Summary: the Biological Approach and the Psychodynamic

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This summary will identify two different Psychological theories, The Biological approach and the Psychodynamic. It will outline both approaches and point out components that define the differences within the two approaches. It will look at the strengths and weaknesses of each point made and the usefulness of both Biological psychology and Psychodynamic in psychology.

The biological approach looks into the different types of behaviours using knowledge of nerves and chemical balances of the brain. An assumption within the biological approach suggests that the biochemical imbalances caused by too many or too few neurotransmitters can affect behaviours. (Turner, J. 2017.

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Since its earliest origins, researching biology and biological processes has played a significant role in psychology. The theory that evolution and genetics play a role in human behaviour was first proposed by Charles Darwin. He also suggested that natural selection affects the transfer of certain behavioural patterns to future generations. Behaviors that are more likely to be passed on help in survival while those that prove to be risky are less likely to be inherited. (Cheery, K. 2019.)Evidence to back up the assumption of chemical imbalance affecting behaviour shows that people experiencing episodes of mania occur whilst noradrenaline levels are raised. However, if noradrenaline levels become too low depression could transpire. (according to the NHS) This is where drug therapy becomes a useful and practical application of the biological approach, There are prescription drugs that can alter the balance of these chemicals in the brain. Benefits of drug therapy would be, most are effective as they treat the issue but on the other hand, the limitations could be that they mask the problem rather than deal with it and could encourage dependency issues.Animal studies are another assumption of the biological approach although this is argued that it is unethical and also that people are not the same as animals. Behaviours are complex as some believe so regard this assumption as not being able to be investigated correctly. (Turner, J.)Another assumption would be that behaviours can be inherited or passed on through genetics. Twin studies were performed as an example of this, The behavioral likeness of monozygotic twins can be compared with dizygotic twins. This would be seen as a weakness as the traits could be learnt behaviours, especially if the twins live together. (Winnerman, L. 2004.)A key assumption within the theory is that there is a direct correlation between brain activity and cognition. Interactions between brain regions help control various functions that biological psychologists believe are important in determining our actions. For example, the limbic system, which is located in the temporal lobe, conducts emotions such as fear and love. (Palande, L.2018.)

It is a deterministic approach as it increases the likelihood of being able to treat individuals with abnormal behaviour and describes the causes of behaviour. However, This creates and generalises ideas about illnesses that extend to everyone rather than individuality, This is a weakness as not everyone's the same and using less free will mean people believe they are unaccountable for their actions. (Mcleod, S. 2019.) The deterministic approach also has a strength being that the importance of research is that the prediction and regulation of human behaviour has led to the development of treatments in which mentally ill people such as those with schizophrenia have a complete loss of control casting doubt on the idea of free will.Within the nature/ nurture argument the the biological approach support nature over nurture. A drawback is that most biological theories are reductionist as they attribute actions to gene outcomes and other biological processes, ignoring the impact of life experiences and factors such as thoughts and feelings. Evidence of this approach favoring the nature side of the argument would include, The publication of Charles Darwin – On the Origin of Species (1859). Where Darwin described the process of natural selection; features that are not adapted to the environment of a species will die out as it struggles to survive, and will develop over centuries so that only adaptive characteristics can remain in future offspring. (Turner, J. 2019.)

As the biological theory uses impericable data it is seen to be a scientific approach. These methods would include brain scans such as PET scans and MRI scans which would show any abnormalities of the brain or damage within in the brain which could indicate to behavioural issues. This is a strength because the methods used are observable, objective and accurate and can be replicated.The psychodynamic theory incorporates all the psychological hypotheses. that see human behaviour focused on the presence of various internal desires and influences within the individual and between the different personality systems. (McLeod, S. A. (2017).) Freud's psychoanalysis was the original philosophy of psychodynamics, but the psychodynamic method as a whole incorporates other theories based on his concepts, such as Jung (1964), Adler (1927) and Erikson (1950). (Vinney, C. 2019.)

Following the work of Signmund Freud (1856-1936) studied organic diseases at Vienna’s general hospital where he had previously studied medicine. In 1986 Freud set up his own privatised place of practice, specializing in the nervous system. Some diseases, severe injuries or medical conditions can have an affect on the nervous system. Freud later became intrigued in this and to the investigations of Psychological issues that could cause further problems within the nervous system such as, the ability to think and reason. This resulted in his decision to study full time pn the psychological origin of neurons. He continued his work and expanded on his interests which went on to research “normal” behaviours and social issues. In 1896 Freud developed psychoanalysis to describe different theories and techniques he believed would cure mental issues. It wasn’t just mental health Freud was interested in but also spent many years trying to recognise and produce a coherent of theories that would explain all human behaviours. In His work differed as the years went on and Signmued Freud contradicted various of his own theoretical assumptions from his earlier published work to later research. (Benson, N. 2001.)

The psyche, which forms the structure of personality, has three components, according to Freud: 1) ID, apparently existing from birth, pushing people to satisfy selfish desires acting on the 'pleasure principle. 2) The Ego, developing between the ages of two to four years, behaves rationally, combining ID and superego. Suggested this is acting on the basis of the ' principle of reality. 3) Superego which develops at age four, Concerned with the upholding of moral norms and acting in accordance with the ‘principle of morality’ and attempting to control a strong association with feelings of guilt. (Turner, J. 2019.)Key assumptions within the psychodynamic approach would include, Behaviours and thoughts as adults are caused from previous childhood experiences. Such trauma or distress would cause issues when grown up according to these beliefs. For example,Attachment theorists suggest that the earliest bonds we form with our parents and caregivers are the most impactful. They decide the way we approach adult relationships. (Llew, M. 2017.)

Freud described the mind within three levels, the conscious mind, pre conscious and the unconscious mind. The top area regarded as the conscious level of the mind where someone is awake and fully aware of their actions. Then lower down he believed that layer was the preconscious mind, where memories of dreams linger and gives an idea about the unconscious mind. Apparently leading to thoughts that have been that indirectly reveal thoughts but also protects the mind from knowing the real thoughts of the unconscious mind is really thinking. Lastly the unconscious mind which was said to contain things such as hidden traumatic experiences or memories of the past. Hidden away for the mind to forget as such. These thoughts can never be accessed. (Benson, N. 2001.)

This approach takes both nature and nurture into account. Looking at the assumption that all personalities consist o f three things: Id, ego and superego would take the side of nature. The ID is the primal and instinctual portion of the mind that includes sexual and violent impulses and suppressed memories, the super-ego acts as a moral consciousness, and the ego is the rational component that mediates between the needs of the ID and the super-ego, according to Freud's model of the psyche. (Mcleod, S. 2019)It is unscientific because the method does not use controlled experiments to collect empirical evidence by using case studies to endorse hypotheses. This could be a strength as its more personal to individuals but also a weakness as methods used would include things such as Psychodynamic psychotherapy. Disadvantages would include it lacks objectivity and relies on theoretical theories which can not be proven, For example, the unconscious mind. Furthermore, it is difficult to test in anyway, without any empirical data.

Freud’s theories are deterministic which suggests people’s actions are predetermined. This can be shown in Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development, where he explains the five stages suggested we all go through. Which includes“The Oral Stage”, the initial psychosexual stage in which the main concerns of the developing child are orally gratified. “The Anal Stage”, The human development phase begins at about one to three years of age. The child starts to toilet train around this age, which results in the child's interest in the anus erogenous zone. The bowel and bladder control is the subject of the erogenous zone. “The Phallic Stage”, The third stage of psychosexual development, spanning from three to six years of age, in which the infant's libido focuses on its genitalia as an erogenous zone. “The Latent stage” During this stage there is no further psychosexual development. The libido is inactive as such. Freud thought during the latent stage most sexual desires were repressed, and sexual energy could be sublimated to school work, interests, and friendships. “The Genital Stage”, Used to define the last stage of development of human psychosexuality lasting through to puberty. Where teenagers become attracted to other people. This suggests that everyone goes through the same in life. (Cherry, K. 2019)

The Biological approach is one that uses a scientific approach, using data that can be checked and rechecked and giving the same result almost every time. Whereas the Psychodynamic approach is very unscientific as it uses non empirical data and can not be checked or re tested in the same way. They could both be useful to different types of people depending on their preferences, For example, drug therapy may not be an interest to everyone and speaking during therapy may help to get things out in the open. Both approaches seem to take the deterministic view as it seems both biological and psychodynamic theories believe that actions are predetermined.



References & Bibliography

  1. Benson, Nigel, C. 2001. Introducing psychology, accessed via paperback copy 11/12/13
  2. Cherry, Kendra. 2019. accessed electronically 12/12/19
  3. accessed electronically on the 13/12/19
  4. accessed electronically 11/12/19
  5. accessed electronically 10/12/19
  6. Llew, Michelle. 2017 accessed electronically 12/12/19
  7. McLeod, S. A. (2017). Psychodynamic approach. Accessed electronically on the 10/12/19 from
  8. Mcleod, Saul. 2019 accessed electronically 10/12/19
  9. NHS accessed electronically 11/12/19
  10. Palande, Leena. 2016. accessed electronically 14/12/19
  11. Vinney, Cynthia. 'Psychodynamic Theory: Approaches and Proponents.' ThoughtCo, Dec. 10, 2019, Accessed electronically 12/12/19
  12. Wilson, John, 2017 Accessed electronically on the 12/12/19
  13. Winerman, Lea. 2004 accessed electronically 11/12/19

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