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Outline the historical or cultural factors which led to the
development of the Biological perspective.
Over the last century or so, the practise of psychology began to formally
include certain aspects of the scientific method into its ways of looking
at h uman behaviour. This perspective – the Biological perspective –
involves the idea that all human behaviour has a physiological basis and
that the body and mind are a single entity. However, this perspective
which is taken much for granted now did not arise from nowhere. The
fundamental basics of this perspective can be traced back as far as the
Egyptian and Greek times, although the perspective didn’t advance
much more until quite recently when technological advancements have
allowed newer types of research to be performed and different types of
information to be uncovered.
The Greeks were a powerful nation, excelling in every subject from
theatre to philosophy. The age of the philosophers began at about 600 BC
with Thales . Philosophy was the beginning of a ll scientific thought and it
later branched of into psychology, however, some of the basic premises
of the biological perspective are visible in some Greek philosophers’ ideas.
Alcmaeon said in the 5th century BC that the brain was the ‘seat of the
soul’, implying that the brain did in fact play a part in cognitive
functioning, and a century later Plato agreed with this. Hippocrates
believed that the brain was the organ of intellect, controlled the senses
and movements, and that any damage caused a contrala teral effect. Even
Galen in the second century concluded that the frontal lobes were the
seat of the soul. However with the fall of the Greek empire and the rise of
the Romans, much philosophy disappeared for many years.
It wasn’t until much later down th e timeline that there was another boom
of psychological research. In the late 19 th and early 20 th century, the
scientific method was established and new ways of looking at questions
which had bothered people for some time emerged. Most importantly,
the use of case studies, large scale experiments, and the development of
particular technologies has advanced our understanding of the human
body hugely. The first steps were the unravelling of the nervous system by
Gall, Helmholtz, and other studies like Sherrington, who discovered that
reflexes are composed of direct conne ctions between sensory and motor
nerve fibres at the level of the spinal cord. At the same time, Cajal
detected synapses between neurons , which Sherrington later proved and
theorised about neurotransmitters and how the brain is made of a
complex pattern of neurons. Later, some significant case studies started
to appear which provided evidence for theories of localisation and
lateralisation of function such as the story of Phineas Gage, Paul Broca
and Carl Wernicke’s studies on language, and Roger Sperry’s studies on
split brain patients. Soon more refined methods of brain research were
produced such as direct electrical stimulation of the brain, which Harvey
Cushing used to map the
whole somatosensory cortex, and the EEC for measuring electrical pulses
of neurons. The next big step was the development of x -ray based brain
scanning techniques, starting wit h the creation of the CAT scan in 1972.
This created a burst of information and all of the are as and functions of
the brain were completely mapped by the end of the century.
To an abstract degree, the biological perspective was forged in two short
periods of time: the age of philosophers, establishing the base questions
of the theory, and the age of technology of science to answer all the
questions through scientific evidence. Since then, the biological
perspective of psychology has gone on to explain all sorts of ideas in
other areas of science and medicine and has produced some great
benefits for the general public.