Levels of Analysis
What is Psychology
Psychology : teaches us how we think, feel, develop, learn, love, interact and grow. Psychology teaches us about
who we are.
Questions Asked By Psychologists:
How does consciousness emerge from the coordinated actions of neurons in the brain?
Why do some people fall into a pattern of addictive behaviours?
Uses the scientific method to collect, evaluate and interpret information to draw sound conclusions.
A Brief History of Psychology
Psychology: the term psychology comes from the Greek word “psyche”, which means the soul
Before psychology, philosophers; such as, Aristotle and Plato, wondered “ how do we learn and
remember?” and “where does knowledge come from?”
Rene Descartes, suggested that the mind and body were distinct entities that were casually linked in a
dualistic relationship: the mind controlled the movements of the mechanical body; the mind in turn received
information about the outside world through the sense organs.
Innovations in technology made the 1800’s an interesting period for psycholinguists who had new tools to
explore and make significant discoveries about the brain.
Muller proposed that like an electrical current flowing along a metal conductor, the message transmitted by
nerves were coded as electrical impulses that ravelled along different channels.
When Helmholtz measured the speed of nerve impulses, he found it to be about 90 feet/second. But not as
fast as an electrical current.
Muller further proposed that particular parts of the body are connected to specific areas of the brain to serve
This was supported by Flourens, who used a technique to destroy different regions of an animal’s brain. As
a result, he learned which brain regions control heart rate, breathing, and processing of visual and auditory
Wundt believed that conscious experience could be studied using the same rigorous experimental tools that
chemist and physicists use.
Hall founded the American Psychological Association in 1892. Today, the Apa is the world’s largest
psychological organization. Led to other developments such as the Association of Psychological Science.
With these roots, the early focus was on the mind and little on the brain. Today, new technologies allow
researchers to draw more direct links between brain and behaviour.
Introduction to Level of Analysis
A problem can be approached from a number of perspectives that take into account one or more of the
three basic levels of analysis-Psychological, Biological, and Environmental.
o Psychological Level of Analysis: the most intuitive level of approach to an understanding of
human thought and behaviour.
This level concerns itself with the role of what lies within a subjects mind: how does
thoughts, memories and emotions motivate our actions.
To understand Micheal’s depression at a psychological level of analysis, a psychologist
may be interested in studying how emotions, memories and patterns of thinking like at the
core of Micheal’s feelings of isolation and depressive episodes.
o Biological Level of AnalysisPsychologists focus on the physiological mechanisms that underlie
thoughts and behaviour.
May include the structure and function of the brain, the molecular effects of
neurotransmitters and hormones, and how genetic factors contribute to behaviours. To
examine Micheal’s depression at a biological level of analysis, a psychologist may study
the role of key neurotransmitters: serotonin in mood disorders and genetic factors that
make some individuals more prone to depressive episodes.
o Environmental Level of Analysis: concerned with understanding how social, cultural and learning
interactions can influence thought and behaviour. Levels of Analysis
A psychologist examining Micheal’s depression from an environmental level may study
the conditions that triggered and maintain his feeling of depression; in this manner,
working to change these external influences may bring about positive change.
Introduction to Perspectives in Psychology
A particular problem may be approached from a perspective which has specific goals and involves one or
more of these levels of analysis. Some commonly used perspectives: behavioural, cognitive, neuroscience,