The topic of this volume represents a perspective that can be traced to the founding of psychology as a scientific discipline. Since the late 19th century, biological psychologists have used the methods of the natural sciences to study relationships between biological and psychological processes. Today, a natural science perspective and the investigation of biological processes have increasingly penetrated all areas of psychology.
For instance, social and personality psychologists have become conversant with evolutionary concepts in their studies of traits, prejudice, and even physical attraction. Many cognitive psychologists have forsaken black boxes in favor of functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans, and clinical psychologists, as participants in the mental health care of their clients, have become more familiar with the basis for the action of pharmacological therapeutics on the brain.
The scientific revolution in molecular biology and genetics will continue to fuel the biological psychology perspective. Indeed, it can be anticipated that some of the most significant scientific discoveries of the 21st century will come from understanding the biological basis of psychological functions.
The contributors to this volume provide the reader with an accessible view of the contemporary field of biological psychology. The chapters span content areas from basic sensory systems to memory and language and include a perspective on different levels of scientific analysis from molecules to computational models of biological systems. We have assembled this material with a view toward engaging the field and our readership in an appreciation of the accomplishments and special role of biological psychology in the discipline.
Notwithstanding the trend for a greater influence of biological studies in the field of psychology in general, biological psychology represents a distinctive fusion of biology and psychology in its theory and methods. For example, evolution as a fundamental tenet in the field of biology has long permeated the work of biological psychologists.
The rapid growth in publications in the area of evolutionary psychology over the past two decades suggests a growing acceptance of the importance of evolutionary ideas in the behavioral sciences.
In addition to this influence, the contribution of biology, rooted in evolutionary and ethological traditions, has sustained a broad base of comparative studies by biological psychologists, as reflected in the contents of this volume. Research in the field of psychology using different species serves a dual purpose. Many studies using nonhuman species are motivated by the utility of information that can be gained that is relevant to humans, using a range of preparations and techniques in research that are not otherwise possible. Of equal importance, comparative research provides insights into variation in biological organisms.
Studies of a variety of species can show how different solutions have been achieved for both processing input from the environment and elaborating adaptive behavioral strategies. The organization and content of this volume focus squarely on the need to recognize these dual objectives in studies of biological and psychological processes.
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