Understanding Consciousness

Words: 879
Topic: Sociology


Psychology is relatively one of the oldest disciplines that have ever been studied by mankind. It strives to understand the behavior patterns exhibited by human beings and their relationships with various mental processes (Wundt, 2005).

Due to the broadness of the subject, it has been subdivided into numerous branches with narrower areas of interest.

Physiological psychology, as a branch of psychology, refers to the study of the human’s biological, physical makeup and how it relates to behavior orientation and experiences (Wagner & Silber, 2004).

The research paper focuses on some of the contributors to the field of physiological psychology, the relationship between the human nervous system and behavior, as well as two of the research approaches used by physiological psychologists.


Some of the prominent contributors to the field of physiological psychology include Avicenna, William James, Charles Bell, Bernard Claude, Pavlov, and Wilhelm Wundt.

William had a sound background in physiological training and conducted numerous experiments using living organisms with the aim of understanding how psychological processes are related to human behavior (Wagner & Silber, 2004).

Wundt, on the other hand, was a popular medical doctor, psychologist, physiologist, and professor. He is widely recognized as a significant contributor to the development of psychology as an independent science (Wagner & Silber, 2004).

His interest was in understanding how various factors like personal beliefs and mental processes influence human behavior.

In 1858, he started writing the “Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception,” and in 1874, he wrote the famous “Principles of Physiological Psychology.” These works contributed directly to the development of physiological psychology.

The Human Nervous System and Behavior

Several researchers have made attempts to investigate and explain the relationship between the human nervous system and behavior.

Classical researchers in this field made significant contributions towards convincing the larger scientific community to believe in the reliability of data collected from other living organisms (Wundt, 2005).

It is generally believed that the structural orientation of the human nervous system and the chemical reactions in the body can significantly influence our behavior (Wagner & Silber, 2004).

The question that has been lingering for a long time among interested psychological researchers is the degree to which biological factors affect behavior.

According to some of the physiological researchers who hold the reductionist approach, human behavior, as well as experiences, can be understood by analyzing the structure of the brain and chemicals in the nervous system.

This approach has been used to understand and explain the effect of drugs on mood variations and overt behavior.

The role of the nervous system (NS) in influencing behavior is due to its role in exchanging numerous signals which are triggered by feelings, emotions, thought processes, as well as the actions of every moment.

Researchers who advocate for the acknowledgment of the nervous system in influencing behavior argue that sensual receptors send signals to the brain which in turn command a reaction from the body which is manifested as behavior.

The roles of the nervous system have divided into three main sections (Wagner & Silber, 2004). First, is to sense particular information from the external about the internal environment.

Second, the NS integrates the received information which results in understanding and interpreting the information.

The third function is to issue appropriate commands to the muscles and glands resulting in behavior. These functions have been used by physiologists to argue their case in explaining human behavior.

Wundt was interested in understanding the relationship between instant experiences of consciousness, feelings, emotional dynamics, preferences and ideas, and human behavior (Wundt, 2005).

According to him, the distinction of vital processes into physical (physiological) and psychical (mental) is quite important in understanding scientific challenges.

However, Wundt emphasizes the fact that human life is complex yet unitary where the various consciousness processes and physical manifestations are closely interrelated.

Research Approaches

Physiological psychologists use several research approaches to understand human behavior. One of the approaches involves the manipulation (lesions) of the brain structures of other organisms under highly controlled experiments (Wundt, 2005).

The findings are used in the development of general theories that form the basis for explaining the relationship between the nervous system and behavior.

The study of the function of the hippocampus when it comes to understanding the relationship between learning and memory is widely used by physiological psychologists as a research approach.

Physiological researchers employ the reduction approach where complex phenomena are explained using simpler experiences by human beings.

However, physiological psychologists go beyond reductionist’s perspective and try to factor in a “psychological” approach to understand and explain human behavior (Wagner & Silber, 2004).

Hence, physiological psychologists use both the reduction and generalization approaches to research.


Understanding human behavior has remained a highly debated issue especially from the different perspectives advocated by various disciplines.

The research paper has defined physiological psychology as a branch of psychology which refers to the study of the human’s biological, physical makeup and it is related to behavior.

The research paper has also discussed some of the contributors to the field of physiological psychology as well as the relationship between the human nervous system and behavior.

Some of the research approaches used by physiological psychologists have been highlighted. It can be concluded that the nervous system plays a significant role in understanding and interpreting human behavior.


Wagner, H. L. & Silber, K. (2004). Understanding physiological psychology. Garland Science

Wundt, W. (2005). Principles of Psychological Psychology. McGraw Hill Plc.