Physiological Psychology: Definition and Meaning

A connection between two closely related sciences whose subject topics have, for the most part, travelled entirely different routes is attempted to be demonstrated. Physiology and psychology, together, cover the subject of vital phenomena; they deal with the facts of life in general, and especially with the realities of human existence. Physiology is concerned with all aspects of life that manifest as physiological functions in our sense perception and, as a result, are a part of the larger environment that we refer to as the outside world. Psychology, on the other hand, aims to explain the connections between processes that are demonstrated by our own consciousness or that we deduce from physical characteristics of other creatures that suggest the presence of consciousness similar to our own.

What is Physiological Psychology?

An introduction to the structure and operation of both the nervous system's cells and the system's overall structure serves as the major emphasis of physiological psychology. Physiological psychology, commonly referred to as behavioral neuroscience, is a developing area that blends psychological experiments with neuroscience study while illuminating the generalization and reduction of research objectives. The historical foundations of science explain the rationale behind the application of these objectives and technical advancements, such as deep brain stimulation therapies for severe depression and the use of light to alter behavior by influencing single neurons.

The content and application of physiological psychology can be studied in a controlled experiment, where it can be observed that it directly manipulates the brains of nonhuman animal test subjects to learn more about the neurological underpinnings of perception and behavior. When examining the brain and human behavior, physiological psychology adopts an empirical and pragmatic approach. The majority of experts on this subject think that the neurological system is the root of all mental phenomena. Physiological psychologists may learn a lot about human behavior by researching the workings of the nervous system. The creation of ideas that explain the links between brain-behavior interactions is the primary objective of psychological research.

Nature of Physiological Psychology

Psychologists that merged psychological and physiological experimental procedures and applied them to problems that affect all psychologists have written the history of physiological psychology in the contemporary era. We have thus looked at perceptual processes, motor control, sleep and waking, reproductive behaviors, ingestive behaviors, emotional behaviors, learning, and language. Recently, research on the physiology of human pathological situations including addiction and mental illnesses has started.

Biological Roots of Physiological Psychology

The theories of Rene Descartes concerning the functions of the mind and brain in the regulation of behavior serve as a useful entry point into the development of physiological psychology. Descartes believed that animals were mechanical machines whose behavior was influenced by their surroundings. He had a similar perspective on the human body, seeing it as a machine. These kinds of responses were automatic; they didn't involve the intellect in any way. Reflexes, he termed them. Descartes was a duelist who thought that everyone had a mind, which is a special human quality that is not governed by the rules of the universe. He was the first to propose a connection between the human mind and the brain, which serves as its sole physical home.

He saw that the fluid-filled hollow chambers in the ventricles of the brain are under pressure, and he made this assumption. According to his idea, when the mind chooses to act, it tilts the pineal body in a certain direction like a tiny joystick, forcing the fluid to flow from the brain into the proper set of nerves. The same muscles contract and expand as a result of the fluid flow. A model is a relatively straightforward system that operates according to established principles and can perform at least some of the functions of a more complicated system.

Galvin discovered that when a frog's nerve was electrically stimulated, the muscle to which it was linked would contract. The capacity of the muscle to contract and the ability of the nerve to communicate with the muscle were properties of these tissues in and of themselves since contraction took place even when the nerve and muscle were isolated from the rest of the body. Consequently, the brain did not pressurize the nerve to cause muscles to contract.


Physiological psychology includes wide range of topics starting from numerous subjects pertaining to the body's reaction to an organism's behavior or activity. It relates to the cells human brain, structures and elements of brain, and also the chemical reactions that result in actions. Sleep, ingestion, senses, emotion, reproductive behavior, communication, learning/memory, psychopharmacology, and neurological illnesses are some of the areas on which psychologists in this discipline often concentrate their research. The idea that the nervous system interacts with other bodily systems to produce a certain behavior is the basis for all of such studies.

Updated on: 02-May-2023


Kickstart Your Career

Get certified by completing the course

Get Started