Exam Tips – Principles of BLOA

tdixon Biological Psychology, Revision and Exam Preparation 1 Comment

Principles of the biological level of analysis focus on how biological variables can influence behaviour, and vice-versa.

Note: This is for the “old” syllabus (Exams in May 2018, and Nov 2018)

What do you need to know?

  • Two “principles” of the biological level of analysis
  • How these  can be demonstrated in studies (or theories)

What are the principles?

The two principles my class came up with this year were:

  1. Biological factors influence behaviour.
  2. Our behaviour can influence our biology (e.g. neuroplasticity).

Revision Tip: Keep it simple!

I’ve seen textbooks recommend really complex ways of saying the principles of BLOA, that from memory go something like this:

  • Our behaviour can be a product of our nervous and endocrine systems. 

This just makes it sound unnecessarily complex, and thus more difficult to remember. What this is really trying to say is:

  • Hormones and brain activity can influence behaviour. 

Put even more simply, you get the principle that my students were able to figure out for themselves: “Biological factors can influence behaviour.”

Another overly complex principle I’ve seen is:

  • Our behaviour can be innate because it’s genetically based. 

If English isn’t your first language, and even if it is, this phrasing might be pretty hard to comprehend. What I also don’t like about these two textbook versions of the principles is that they put the variables before the behaviour. It’s a minor thing, but I like to keep things simple in my brain, so I consistently move from left to right , like so:

  • IV –> DV
  • Cause –> Effect
  • Variable –> Behaviour

So in previous years my students have come up with a principle about genetics, but their version was far more straightforward:

  • Genes can influence behaviour.

If you were able to master these basic principles, you might want to “play it safe” and memorize the textbook versions, but I don’t see a need to.

Why only two?

You don’t need three principles, and it’s unlikely that you’ll even be asked about two because this question can only be a short answer question (Paper 1, Part A) in the exam – it won’t be an essay question. To ask about two for a SAQ would be a tall order and a bit unfair (I think) of exam writers. But that’s not to say it can’t happen!

Hot Tip: Choose one principle and become a master at it with one study that demonstrates it really well; have a second as a back-up just in case you’re asked about two.

What is a “principle?”

A principle in this context is like a theme; it’s an idea that is common throughout research that involves the study of relationships between biology and behaviour.

My students devise their own principles during our revision lessons when they recall all the studies that involve biology in some way. I then ask them to identify “themes” by looking for patterns and similarities across studies. 

What is a “level of analysis?”

The levels of analysis are terms invented by the IB to describe the different approaches psychologists take to study behaviour. So the biological level of analysis is primarily focused on understanding how biological variables influence behaviour. Similarly, the socio-cultural LOA looks at how social and cultural variables influence behaviour. CLOA is a bit different because it essentially is treating cognition as the behaviour and focuses on how variables can influence our cognition.

The principles have been removed from the “new” syllabus, so these tips only apply for the “old” syllabus.

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  1. Pingback: Exam Tips – Principles of CLOA – IB Psychology

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