Critically evaluate how both biological and environmental factors influence human behaviour. Support your argument using empirical evidence.
Q & As
Q: I’m stuck. Where shall I start?
A: If you do not know where to start, consider reading the essay question again, and ten more times if necessary. Identify the key words and do a Google search. Expose yourself to different schools of thought relevant to the essay topic and then form your own opinion of it. Make sure that you shape your opinion using credible academic sources such as peer-reviewed articles and published reports rather than relying heavily on pop-science websites.
Q: What do you mean by ‘critically evaluate’?
A: Please be aware that “being critical” does not mean “being negative” or even “being nasty”. “Critical evaluation” requires an analysis behind it. For example, you may consider giving your verdict as to what extent you agree with the method and/or result of a study, and support your argument with sound reasoning and/or evidence found in other studies.
Q: What do you mean by ‘biological factors’?
A: Any measures obtained from the physical body can be deemed as “biological”, such as the blood pressure, the structure of the brain, the genetic makeup, the level of certain chemicals in the brain, and etc. You may not wish to discuss an exhaustive list of biological factors in your essay though (which is impossible anyway); instead, consider focusing on one or two specific factors that you think greatly influence the behaviours.
Q: What do you mean by ‘environmental factors’?
A: Environmental factors may refer to an array of external sources of variance, such as prenatal/postnatal, nutritional, parenting style, social economic status, and so on. Similarly, you may focus on one or two specific environmental factorsthat you believe influence the behaviours.
Q: What do you mean by ‘humanbehaviour’?
A: Biological psychology is most interested in the relationship between biological factors and behaviour. In this essay, ‘human behaviour’ refers to observable action(or action tendency) and emotions associated with individuals or human race as a whole. Today, psychologists believe our behaviours are influencedby both biological and environmental factors, and possibly their interactions. You need to explain in your essay how empirical studies help to demonstrate this viewpoint.
You may consider defining a scope of behaviour that you intend to focus in the beginning of your essay,such as certain personality trait, antisocial behaviour, and etc. Past years’ experience has shown that focusing on some specific behaviour rather than discussing behaviour generally, was more likely to lead to an essay with higher quality.
Q: I can’t find enough information in text books or lecture slides to answer the question.
A: For this essay title you will need to conduct your own independent research in order to be able to answer the question. One way to do this is to enter key terms from the essay question into search engines. Remember that your essay is expected to draw on peer-reviewed journal articles for the most part.
Q: All of the ‘critical opinions’ on the relationship of biological factor and behaviour I can find seem at first to be strong, but then I do a bit of reading and there is lots of evidence to argue that there are other external determining factors of human behaviour, or that undermines the initial evidence that I found. How should I carry on?
A: Great! Your essay needs to build an argument. This means considering the evidence both for and against one stance. Without this your essay would simply be a description, and would not demonstrate your ability to think critically.
However, please make sure that you do not dwell extensively on opposing the stance of biological determinism, or similarly, environmental determinism. As mentioned earlier, it is believed that human behaviour is the result of multitudinous factors that can be roughly grouped as biological and environmental factors. The essay title asks you to explain HOW these factors influence human behaviours TOGETHER.
An example you may find useful is the classic study, which showed the probability of depression was associated with both genetics and stressful events in life. Some other examples of the biological and environmental interactionon human behaviourcan be children’s different level of sensitivity (biologically determined) to the environment, which is associated to a lot of favourable or disadvantageous outcomes. Bothexamples and their relevant studiesare discussed in the lectures and you may find the link to the key journal articles on Blackboard folders.
Moreover, Seminar 1 is dedicated to supportyour essay writing. In short, you are provided with a lot of guidance and you should be confident in producing a high quality essay by Week 5 (as long as you work on it of course).
Q: I want to argue that biological factorsare more/less/equally important than environmental factors in influencing human behaviour; can I do that?
A: Go ahead. Just make sure that you support your argument with appropriate evidence.
Q: I can’t locate the full text of an article I want to read using DMU resources.
A: Try googling it – a pdf version may be available. Or try going to the author’s website. The library also has an internal loan system, where you can request for the full text. This takes a few days though, so please leave enough time for this.
Q: I still can’t locate the full text of the article!
A: In this case, probably the best method is to try a different source that makes the same point.
Writing your essay
Researching your essay
Content of your essay
Structuring your essay
Some people splurge everything onto the page, and then mould it into shape. Others think carefully about how they are going to structure their argument before they start writing anything. However you work initially, please bear the following in mind:
Editing and proofreading your essay
If you have further tips or resources that you would like to share with your fellow students let me know (Dr Hui Yu: email@example.com) and I canshare them with your peers.
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