Psychology is a relatively young field of study. However, throughout its course of development it has developed a few influential schools of thought. Most of them to some degree grounded their findings on the study of biological foundations.
Over the course of time of its development, psychology has evolved to include a variety of different schools. In particular, psychoanalysis proved to be a great influence in the early 20th century. Originating in the works of the Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud, this school of thought evaluated the human personality in terms of “Ego” (the conscious), “Super-Ego” (the ideal self), and “It” (the subconscious). The importance of subconscious aspects and motives then becomes an important factor in evaluating the effect of various biological processes on the human mind. Psychoanalysis was famous for its “emphasis on unconscious drives” (Clay, 2002).
Later on, the influence passed on to behaviorism, a school of thought notable for its “insistence on applying the methods of physical science to human behavior” (Clay, 2002). Objectivity was the main advantage of such an approach. However, it raised many objections in the scientific community because of its supposedly too narrow and restrictive approach and look at things.
Humanistic psychology was in many ways a reaction to behaviorism in the sense that it sought to overcome the limitations of behaviorism and take a broader view of human psychology, bringing consciousness back into the picture. Among the famous people in humanistic psychology were “Abraham Maslow [who] developed a hierarchy of motivation culminating in self-actualization” and Carl Rogers who introduced person-centered therapy grounded in tapping the patient’s own capabilities (Clay, 2002).
In recent years, cognitive neuropsychology that develops in the context of cognitive science became an important phenomenon in this field. Scientists working in this area seek to find explanations for psychological reactions in the functioning of the human brain. Psychological analysis is in this case grounded in “neuroscientific studies devoted to analyze the neural processes” (Hommel et al., 2005).
Human psychology is grounded in physiology that explains many aspects of psychological phenomena. For example, our knowledge of the world is driven by perception and sensation, both important processes that are grounded in physiology of the human body. Sensation occurs through the five senses that deliver information to the brain that later retrieves information and processes it to power the understanding of the surrounding world and define the psychological response to it.
Anyone studying psychology should get an idea of the major divisions of the human nervous system including the central nervous system, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system. The structure and functions of each division determines the individual’s psychological activity. Processes that occur in various divisions of the nervous system, including the neurons, axons, and synapses, determine what a human being feels or thinks. For example, recent studies have shown that a change in the functioning of neurotransmitters can affect an individual’s behavior and moods and serious malfunction can even cause schizophrenia.
The biological foundations of psychology are not, however, limited to only the role of the nervous system. The endocrine system with its system of glands emitting various types of hormones into the body can have a serious effect on the life of a person. Hormones are responsible for various roles, regulating sexual and other functions in the body.
A study of biology and its effect on the psychological state of the individual helps understand the effect of various drugs on the nervous system. It helps explain the effects of the so-called “altered state of consciousness” induced by different types of narcotics and hallucinogens. Hypnosis, sleep, meditation, and dreaming are all processes grounded in biology that demonstrate its effect on psychology. Last, but not least, biology helps explain the effect of heredity upon the life of an individual. Hereditary diseases, abilities, as well as specific features of temperament and other things can be transmitted through genetics.
Health and social life are also directly related especially when individuals experience serious stress or happiness. Thus, psychologists have discovered that “those with more types of relationships and those who spend more time in social activities are at lower risk for disease and mortality than their more isolated counterparts” (Cohen, 2005, p.297). In this way, social psychology can also benefit from study of biological foundations.
Thus, psychological research can approach phenomena in different ways, exploring human psyche from the perspective of various schools of thought. In any case, biological foundations of psychology play an important role. They play an important role in explaining human behavior.
Clay, R. (2002, September). A renaissance for humanistic psychology: The field explores new niches while building on its past. APA Monitor on Psychology, 33(8). Retrieved January 5, 2007, from http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep02/renaissance.html
Cohen, S., et al. (2005, May). Loneliness, Social Network Size, and Immune Response to Influenza Vaccination in College Freshmen. Health Psychology, 24(3), pp.297-306. Retrieved January 5, 2007, from http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/hea243297.pdf
Hommel, B., et al. (2006, November). How the brain blinks: towards a neurocognitive model of the attentional blink. Behavioral Science and Humanities, Social Sciences and Law Issue, 70(6). Retrieved January 5, 2007, from http://www.springerlink.com/content/u745631u53813448/?p=18b409e296c542a29b32a055d27c50b0&pi=3
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