The Biological Framework: Heredity (Part 1 of 2)

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Psychology is primarily concerned with what organisms (people and animals) do-that is, how they behave. But, as we saw in my other articles, there are many different types of psychologists, and they take different approaches to this concern. One major difference is in their attitude toward studying what is inside an organism-in particular, the anatomy (structure) and physiology   (functioning) of its nervous system. The two most extreme points of view are held by the behaviorists on the one hand and the philological psychologists on the other.

The behaviorists, led by B.F. Skinner, maintain that what goes on inside an organism is none of their concern. They believe that a psychologist should try to predict an organism’s response in a given situation on the basis of its past experiences, and never mind what goes on underneath its skin. This is sometimes called the ”black box” approach because the   organism is regarded as being enclosed and concealed-you can expose it to stimuli and record its response. but you can’t open it and look inside. Physiological psychologists adopt the opposite strategy: They are primarily interested in what’s inside the black box. The assumption is that an organism’s   behavior will become predictable when enough is known about its anatomy and physiology.

The two extreme positions can be likened to two ways of learning about a machine such as a car. The first method is to see what happens when you press the various buttons and pedals and when you put (or fail to put) gasoline into the gas tank. The second method is to look under the hood and see which wire is connected to what and which gear turns what other gear.

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