Write an evidence-based essay comparing and contrasting the perspectives of the behavioural and
biological paradigms in relation to understanding or treating a psychological phenomenon of
interest to you. Be sure to critique both paradigms in the course of the assignment. Word count:
Please note, your chosen behaviour need not be a disorder, nor a disorder formally categorised in
the DSM, nonetheless you should be able to find relevant research and/or theory, or be able to
apply biological and behavioural principles to it. The assignment requires you to make several
choices, search through relevant literature, and investigate in some depth an area of interest to you.
You need something where both biological and behavioural psychology have been used, or can be
Some areas like depression, anxiety/phobias, obesity both are relatively well established in terms of
both aetiology and treatment
Others might tend towards more aetiology – addictions, sexual behaviour
Some potential topics include – depression, anxiety disorders, human mate choice, sexual
behaviours, behavioural addictions, substance use/abuse, eating behaviour, obesity, autism, ADHD,
Big part of this assignment is showing you understand them, and being able to apply them
For biological you can look at genetics, biochemistry, evolution etc – treatments might be surgery,
drugs, endocrine etc
For behavioural you are looking at operant (reinforcement, punishment, observational learning) or
Steer clear of cognitive stuff, or be clear about a behavioural interpretation
Briefly define the psychological phenomena of interest – including its diagnostic status in the DSM (if
Describe, using relevant research and theory, the aetiology (essentially the cause/explanation) OR
treatment of your chosen phenomena in both biological and behavioural terms. In some cases there
will be direct research/theory, in others you might need to borrow from related areas.
Compare and contrast the two approaches – consider their relative advantages/disadvantages, and
the personal and social issues/costs of the phenomena and the approaches to
Consider any ethical issues (e.g., labelling, stigma, privacy, invasiveness of treatment, accountability
etc) raised by the two approaches.
LO 1 - Demonstrate knowledge of theoretical concepts associated with the behavioural and
biological paradigms in psychology.
Clearly discuss the concepts from the behavioural and biological paradigms that you invoke in
explaining your chosen phenomenon
i.e., outline basic learning principles (rft/pun/obs/cc – or all) required, or basics of evolutionary
theory/neurotransmitter system etc…
Use research findings to support your position, and demonstrate your ability to link theory and
As earlier – some will be direct, some will be you drawing links from related areas
LO 2 - Critically evaluate and compare the biological and behavioural paradigms in psychology.
Discuss the limitations and strengths of each paradigm with respect to
understanding/treating/changing the phenomenon you chose.
Note their similarities and differences, and where they compliment, or are incongruent, with each
NB. They are not mutually exclusive – different ‘levels’ of ‘explanation’
LO 3 - Examine the implications of theory for understanding personal and social experience.
Examine how each approach can impact on understanding personal and social experience, including
aspects of personal and social responsibility where appropriate.
What are the key strengths, weaknesses and challenges associated with each?
Consider the perspective of those experiencing the issue – how would you feel?
LO 4 - Demonstrate awareness of ethical considerations in the research and practise of behavioural
and biological psychology.
Consider the ethical considerations and implications associated with adopting each approach in both
research and practice.
How good is the evidence?
What are the implications of adopting each approach?
LO 5 - Present work to the appropriate academic standard
The standard is high – read articles.
Use correct APA formatting and referencing throughout the essay.
Ensure the work is yours – avoid plagiarism! Structure the essay carefully, ensure it is well organised.
Use coherent and grammatical sentences and paragraphs to clearly develop your arguments
Ensure your ideas and arguments are developed and flow logically. Explicitly link theory and
research to provide strong and well-developed arguments.
Don’t need separate sections for each learning outcome
Concise introduction and conclusion – stress main points at end – don’t dilute by trying to cover
Both depth and breadth are acceptable – simply outline why you have taken a narrower focus
Both approaches have equal weight – can take a development and/or a treatment/change
Avoid websites – by all means look at Wikipedia, but do not reference it
For any others you might use for opinions, be aware of their bias/position
Avoid the likes of Robbins, Gray etc etc…
This is a research literature review – researchers do not publish their research via websites, blogs,
etc etc – they use ‘peer-reviewed’ academic journals
Integrate and critically discuss the ‘research’ and form your own conclusions!
A few people in my lecture have been asking about CBT type treatments. If you cannot find an
explicitly behavioural treatment, then with CBT type interventions you can explicitly focus on the
elements there that target behaviours. Essentially that's what differentiates a CT from a BT cogntive treatments focus on cognitions and argue they're central (CBT focuses on both cognitions
and behaviours but argues cognitions are central) whereas behavioural therapies focus on
behaviours and argue they are central. The Jacobson papers (and many others you can find) argue
on the basis of pretty good evidence that in many cases it remains that it's the behavioural
components are are the important, or active ingredient if you like. Although the Jacobson work is
about depression, it could be relevant in other areas.
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