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Biological approaches
to psychology
Simple revision points
What is the biological
approach to psychology?
 It assumes that people are controlled by
their biology. We evolved in response to
our environment; so we are controlled by
genetics and physiology.
 If we become psychologically ill, it is
because of genetic damage, disease or
accident. We should only look at the
physical elements of human behaviour
What two strengths are there
to the biological approach?
 If we know what causes illness then we
can treat it using drugs or surgery and
this can be done fairly easily.
 This approach explains some behaviours
and illnesses that are difficult to
understand using other approaches:
schizophrenia and addictions
What two weaknesses are there to
the biological approach?
 It reduces everything to a simple level;
depression may actually be an
appropriate response to a bad situation
and not a physical illness.
 Our behaviour often only makes sense if
you look at the meanings people put to
what they do. We are more than simple
biological responses.
How has the biological approach
been applied to mental illness?
 It has used psychosurgery such as
 It supports drug based therapies for
mental illness.
What two problems are there
with psychosurgery?
 There are ethical difficulties as serious
damage has been done to people’s
 Errors and mistakes cannot be corrected
so it is a very radical approach to dealing
with personality problems
What two problems are there
with chemotherapy?
 Drug treatments alone are often not
particularly effective for some conditions
and not all treatments are not
appropriate for all patients with the same
 Many psychotropic drugs have severe
and unpleasant side effects.