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Answering Approaches Questions

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Answering the approaches question

Using the biological approach to explain a behaviour

"Lottery addict children

Britain is producing a generation of child gamblers hooked on the Lottery and

fruit machines. Disturbing new research by two eminent academics shows

that hundreds of thousands of children-some as young as 11- are now

addicted despite the supposed legal restrictions. The findings will fuel

warnings from lottery critics that the country is storing up social problems and

is likely to trigger pressure for a uniform age limit of 18 on all gambling."

(Reproduced from AQA A specimen material.)

In the A level examination you will be required to explain a target behaviour

using any approach. The aim of this activity is to offer you, the candidate, the

opportunity to express your true understanding of the approach by your ability

to use it in a novel situation.

How would you explain lottery addiction in terms of the biological

approach? The currency of the biological explanation is brain activity or

brain anatomy, nervous impulses and neurotransmitters, hormones, and

various organs in the body. A possible explanation could be as follows:


Why are young people hooked on the lottery and fruit machines? A

psychologist might use the biological approach to explain this

behaviour. Such a psychologist would explain the behaviour in

terms of brain activity and the action of the central and autonomic

nervous systems. The psychologist might also mention hormones.

An answer like this would attract relatively few marks as it does little

more than sketch out the possible elements of a biological explanation

and has not demonstrated a true understanding of the approach. In

order to do this you really need to try to put together an explanation of

the target behaviour.


An explanation of lottery addiction using the biological approach

would focus on how biological systems can be used to explain and

understand this behaviour. When an individual stands in front of a

fruit machine the flashing lights are physiologically arousing,

creating a sense of excitement and probably pleasure. Physiological

arousal causes the body to produce certain hormones that prepare

the person for fight or flight. We can also understand the

individual's behaviour in terms of nervous impulses. The eyes watch

the pictures on the fruit machine go round and send impulses to

the brain where they are interpreted and further messages sent to

the hands to press a button at an appropriate moment to stop the


In the A level examination you will be given an opportunity to evaluate

one of your explanations so you can take the opportunity, as below, to

indicate in what way the explanation offered in the first part of the

question is lacking. This highlights the fact that your explanations may

not be satisfactory! They simply need to demonstrate your understanding

of the named approach.


The problem with the biological approach is that for many aspects

of behaviour it ignores some of the key elements of behaviour. In




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