature, control and workload, which are all potential sources. Life changes and daily hassles are also a cause of stress according to Holmes and Rahe (1967)

    • Word count: 561
  7. Peer reviewed

    Outline and evaluate two social psychological explanations for aggression

    5 star(s)

    While both are a form of operant conditioning, the direct approach parallels the ideas much closer. Bandura outlined the following four steps in the modelling process of SLT: Attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. Attention is increased if the model is more prestigious, attractive or similar. This causes the person (Bandura's work was largely focused on children) to remember the aggressive behaviour through cognitive processes, thus retention. Furthermore, vicarious reinforcement is not enough; imitation can only occur if the person possesses appropriate skills to reproduce the behaviour. And finally, the child requires motivation to act out the aggressive behaviour as imitation is related to direct and indirect reinforcements and punishments.

    • Word count: 1094
  8. Peer reviewed

    Thigpen and Cleckley

    5 star(s)

    of Eve Black. � Over a period of 14 months and around 100 hours of interview time, the two psychiatrists investigated the two Eves, first using hypnosis, but later without the need for it. � Eve White was found not to have access to the awareness and memories of Eve Black (experiencing blackouts when Eve Black took over control), although the reverse was true for Eve Black (who often used the ability to disrupt Eve White's life by taking over and getting her into trouble or by giving her headaches)

    • Word count: 685
  9. Peer reviewed

    Outline and Evaluate research (theories/ and studies) into the relationship between stress and physical illness.

    5 star(s)

    divorce, and the way we feel we are able to cope with things. If we cannot cope with the situation we are faced with, then we experience psychological and physiological responses to the stressor. In the short term, stress can be quite stimulating and motivating. In the long term stress can result in illness and even death. During a state of stress, the sympathetic area of the nervous system stimulates the adrenal medulla to release the hormones adrenaline and non-adrenaline into the bloodstream. These hormones stimulate heart rate and cause the body to use extra energy resources in the body.

    • Word count: 709
  10. Peer reviewed

    Discuss two biological therapies for depression. You should refer to research evidence in your answer.

    4 star(s)

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are drugs such as fluoxetine hydrochloride (Prozac), were originally though to be free of side effects and were prescribed extensively. In the last few years, doubts were raised about their safety and in particular, there were reports linking Prozac to suicidal behavior. Despite drugs having a 60% effectiveness rate within individuals with depression, there are a few limitations to this method of therapy. Firstly, all drugs work as a 'chemical straightjacket'. The drugs do not provide a complete cure from depression, as there is some evidence that symptoms return when the drugs are no longer taken.

    • Word count: 835
  11. Peer reviewed

    Outline the clinical characteristics of one anxiety disorder

    4 star(s)

    Social phobia can be related to shyness. The anxiety reduces the phobic's ability to cope with the social surroundings and interferes with the individuals' ability to function in at least some areas of daily life. Approximately 1-2% prevalence of the population meets the criteria of social phobia. The phobia can be triggered by actual or perceived judgement from others. Agoraphobia is a fear of leaving a familiar area, which can be open or closed. It is the only phobia that is treated as a medical condition. The prevalence of the population is 2-3%.

    • Word count: 1815
  12. Peer reviewed

    Critically consider 2 or more psychological explanations of depression

    4 star(s)

    One strength of the psychodynamic model of depression is that it has been supported by research in this area. For example Shah and Waller (2000) reported that many depression sufferers admitted to having affectionless parents. Given this, it could be argued that early loss is active in triggering later depression. In support of this Bifulco (1992) discovered that children were more likely to suffer depression later in life if their mothers had died during their childhood. However although this appears to be the case, we could argue that since their mothers had died, lack of necessary care from parent substitute may have led to depression rather than the actual loss itself.

    • Word count: 815
  13. Peer reviewed

    Dreams - What do dreams mean, why would we have them?

    4 star(s)

    I believe that having dreams is the best way of really discovering who you are. Dreams are uncontrollable, which makes them all the more frightening, tantalizing and vividly expressing who you are. Dreams seem to be the human subconscious speaking out and taking control. Dreams can express happiness, and sadness in ones life. I myself have experienced dreams which have made me come to realizations about myself. In keeping a dream journal you can communicate your ultimate creativity. Although dreams are the best form of communicating ones own wishes, it is the hardest thing to interpret.

    • Word count: 666
  14. Peer reviewed

    Compare and contrast two explanations of depression.

    3 star(s)

    Somatic symptoms include decreased need of sleep as well as being fidgety and more talkative with rushed speech. Finally Motivational symptoms include an increase in pleasure orientated activities that may have painful consequences. One explanations of depression is the biological explanation of Genetics. The genetic explanation suggests that depression us due to inheritance of genes from parents or family members which has resulted in the development of depression also within that individual. Evidence illustrating this explanation comes from that of family studies for example; Gershon (1990) did studies on families looking at first degree relatives of patients with Unipolar and Bipolar depression.

    • Word count: 1562
  15. Free essay

    Outoline and evaluate two biological theories of dream

    3 star(s)

    This seems to be apparent in people deprived of REM sleep when they show bizarre behaviour. Crick and Mitchinson also suggests that reverse learning provides an adaptive feature. REM allows smaller brains in mammals that sleep and larger neural networks for those that do not to absorb more information. The theory would explain why forget our dreams 95% of the time. But it would not explain why sometimes our dreams are significant and meaningful since this theory suggests our dreams are nothing but biological processes within the brain. There is evidence in which researchers found that dreams related to our current emotional problems in awake-state (Domhoff, 1996).

    • Word count: 733
  16. Peer reviewed

    Describe and evaluate one method/approach of managing the negative effects of stress.

    3 star(s)

    tension in the shoulders). This method will then calm down the effects of stress in terms of an illness. Anti - anxiety drugs - This is used to counter control the body's hormones and Nero - transmitters (which are used to give information between the nerves and cells). Drugs such as Valium can be used to control the natural body processes, but however there are side - effects. These can be an addiction to drugs or feeling drowsy. Lazarus and Folkman (1984) saw the differences between problem focused and emotion - focused strategies of stress management.

    • Word count: 548
  17. Peer reviewed

    Compare and contrast one biological explanation and one psychological of depression.

    3 star(s)

    In the cases of manic or major depression, sufferers may experience hallucinations or delusions. Other symptoms include; disturbed thinking, apathy, social withdrawal, anhedonia and possible suicidal thoughts. A biological explanation for depression is the genetic explanation. This theory suggests that you are more likely to suffer from depression if you have a relative who as also suffered from depression. For example, monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins has a higher risk than the general population of developing, particularly bipolar if their paired twin had the disorder.

    • Word count: 879
  18. Biological Explanations Of Aggression

    Also it is based on results from a self report questionnaire so social desirability bias may play a part. The study however is further supported by Raleigh study on Serotonin levels in monkeys. He split them into two groups and gave one group a drug which increased levels of Serotonin and vice versa. He found that like in the previous study the ones with the low levels of Serotonin had increased aggression. This further supports the role of neurotransmitters specifically Serotonin in aggression. However, this study also lacks population validity as it is tested on monkeys not humans. Also it is performed in a lab so lacks ecological validity.

    • Word count: 1047
  19. Outline and evaluate the Psychological explanations for Obesity

    A weakness of this study however is that the findings came from self reports which lack reliability and validity which could cause inaccurate results. A weakness of the psychodynamic approach is that for the vast majority of obese people they have not encountered childhood abuse nor do they indulge in sleep-eating.

    • Word count: 444
  20. Theories of Sleep

    These studies suggest that sleep deprivation should certainly be avoided whenever possible - but it could be argued that parts of Jouvet's research were superfluous. You don't need to be a psychologist to work out that prolonged sleep deprivation can cause lasting suffering and the death in his study could certainly have been avoided if common sense was used - i.e. how much did our understanding of sleep improve after the death of that cat? Certainly, even without that study we could've guesses with reasonable reliability that elongated periods without sleep can lead to both psychological and physiological illness.

    • Word count: 813
  21. Explanations of anorexia nervosa

    One theory isthat a reduction of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine (epinephrine is a synonym ofadrenalin) can disturb the operation of the hypothalamus and lead to anorexia: drugswhich increase norepinephrine levels have been reported as helpful in treating anorexia (Frude 1998). However, Doers et al. (1980) suggest that disturbances in the hypothalamus might be the result of self-starvation and not the cause of it, for instance,hormonal abnormalities in the hypothalamus disappear after weight gain. Also, Davisonand Neale (1998) point out that anorexic patients starve themselves despite still feelinghungry, however, the animals with hypothalamic disturbances did not exhibit behaviourwhich suggested hunger, rather they became indifferent to food.

    • Word count: 1283
  22. Outline and Evaluate the Psychodynamic Approach to Psychopathology

    The conflict occurs because they each represent different motives and this conflict causes the individual to experience anxiety. In order to relieve this anxiety, ego defences such as repression (moving unpleasant thoughts into the unconscious), projection (blaming someone else for something a child can not deal with) and regression (behaving like a child)

    • Word count: 452
  23. Free essay

    Explain how neurons transmit information. Our knowledge of the ways neurons function helps us to understand human behaviour. Discuss

    This essay explains neuronal activity in information transmittal and how knowledge of the nervous system has contributed to understanding of human behaviour. Information is processed through the nervous system which exerts an integral role in controlling behaviour by coordinating the inputs to the brain from highly specialized neurons that extend throughout the periphery. The principle component of the nervous system, the neuron, utilises electrochemical messaging to affect a repertoire of behaviours from simple reflex actions to complex emotional experiences such as depression.

    • Word count: 1058
  24. What treatments are available for schizophrenia and are they effective?

    These include stress, viral infection in early childhood, a lack of oxygen during birth, and the use of illegal or 'street' drugs. (2) Biological treatments for schizophrenia Over the past few years, many different medications have been developed for use in the treatment of schizophrenia which are referred to as neuroleptics or antipsychotic drugs and were developed in the 1950s. Antipsychotic drugs alter the balance of neurotransmitters and are used to relieve the symptoms of schizophrenia and to prevent relapses, meaning that antipsychotic medicine is usually taken on a long-term basis.

    • Word count: 1908
  25. Discuss two or more psychological explanations of one eating disorder.

    -Jones and Crawford found that overweight girls and underweight boys were most likely to be teased. Commentary � Support for media influence -Becker studied attitudes and behaviors after the introduction of TV in Fiji in 1995. -Found that girls desired to lose weight, however other factors make these particular people vulnerable. -Cachelin & Regan found no difference in prevalence of eating disorders between Black and White females. -Roberts found that the view that white females have a higher likeness to anorexia is only true for late teens. -Focus is still on western industrialized societies, therefore this indicates cultural bias.

    • Word count: 1627

Marked by a teacher

This document has been marked by one of our great teachers. You can read the full teachers notes when you download the document.

Peer reviewed

This document has been reviewed by one of our specialist student essay reviewing squad. Read the full review on the document page.

Peer reviewed

This document has been reviewed by one of our specialist student document reviewing squad. Read the full review under the document preview on this page.