Biological Level of Analysis

The Research Studies related to the BLOA.
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Kasamatsu & Hirai – Monk Serotonin Study (Serotonin)
[A] Investigate how sensory deprivation affects the brain.
  • Studied a group of Monks on a 72 hour pilgrimage to a mountain.
  • The Monks were not allowed to speak, eat or drink.
  • They were exposed to cold late autumn weather.
  • After 48 hours, the Monks started seeing hallucinations of ancestors and feeling their presence.
  • Researchers took blood samples before and after their pilgrimage.
  • The found increased level of serotonin in the Monks’ brain.
  • Especially in the Hypothalamus and Frontal Cortex.
  • Resulting in hallucination.
  • Sensory deprivation triggered the release of Serotonin.
  • Serotonin – responsible for Sleep, Arousal level, and Emotions.

Seligman – Learned Helplessness Dog Study (Depression)
[A] Prove that Learned Helplessness can lead to depression.
  • A dog was trapped in an enclosed area where the floor was lined with electrodes.
  • The experimenter would activate the electrode once in a while.
  • The dog would jump over a low wall to the other side of the enclosed area where no electrodes were on the floor.
  • The experimenter raised the wall slowly until it was too high for the dog to jump over.
  • Then after a few trials, the experimenter lowered the wall again.
  • The dog gave the high wall a few attempts.
  • But after knowing that it is impossible to jump across, the dog gave up and let itself get electrocuted.
  • When the walls were lowered again, the dog did not attempt to jump across.
  • The dog learnt that he is incapable of jumping across.
  • Learn that its are helpless therefore lowering its self esteem.
  • Low in ecological validity, lab experiment.
  • Controlled, no confounding variable.
  • Animal experiment can provide insight into human behaviour.
  • Unethical, participants did not have rights to withdraw.
  • Induced fear and depression into participants.

Money – Sex Change Case Study (Genetics)
[A] Prove that nurture determined gender identity, not nature.
  • Longitudinal study on David Reimer.
  • David Reimer was a boy who lost his penis while a circumcision accident.
  • Money suggested David’s parents to give him a sex change.
  • He did not reveal his true motive was to prove that nurture determines gender identity, not nature.
  • When David grew up, he displayed masculine behaviour.
  • Causing problems in school with his peers.
  • Proves the psychosexual development is determined by chromosomes and hormones.
  • Ethical guidelines: Unethical
  • A lot of deception and uninformed consent.
  • No protection from physical and mental harm.
  • No rights of withdrawal.
  • Milton Diamond was not convinced, he examined the role of hormones on the developing fetus.
  • Suggesting that psychosexual development is not determined by genitalia or upbringing, but rather chromosomes and hormones.

Sperry – Hemisphere deconnection and unity in conscious awareness
[A] Investigate behavioural, psychological and neurological consequences when the left and right hemisphere of the brain is disconnected.
  • Subjects were patients who had deconnection surgery to stop epileptic seizure.
  • Each hemisphere controls the opposite side of the body.
  • They were given a series of tests.
  • Test one
  • Visual information is presented to the left or right side for 1/10th of a second.
  • Eyes will not have time to readjust hence stimulus on the right will be received by the left hemisphere, vise versa.
  • Test two
  • Present tactile (touch) stimulus to the left or right side.
  • Screen is used to cover and remove visual identification.
  • Stimulus felt on the left side will be received on the right hemisphere, vise versa.
  • Object shown on the left side will only be recognized when its shown on the left side again, vise versa.
  • Only objects shown to the right visual field can be named verbally or written down.
  • Objects shown to the left visual field cannot be named.
  • Subjects were shown a Dollar Sign on the left and a Question Mark on the right.
  • They were asked to draw what they see with their left hand (the cannot see their left hand), subjects drew a Dollar Sign.
  • When asked what they had just drawn, they would tell the experimenter “A Question Mark”.
  • If an object was felt by the left hand, it can only be recognized by the left hand again.
  • Brain function is localised.
  • Speech and writing comprehension happens in the left hemisphere.
  • Processing of image and visuals happen in the right hemisphere.
  • There is a different visual perception and memory storage in each hemisphere.
  • Made use of patients who underwent hemisphere disconnection surgery as a cure for epileptic seizure, bypassed ethical guidelines of needing to physically harm the subject (even with consent).
  • Natural experiment, high in ecological validity.

The case study of Clive Wearing (Brain damage)
  • Suffered damage in Hippocampus due to a contraction of a virus.
  • His disease left him with extensive brain damage (parts of his temporal lobes).
  • Suffers from Retrograde and Anterograde amnesia.
  • MRI scanning show damage to the hippocampus and some of frontal regions.
  • Episodic memory and some of his semantic memory are lost.
  • He can still play piano, conduct music and remember his wife.
  • He still has his implicit memory including his emotional memory for his wife.
  • Ecological validity: High, study of a real life case.
  • Low potential ability to generalise because cases are individual.
  • Ethics: Patient’s name was disclosed under consent.

Milner and Scoville- The Case Study of HM
  • HM suffered from epilepsy.
  • Went through lesioning to remove temporal lobe.
  • Surgeon accidentally removed parts of the Hippocampus (responsible for LTM retrieval).
  • Caused anterograde and retrograde amnesia.
  • Retrograde amnesia only affected memory up to 11 years before surgery.
  • He can remember things 12 years before the accident.
  • Discovered that the cortex and hippocampus is connected and years in first grade would not be fully consolidated until first year in sophomore.
  • Emotional memory was intact, at the mention of the death of his favourite uncle, he experienced distress.
  • Ecological validity: High, study of a real life case.
  • Low potential ability to generalise because cases are individual.
  • Ethics: Patient’s name was kept confidential until he died.

Hietala – Presynaptic dopamine function study (Dopamine)
  • Measured by uptake of flurodopa (radioactive compound) was observed by a PET scan for 7 schizophrenic patients and 8 healthy people (controls).
  • The fluorodopa influx constant increased in schizophrenic patients.
  • Alterations in presynaptic dopamine function make people more inclined to have schizophrenia.

Dabbs et al – Testosterone and Aggression Correlation study
  • Measure the level of Testosterone in 692 male adult prisoners.
  • Prisoners who committed sex and violence crime had higher level of Testosterone.
  • When compared to those who were in jail for property crime or drug abuse.

Rosenthal – Melatonin study
  • In countries where there are low levels of sunlight, people have higher level of Melatonin.
  • This causes Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), symptoms include depression.

Kiecolt-Galser et al – Stress in exam study (Work-related stress)
[A] Investigate the stress from examinations and its effect on the immune system.
  • Participants were 75 first year medical students (49 males, 26 females).
  • Blood samples were taken before and during their exams.
  • Immune functioning was assessed by measuring the T-cell activity in the blood sample.
  • Students were given survey for self assessment on psychiatric symptoms.
  • Samples taken before exam had more T-cells.
  • Students that claimed that they felt lonely in the survey had a more vulnerable immune system.
  • Stress decreases the functionality of our immune system.
  • Confounding variable: No control over other factors that might have affected the immune system e.g. Caffeine, drugs, diet, sleep etc.
  • Correlational study: cannot identify cause and effect relationship.
  • Did stress cause sickness? Or did sickness cause stress?
  • Only students were used in the sample.

Block and Davidson – Jet lag on mice
[A] To examine if there is a link between the daily cycle and the death of rats.
  • 39 male mice, 9 young, 30 old.
  • Mice were divided in three groups.
  • Normal cycle (Control)
  • West bound traveling (12 hours of light delayed for 6 hours once a week)
  • East bound traveling (12 hours of light advanced by 6 hours once a week)
  • Experiment lasted 8 weeks.
  • 17% of the control group died (natural cause).
  • 32% of west bound died.
  • 53% of east bound died.
  • Experiment was repeated
  • This time, experimenters delayed the light once every four days.
  • The mice died more easily, especially the “eastbound” mice.
  • Anxiety level remained the same throughout the entire experiment (measured a stress hormone).
  • The rats did not die of stress, died because of the constant changes in body rhythm.
  • Link to principle - Animal research can provide insight into human behaviour.
  • Method was scientific
  • Measured the level of stress hormone to determine the cause of death.
  • Despite that, it just disproved one cause of death, there can be other causes although unlikely.
  • Assumption made on concluding, that death is cause by changes in body rhythm.

Waterhouse et al. – Jet lag study
[A] Identify some determinants of jet lag and its symptoms.
  • 85 subjects were used, 54 male, 31 female.
  • Athletes, coaches, academics from UK attending a conference in Australia.
  • A widespread of
  • Age
  • Sleep habits
  • Fitness
  • Time arrival in Australia
  • Previous travels to Australia
  • 24 hours flight – UK -> Singapore (one hour stopover) -> Australia.
  • Participants were studied during the flight and for the first 6 days in Australia.

  • During Flight
  • Group 1 (1/3 of the subjects)
  • Left UK at local evening time, arrived Australia at 06:00.
  • 32 subjects recorded the amount of time they spent asleep on both flights.
  • Group 2 (2/3 of the subjects)
  • Left UK in the morning, arrived Australia in the late afternoon.
  • 25 subjects recorded the amount of time they spent asleep on both flights.
  • Fitness was determined from a questionnaire, and took into account the age of the subject.
  • Subjects were awarded a score between 1 to 5 (5 being fittest).
  • Chronotype was determined by questionnaire.
  • 7 were morning type, 1 was evening type, the rest were intermediate.

  • In Australia
  • Subjects were asked to fill in a questionnaire about jet lag, using a visual analogue scale.
  • The amount of jet lag
  • The amount of fatigue
  • Time they got to sleep
  • Ease of sleeping and staying asleep
  • Time they woke up
  • Alertness 30 minutes after waking
  • Subjects were shown the questionnaire before the journey, so they know what to be aware of.
  • Results made in Australia showed that symptoms of jet lag decreased over time.
  • Men showed a slight tendency to sleep later and record less fatigue.
  • May be due to a masculine stereotype (self fulfilling prophecy).
  • Old subjects showed less jet lag and fatigue.
  • Contradicts with Block & Davidson’s Study.
  • Conclude that different factors can affect jet lag.
  • Methodology was not scientific enough, only measured based on self evaluation surveys.
  • Possible confounding variable: Male participants showed less fatigue because of masculine stereotypes.
  • Analogue visual scale was used which meant the scale did not categorize the response.

Mosconi – Alzheimer longitudinal study
[A] To find the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain.
  • Kept track of 53 normal subjects for over 9 to 24 years
  • Scanned them using a PET scanner (measures metabolic rate)
  • Those who had reduced metabolic rate in the Hippocampus developed into Alzheimer disease.
  • Shows that technology can pick up initial signs of brain deterioration.
  • Using technology can provide accurate results.
  • Ethical consideration: Causes physical harm in subjects
  • Injection of radioactive substance is bad for the body

Maguire et al. – Taxi driver study
[A] Investigate the function of Hippocampus in spacial memory.
  • Participants were 16 mentally and physically healthy right handed male taxi drivers.
  • Age range from 32 to 62.
  • Controls were 50 mentally and physically healthy right handed male.
  • Age range and distribution was similar to the taxi drivers.
  • Participants and controls were scanned with the same MRI machine.
  • The amount and density of the grey matter in the hippocampus (which translates into the processors) was counted.
  • Taxi drivers have a significantly larger hippocampus.
  • The volume of the hippocampus correlates with the amount of time as a taxi driver.
  • MRI can be used to detect the active areas of the brain.
  • Observing the concentration of deoxygenated haemoglobin is an accurate measure for brain activity.

Genetics studies grid
Researcher Research for # of pairs Subjects Concordance rate
Price Bipolar depression 97 MZ twins Reared together 68%
Reared apart 67%
119 DZ twins 23%
Allen Unipolar depression - MZ twins 40%
- DZ twins 11%
Bertelsen, Harvald and Hauge Unipolar depression - MZ twins 80%
- DZ twins 16%
McGuffin et al. Unipolar depression 117 MZ twins 40%
DZ twins 20%
Gershon Unipolar depression - First degree relative
  • Individuals with a first degree relative with depression was about two to three times higher than in the general population.
  • Social learning theory might be a possible explanation.
Wender Unipolar depression - Adopted children Adopted children who went on to develop depression had biological parents that were eight times more likely to have depression than their adoptive parents.

Gould – Meta-analysis of the IQ study of Yerkes (1915)
[A] Give a critical account of Yerkes’ IQ testing and its effect.
  • Yerkes was allowed to administer an IQ test to 1.75 million army recruits at the start of World War I.
  • The army recruits were split into two groups: Army Alpha and Army Beta.
  • Army Alpha (for those who can read and write) were tested in writing.
  • Army Beta (for those who cannot read nor write – tested on pictorial test) and if they failed the the Army Beta test they would be asked to do an individual spoken.
  • Average mental age of white American males was 13 years old. This is just above the level of ‘moronity’
  • European immigrants could be graded by their country origin.
  • The average mental age of men of many nations was a moron.
  • Darker people of southern Europe and the Eastern Slavs were less intelligent than fair people of western and northern Europe.
  • Black people had the lowest mental age at just 10.41 years old.
  • Impact on immigration, causing political debates.
  • 1924 Immigration Restriction Act reset immigration quotas, southern and eastern Europeans were effectively barred.
  • Estimated that 6 million people from these areas were denied access to US over the next 20 years.
  • Tests claimed to measure native intellectual ability (intelligence unaffected by environment or experience).
  • Beta tests still required culturally related knowledge and alphanumeric knowledge.
  • Requirements for taking the Alpha test were different in different camps.
  • Results should not be generalised to the nation because of the sampling of subjects and other factors affecting the procedure.
  • Shows how belief can triumph over reason.
  • Raises the question of “Who determines the questions on the IQ tests?”
  • Provides alternate perspective in viewing IQ tests.
  • Highlights problems in the collection and interpretation of data.
  • Convincingly argues the tests were neither reliable nor valid since many were given the wrong tests.
  • Was not a test for native intellectual ability but cultural knowledge, which could not have been acquired by people who have recently arrived in country.
  • Highlights dangers of ethnocentrism, contribute to scientific racism.
  • Shows importance of considering original research rather than accepting brief summaries as well as importance of being critical, looking or details of research and how it was conducted.

Bowlby – 44 Thieves Study
[A] To investigate the effects of maternal deprivation on people to see whether delinquents have suffered deprivation.
  • Interview 44 adolescents who were referred to a child protection program in London because of stealing.
  • Another group of 44 adolescents were selected as controls. These people were referred to the child protection program because of emotional problems, but have not committed crimes.
  • Bowlby also interviewed both groups’ parents to state whether their children had experienced separation during the critical period and for how long.
  • More than half of the juvenile thieves had been separated from their mothers for longer than 6 months during their first 5 years.
  • In the control group only two had had such a separation.
  • Several of the young thieves (32%) showed affectionless psychopathy (they were not able to care about or feel affection for others).
  • None of the control group were affectionless psychopaths.
  • The reason for the anti-social behavior and emotional problems in the first group was due to maternal deprivation.
  • Evidence comprises mainly of retrospective data.
  • Inaccuracy of memory
  • Experimenter bias
  • Bowlby designed and conducted this experiment himself.
  • Bowlby diagnosed affectionless psychopathy himself.
  • Only shows a correlation between maternal deprivation and affectionless psychopathy.
  • It is not a cause-effect relationship due to other variables such as diet, income, education.

Lorenz – The gosling experiment
[A] Show that attachment is innate.
  • Lorenz reared some goslings (young geese) from the moment they hatched, and found that as the goslings grew up, they would follow him about, and courted him in preference to other geese.
  • Lorenz also showed that goslings can also develop a social bond with inanimate objects, such as a white ball.
  • He called this social bonding “imprinting”, because he thought that the bond 
is somehow permanently and immediately stamped onto the nervous system from the moment of birth.
  • Unfortunately this is actually not true, as most researchers now believe that attachment develops through a series of stages, see Schaffer and Emerson – Stages of Attachment.
  • Lorenz showed that parental attachment is an innate behavior, and somewhat learnt as well, because repeated exposure to the stimulus is needed in order for the bond to develop.

Harlow and Zimmerman – Harlow’s Monkeys
[A] A series of experiments investigating attachment in monkeys.
  • 1. Infant monkeys reared in isolation.
  • Some died, others were frightened and behaved in an abnormal manner. They could not interact with other monkeys even when they were older.
  • 2. Infant monkeys reared with 2 surrogate mothers.
  • First surrogate mother: bare wire mothers.
  • Second surrogate mother: wire mothers covered in soft terry toweling cloth.
  • The monkeys spent more time with the cloth mother.
  • The infant would only go to the wire mother when hungry. Once fed it would return to the cloth mother for most of the day.
  • If a frightening object was placed in the cage the infant took refuge with the cloth mother.
  • The infant would explore more when the cloth mother was present.
  • Supports Evolutionary Theory of Attachment.
  • Sensitive response and security is more important than food.
  • Harlow concluded that for a monkey to develop normally s/he must have some interaction with an object to which they can cling during the first months of life (critical period)
  • Clinging is a natural response – in times of stress the monkey runs to the object to which it normally clings as if the clinging decreases the stress.
  • Bare wire cannot be clung on, as it is hollow.
  • Harlow found therefore that it was social deprivation rather than maternal deprivation that the young monkeys were suffering from.
  • When he brought some other infant monkeys up on their own but with 20 minutes a day in a playroom with three other monkeys he found they grew up to be quite normal emotionally and socially.
  • Ethical considerations regarding animal experimentations.
  • Humans cannot be represented by monkeys, therefore the findings cannot be completely generalized to humans.