Psyc2410 – Chapter 1
1.1 What is biopsychology?
Biopsychology is the scientific study of the biology of behaviour. Also known as psychobiology, behavioural biology, or behavioral
neuroscience. The Organization of Behaviour in 1949 by D. O. Hebb played a major role in biopsychology’s emergence. Hebb
developed the first comprehensive theory of how complex psychological phenomena, such as perceptions, emotions, thoughts and
memories, might be produced by brain activity.
1.2 What is the relation between biopsychology and the other disciplines of Neuroscience?
Biopsychologists are neuroscientists who bring to their research knowledge of behaviour and of the methods of behavioural
Biopsychology is an integrative discipline and draws together knowledge from the other neuroscientific disciplines and applies it to
the study of behaviour.
Neuroanatomy: study of the structure of the NS
Neurochemistry: study of the chemical bases of neural activity
Neuroendocrinology: study of the interactions between the NS and the endocrine system
Neuropathology: study of NS disorders
Neuropharmacology: study of the effects of drugs on neural activity
Neurophysiology: study of the functions and activities of the NS
1.3 What types of research characterize the biopsychological approach?
Human and Nonhuman Subjects
Rats are the most common, sometimes cats, dogs and nonhuman primates
Advantage of humans: can follow instructions, report subjective experiences, cheaper, have human brains.
Human brains differ from other mammals in their overall size and extent of their cortical development. The differences
are more quantitative than qualitative, thus principles of human brain function can be clarified by study of nonhumans.
Nonhuman brains have 3 advantages:
1. The brains and behaviour of nonhuman subjects are simpler than humans and thus more likely to reveal
fundamental brain-behaviour interactions.
2. Insights frequently arise from the comparative approach (study of biological processes by comparing different
3. It is possible to conduct research on laboratory animals that is impossible with humans for ethical reasons
Experiments and Nonexperiments
Experiments: used to study causation. The experimenter first designs two or more conditions under which the subjects
will be tested.
Between-subjects design: a different group of subjects is tested under each condition
Within-subjects design: test the same group of subjects under each condition
Independent variable: the difference between the condition
Dependent variable: the variable that is measured to assess the effect of the independent variable
Confounded variable: when there is more than one difference that could affect the dependent variable
The Coolidge effect: the fact that a copulating male who becomes incapable of continuing to copulate with one sex
partner can often recommence copulating with a new sex partner. Also in females. Lordosis: arched-back, rump-up, tail-
diverted posture of female rodent sexual receptivity.
Quasiexperimental Studies: studies of groups of subjects who have been exposed to the conditions of interest in the
real world. They are not true experiments because they have the possibility of many confounded variables, can’t draw
any causation. Psyc2410 – Chapter 1
Case Studies: studie