Biological approach

The biological approach is one of the units in the core. Personally, I teach of the core units as a stand-alone unit, but as you will see in the curriculum materials, I do not address all of the learning objectives of the unit in the biological approach unit. I focus on the biology or memory to help students understand the basic concepts and save those that are not as relevant until later in the course.

This section contains activities and curriculum tips, teaching ideas, revision strategies, key studies, a question bank and writing samples for different SAQs and ERQs.

Learning objectives

The curriculum does not have clearly defined learning objectives, but the questions are set by using the first two columns of the grid in the curriculum guide.  Below you will find the key areas of understanding that students must address within the unit.


  • Ethical considerations related to research studies in the biological approach to studying behaviour.
  • How and why particular research methods are used in the biological approach.
  • Evaluation of research methods used to study the brain, hormonal and/or genetic influences on human behaviour.

The brain and behaviour

  • Techniques used to study the brain.
  • The role of localization of function in behaviour.
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Neurotransmission and its role in human behaviour

Hormones and behaviour

  • Hormones and their role in human behaviour
  • Pheromones and their role in human behaviour

Genetics and behaviour

  • The role of genetic inheritance in human behaviour.
  • Evolutionary explanations of behaviour.

HL extension: animal research

  • The value of animal models in understanding the role of the brain/ hormones/genetics in human behaviour.
  • To what extent can animals provide insight into human behaviour.
  • Ethical considerations in animal research
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Comments 7

Barbara Adachi 11 August 2018 - 13:49

Have the learning objectives changed/been updated in light of the IB's newest clarifications about assessment?

John Crane 11 August 2018 - 17:13

Dear Barbara

There were no real clarifications that required any changes on the site. When the next round come out next month, I will update the site with the changes, if there are any. Fingers crossed

RWA Psychology1 19 September 2018 - 07:04

Dear John Crane,
We are very confused on what possible questions will come for paper 1. Initially, we assumed that we had some basic learning outcomes to learn, in short answer, and long answer essay format. However, with new information, we think that that there is a chance that questions such as "describe one/two research methods/ethical considerations..." may appear under the 3 approaches to psychology. Is this correct?

John Crane 20 September 2018 - 05:24

Dear RWA

Actually, this was always the case. In the information about the table, it says that research methods and ethics may be asked about any of the topics - so, research methods in the study of the individual and the group - or ethical considerations in the study of the brain and behaviour.

RWA Psychology1 20 September 2018 - 11:05

Thank you John.

Angela Chamosfakidis 29 September 2018 - 17:28

Dear John,

Hope you are well :) Thank you for the wonderful resources - I was particularly captivated with Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke of insight...amazing!


John Crane 30 September 2018 - 07:16

Thank you, Angela. I agree. My students arr also fascinated by this and the story of Sarah Scott. I think tjhat because Sarah is so close to their age, it really hits home.