Biological Psychology/Basic Biology
- 1 Psychology and Biology
- 2 Brief History of Psychology\Biology
- 3 Basics of Biology
Psychology and Biology
Biology is the study of life. It encompasses many fields ranging from Botany (the study of plants) to Zoology (the study of animals). The biological aspect concentrates on the chemical and physical mechanisms that are associated with life.
Psychology is the study of the mind and is a fast-evolving and ever changing field. It is considered the scientific study of behavior and mental processes. It is influenced by the positivist movements, and is also highly quantitative. This means that the logical truth of something must be based in the material world (positivism), and it uses mathematical equations to give support, or prove theories (quantitative).
A mistake is often made to dismiss something as non-quantitative because current technology or thought cannot quantify it. This has been a struggle with psychology, and only recently in the history of science has psychology been recognized as science. Some fields within psychology, most notable, psychoanalysis still do not appear to adhere to positivistic or quantitative principles. Psychoanalysis is not considered to be scientific because of its concentration on the unconscious mind. One thing that history shows is that a field considered non-quantitative may in the future have a basis in the physical world. In fact, if the underlying mechanisms of consciousness and unconsciousness can be understood and manipulated by biopsychologists, psychoanalysis may indeed have a positivistic basis.
The ever changing nature of psychology is fascinating and important to study. The emergence of a physical mechanism via the brain and electrochemical processes has further thrust psychology into the realm of science and blurs the line between psychology and biology.
How they work together
Biology and psychology tightly integrate together. This is because the brain is the location of thought or mind, and it is governed by electrochemical properties. These are the same basic principles that underlie all other functions that create life. This means that the actions of the mind are governed by the physical world and since the mind is paramount to the study of psychology, psychology is really just a subfield of biology.
Brief History of Psychology\Biology
The Ancient Greeks were pioneers of biology and medicine. They were experienced enough with anatomy to hypothesize that behavior and cognition derived from biology rather than spirituality. In particular, Hippocrates proposed that a person's personality is determined by the balance of four bodily fluids, or humors: black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. Although this idea is not supported by modern evidence, the terms "choleric", "melancholic", "sanguine", and "phlegmatic", which derive from these four fluids, are still in popular use.
Foundations in Physics
It is unsettling to believe that one's behavior and one's thoughts are dictated by the laws of physics, but the mechanics behind many psychological phenomena have been demonstrated.
The First Psychology Laboratory
Phrenology is the idea that different parts of the brain perform different functions. It was formally proposed by Franz Gall, though others, such as Paul Broca, followed a similar ideology. Gall made the further claim that the size of the different brain regions corresponded to an individual's relative strengths and weaknesses, and that the size of brain regions could be detected by analyzing the shape of one's skull. This latter point would be taken by some of Gall's students and turned into a form of divination that led to phrenology's reputation as a parlor trick. However, the idea that the brain is segregated into functional regions remains prominent today.
Behaviorism is the idea that all (or most) psychological phenomena, including a person's behavior and thoughts, are learned through classical and operant conditioning. This is in contrast to the idea that traits are innate, such as by genetics. James Watson and BF Skinner were two of the most prominent behaviorists. James Watson is perhaps most famous for his "Little Albert" demonstration, in which he conditioned an infant to fear a white rabbit by playing loud noises every time the infant approached it. Not only did the infant develop an aversion for white rabbits, but the fear generalized to other white fluffy objects (e.g. cotton balls, Santa's beard). BF Skinner conducted experiments at the University of Minnesota in which he used operant conditioning to train pigeons to perform such tasks as playing a miniature piano. The debate of "nature vs. nurture" remains strong today, but it is now clear that most of psychology derives from the interaction between these forces.