Exam Question Bank: Paper 1: Biological Approach

Travis Dixon Biological Psychology, Revision and Exam Preparation 53 Comments

Whether you're a student looking for help with studying or a teacher writing mock exams, these questions should help.

Paper One has two sections – A and B. In Section A you have three compulsory short answer questions, one from each approach (biological, cognitive and sociocultural). In Section B, you have three exam questions, also one from each approach and you answer only one. This means you should prep all core approach topics for SAQs and you can choose one approach for essays.

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Biological Approach

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Terms in italics will be in SAQs only (not essays) and will only be in exams from May 2020 – not in May or Nov 2019 exams. This table is taken from our Revision Guide (available here).

Exam Questions

TOPIC Content SAQs Essay Questions

The brain and behaviour

Techniques to study the brain in relation to behaviour

  • Describe the use of one technique used to study the brain in relation to behaviour.
  • Evaluate the use of one technique used to study the brain in relation to behaviour.
  • Discuss the use of one or more techniques used to study the brain in relation to behaviour.

Neuroplasticity

  • Explain one example of neuroplasticity.
  • Explain how one study demonstrates neuroplasticity.
  • Discuss one example of neuroplasticity.
  • Evaluate one or more studies related to neuroplasticity.
  • Discuss neuroplasticity with reference to one or more studies.
Neural networks*

*terms in italics will not be in 2019 exams

  • Explain how neural networks are formed.
SAQ term only.
Neural pruning
  • With reference to one study, explain neural pruning.
SAQ term only.

Neurotransmitters and their effect on behaviour

  • Explain the effect of one neurotransmitter on behaviour.
  • Describe how one example illustrates the effect of neurotransmitters on human behaviour.
  • Discuss one or more effects of one neurotransmitter on human behaviour.
  • Discuss the effects of one or more neurotransmitters on human behaviour.
  • To what extent does one neurotransmitter affect human behaviour.
Synapse (excitatory/inhibitory)
  • Outline one example of an excitatory or inhibitory neurotransmitter.·
SAQ term only.
Agonists and antagonist
  • Outline one example of how an agonist and/or antagonist may affect a neurotransmitters influence on behaviour. (Or, SAQs could ask for one agonist or one agonists influence on behaviour)
SAQ term only.
Neurons
  • Explain how excitatory and/or inhibitory neurons affect human behaviour.
SAQ term only.
 

Localization

  • Explain one example of localization of function in the brain.
  • Outline how one study demonstrates localization of function in the brain.
  • Using one or more examples, explain localization of function.
  • Evaluate research related to localization of function.
  • Discuss localization of function in the brain.

Hormones and pheromones and behaviour

Hormones

  • Explain how one hormone affects human behaviour.
  • Outline one effect of one hormone on human behaviour.
  • Discuss one or more effects of one hormone on human behaviour.
  • Discuss the effects of one or more hormones on human behaviour.
  • To what extent does one hormone affect human behaviour.

Pheromones

  • Outline one study related to pheromones and behaviour.
  • Explain one example of how human behaviour may be influenced by pheromones.
  • Discuss research related to pheromones and behaviour.
   

Genetics and behaviour

Genes and behaviour

  • Outline one study related to the study of genes and behaviour.
  • Explain how genes may affect one behaviour.
  • Evaluate one study or theory related to the influence of genes on behaviour.
  • Discuss how genes may affect human behaviour.
  • To what extent do genes influence human behaviour?

Genetic similarities

  • Explain how genetic similarities are used in studies on genes and behaviour.
  • Discuss how genetic similarities are used in studies on genes and behaviour.
Twin and kinship studies
  • Describe one example of a twin or kinship study.
  • Explain how twin and/or kinship studies are used to understand the effects of genes on behaviour.
SAQ term only.

Evolutionary explanations for behaviour

  • Describe one evolutionary explanation of behaviour.
  • Discuss one or more evolutionary explanations for one behaviour.
  • To what extent can evolution explain one behaviour.

Research Methods & Ethical Considerations

Questions about research methods and ethics will be based on the three “topics” for the biological approach (the brain and behaviour, hormones and pheromones and behaviour and genetics and behaviour).

Research Methods

Short Answer Questions

  • Outline one research method used to study the brain and behaviour.
  • Describe the use of one research method used to study hormones and/or pheromones and behaviour.
  • Explain how and why one research method is used to study genetics and behaviour.
  •  Explain the use of one research method used in the biological approach to understanding human behaviour.

Essay Questions

  • Discuss one research methods used to study the brain and behaviour.
  • Evaluate one or more research methods used to study the brain and behaviour.
  • Evaluate the use of one research method used to study hormones and/or pheromones and behaviour.
  • Evaluate how and why one research method is used to study genetics and behaviour.
  • Discuss the use of one or more research methods used in the biological approach to understanding human behaviour.

Ethical Considerations

Short Answer Questions

  • Outline one ethical consideration related to studies on the brain and behaviour.
  • Explain one ethical consideration relevant to studies on hormones and/or pheromones and behaviour.
  • Explain one ethical consideration relevant to one study on genetics and behaviour.
  • Outline one ethical consideration related to studies in the biological approach to understanding human behaviour.

Essay Questions

  • Discuss one ethical consideration relevant to studies on the brain and behaviour.
  • Discuss one ethical consideration relevant to one study on hormones and/or pheromones and behaviour.
  • Discuss ethical considerations relevant to research on hormones and pheromones and behaviour.
  • Discuss one or more ethical considerations relevant to research on genetics and behaviour.
  • Discuss one or more ethical considerations related to research in the biological approach to understanding human behaviour.

Disclaimer: These questions are not IB “official” questions and are written with our best guess as to what the probable exam questions may look like. Therefore, not every possible question is covered.

Notes

  1. For short answer questions, because you can use the command terms interchangeably (outline, describe, explain) their selection for the above questions has been random.
  2. The italicized terms above (e.g. neural pruning) are the SAQ additional terms. It’s very difficult to predict how these will be phrased in IB exam questions.

Comments 53

  1. For questions “outline a study on…”, i remember you said to always take the command word as “explain”, but how would you explain “how and why” when the question is focused on a study?

    Thank you very much for this post!

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      The study will be related to a particular topic, so you can (a) explain the topic and (b) explain what the study says about that topic.

  2. For hormones, is it really possible that they would ask for two studies on a single hormone? Our teacher has taught us studies for different hormones, so I’m a bit concerned

    1. The phrasing in the exam SHOULD be “one or more,” but it is possible they could ask a question like “Evaluate two studies on the effects of one hormone on behaviour,” but I think a question like this is unlikely.

      1. Could they ask Evaluate two studies on the effects of one hormone on one behaviour? Or must questions targetting one behaviour be specifically one or more?

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      “Contrast two research methods” is an unlikely question and it would be VERY unfair to ask this since the IB have told us we can use a depth or breadth approach.

  3. Could a question be asked specifically on Agonists and Antagonists? Or are they just terms which we’re meant to know?

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      1. Alright, thanks for the info.
        Can both Agonists & Antagonists be asked about in one SAQ question? And if so, would we need two studies to support concepts regarding both agonists and antagonists?

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    1. Any. Although I would be surprised if they asked specifically about “one human behaviour” for methodology questions like techniques to study the brain, genetic similarities, twin/kinship studies, ethics and research methods. Hopefully they’ll also ask “one or more,” but there’s no way we can know for sure.

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  4. Hi Travis,
    For neurotransmitters in an ERQ, is it possible to use two studies about serotonin, but in Passamonti, its the effect of serotonin on aggression and in Crockett (2010), it’s the effect of serotonin on prosocial behaviour? Do the two studies have to show serotonin as having the same effect? I am concerned I might be asked to discuss “ONE effect of a neurotransmitter on behaviour.” Thank you 🙂
    Nov20

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      If the question asks specifically for “one” behaviour, then this might be tough. The questions may ask for “one” or “one or more” neurotransmitters and they also might ask for “one behaviour” “one or more behaviour” or just “behaviour” as well. We don’t know. This is why I encourage students to prep one neurotransmitter and one behaviour with multiple studies (pairing a human study with an animal study can work, and/or an experiment with a correlation). That said, a minor counter point in an essay in response to a question on “one behaviour” could be that neurotransmitters are not linked ot just one behaviour and their effects are multitudinous. Phewf – that was long. If in doubt, go depth over breadth: https://www.themantic-education.com/ibpsych/2017/07/03/5-reasons-why-i-think-depth-is-better-than-breadth-in-ib-psychology/

      1. Thanks so much for your answer! If asked for the influence of neurotransmitters on “behaviour” would that invite to discuss multiple effects on behaviour? Also because antisocial and prosocial behaviour are opposites and that Passamonti suggests low serotonin increases antisocial behaviour and Crockett says increased serotonin increases prosocial behaviour, are they not essentially saying similar things?

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  5. Hi Travis,
    For research method/ethics questions, will we always be ask a question on the broader topics such as “the brain and behaviour” and “hormones and behaviour” or could we be asked specifically about research methods/ethics in relation to specific content e.g. “pheromones and behaviour” or “evolutionary explanations of behaviour”?
    Thank you!

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      1. @anonymous,

        however with that being said, the topic of hormones and pheromones “may” be examined as and/or. The wording of “may” in the guides does not really provide any clarification :/

        Thus it may ask about research methods on just hormones, or research methods on just pheromones.
        Is that right Mr Dixon?

        I have a similar problem since all of my studies on hormones, and all on pheromones are experiments. So how can I “contrast” research methods?

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          Any question on research methods should be phrased in a way to allow you to write about studies on pheromones AND/OR hormones.

  6. Hi Travis! For this question: “Discuss one example of neuroplasticity,” does it mean you can only use one study? Or does it mean you can only use studies in relation to one area of the brain? I use Rosenzweig and Maguire and I’m not sure how I would answer this question. Thank you!

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      They might ask this question “Discuss neuroplasticity with reference to one or more studies.” in which case you’re fine. But if they asked the one above, then it would be tricky and yes, I would encourage answering it by focusing on one area of the brain and/OR one similar effect on neuroplasticity. For example, in my course I focus on the effects of stress on the hippocampus (Luby & Sapolsky). If you want to use Rosenzweig and Maguire you’ll just have to hope they keep the question a little broad – in Rosenzweig’s study the rats did receive maze training, so that’s visuspatial memory training similar to Maguire’s (although on a smaller scale), so you might be able to link them that way.

  7. Hi Travis. Would it be possible to use Maguire et al (2000) for neural pruning? The taxi drivers had less grey matter in their anterior hippocampus than the control group and more grey matter in the posterior hippocampus than the control group, suggesting neurons had been pruned in the anterior region, whilst being strengthened in their posterior hippocampi? Thank you

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  8. Hello. Does it matter if we classify an experiment as quasi or natural? Are natural experiments quasi experiments. For example, would Caspi et al be a quasi or natural experiment? I thought quasi become they are randomly allocated into either allele group, but also natural because the IV is naturally occuring. (this is for genetics research methods)

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      Any study that meets the definition of a quasi experiment also meets the definition of a natural experiment – the distinctions are subtle and difficult to distinguish except on a case by case basis – my advice is to state the method, define it, and then show how the study meets that definition. Hope that helps.

  9. Hi Travis. For a research methods/ethics question on hormones and behaviour, is it possible to talk about pheromones (seeing as this falls under the hormones’ topic)? Thanks!

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  10. Hello! I would like to begin by thanking you for making this rich resource available to all. I have an inquiry regarding genetics and behaviour. Do you think it is sufficient to thoroughly study the concept of genetics and use studies related to the subtitle “Genetic Similarities” which is said to be embedded in the overall topic of “Genetics and Behaviour”?

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  11. hey! for the biological level of analysis, is it possible that they ask about environments influencing a psychological process?

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  12. Hi Travis.

    For TWE question in evolutionary explanation, what study will you use as the counter argument?

    Thank you in advance.
    Melissa

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  13. Hi Travis,

    Some of the terms mentioned here (such as neural pruning or neural network) are not covered in the Oxford IB course companion 2nd edition which is the one my school is currently using (Exams in November 2022). Am I required to use other IB psychology textbooks alongside the one my school has advised us to use to supplement my knowledge, or are these terms part of an old syllabus?

    Thank you

  14. Hi Travis,

    Some of the terms mentioned here (such as neural pruning or neural network) are not covered in the Oxford IB course companion 2nd edition which is the one my school is currently using (Exams in November 2022). Am I required to use other IB psychology textbooks alongside the one my school has advised us to use to supplement my knowledge, or are these terms part of an old syllabus?

    Thank you

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      1. Thank you for the response!

        I have another quick question: Are we allowed to use studies outside of those provided in our textbook for SAQs or essays (e.g. a study I find online related to localization that isn’t found in the IB textbook)?

        Thanks again

  15. This is great!! So, if I wrote SAQs on each of these dot points, as well as similar ones for the cognitive & sociocultural approaches, would I be prepared for any SAQs that might show up on the exam?

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