Psychology as a Biological Science
Robert Biswas-Diener, Portland State University
Ed Diener, Universities of Utah
Copyright Year: 2020
Conditions of Use
This text covered a number of sub-fields of biological psychology that I would want to expose students to. However, despite the fact that there was in an-depth module on hormones and behavior, the text neglected to include a module about neural... read more
This text covered a number of sub-fields of biological psychology that I would want to expose students to. However, despite the fact that there was in an-depth module on hormones and behavior, the text neglected to include a module about neural communication or the role of glial cells. Some modules (psychophysiological methods in neuroscience, hormones and behavior, psychopharmacology) assume knowledge of neural communication, which is not actually covered in the text. In addition, despite the inclusion of modules on drives and well-being, I was disappointed to note that there was nothing specific in the text regarding sleep-wake regulation or circadian rhythms. I also found some of the specific modules to contain less information than I would expect. For example, there is a module on psychophysiological methods including fMRI, EEG, etc., but not much on more invasive methods involving manipulation of the nervous system. In addition, some modules on cognitive, developmental, and social aspects of psychology fail to take a biological perspective.
The material that is present seems accurate and I appreciate that each module is written by somebody with expertise in that field, helping to ensure a more accurate representation of the material. Many of the authors represent a “who’s who” within their fields. Some modules felt oversimplified, and the missing information might lead to misunderstandings by both the students and professor using the text. It’s possible that any user would need to rely on supplementary material to get a more nuanced understanding of the material.
Due to the slightly superficial nature of most modules, the information is less likely to become obsolete than many biological psychology texts. In addition, the modular structure makes it easy to update specific sections when needed. There are some recent developments in the field that I feel are not represented, such as the increasing importance of glial cells in cellular communication, some advanced methodology such as diffusion tensor imaging or optogenetics, and the role of drugs such as ketamine for treatment of psychological disorders. I hope that the included video links are routinely monitored so as not to result in dead links for students.
The clarity of the information is dependent on the module that you are using. Some modules do a very good job at defining terminology and writing at a level appropriate for an introductory level student while others assume knowledge about biological mechanisms not detailed earlier in the text. For example, there is a module on epigenetic changes without a lot of background information on basic concepts in genetics. In addition, while there are a number of pictures included in the text to break up the content, there are few diagrams or figures that can help to supplement and clarify the material.
Despite each module being written by a different author, the overall structure is similar and it is easy to find things like learning objectives and discussion questions for each. For a text that focuses on psychology as a biological science, I would hope that each module would emphasize the topic covered from a biological perspective, and this is not the case. While there is more of an emphasis on biological psychology compared to what you would expect in a typical introductory psychology text, many modules (e.g. memory, attention, cognitive development) fail to take much of a biological perspective at all. Thus, the quality of the module is hit or miss depending on the topic.
The modular organization of the text is one of its most appealing aspects, as each can easily be assigned as a stand alone component. For the most part, each module feels fairly easy to digest as a reading assignment and I appreciate that some include videos to help to supplement the material and engage the reader.
The organization and flow is much like what you would expect from most texts on biological psychology. What makes this text strong in terms of modularity hurts it a bit in terms of flow since some topics are repeated in a number of modules while others are left out altogether. This results in the awkward placement of some information (like what a synapse is in the psychopharmacology module) in comparison with a more traditional biological psychology text.
I found the interface to be easily navigable and was able to find relevant information quickly. Since some material appeared in unexpected modules, I liked the search feature, which allowed me to quickly identify references to specific topics. I also liked the opportunity to see the definition of vocabulary words when they appeared in the text.
I did not notice any grammatical errors. Overall the writing was strong with good editing.
This text takes a fairly western perspective, although it does attempt to include pictures of a number of cultures and backgrounds to convey its inclusivity. Unfortunately, almost every picture where a “scientist” is portrayed is that of someone who is white. Based on the author descriptions, the authorship is about 60% male and about 85% white. It would be nice if future updates included a bit more diversity in terms of authorship as well as discussion of relevant topics to biological psychology such as gender identity.
I like the format of this text, but it’s not clear who the target audience is. It feels too specific and biology focused for an introductory psychology course, but does not include enough relevant information about biological mechanisms for a course in biological psychology - even an introductory one. I could see myself using specific modules to supplement other material in my courses, but I can’t see adopting this as the primary text.
This text covers a wide range of interesting topics and could be useful in a wide variety of educational contexts. However, I feel that many of the topics are too advanced for an introductory psychology course. read more
This text covers a wide range of interesting topics and could be useful in a wide variety of educational contexts. However, I feel that many of the topics are too advanced for an introductory psychology course.
Content was accurate and error-free.
Some topics like epigenetics change rapidly, however necessary updates will be easy to implement.
Clarity varies depending on the section. Some modules are quite technical, whereas others are accessible to an introductory psychology student.
Each module uses a similar framework and identifies key terms which are included in a vocabulary section. I did not that the use of learning objectives varied widely in style and effectiveness across modules.
The course has clearly delineated modules by topic area, and each module is clearly broken up into submodules.
I found myself questioning the organization of the modules and how topics flowed from one to another. It also seems odd that some modules are the only ones in a particular topic area. If one is using selections from this text it would not be an issue. However, it may be challenging to implement this textbook if it is to be used as a standalone text.
Images and text displayed clearly, but there were navigation problems present on several of the pages. The links were broken and/or did not redirect as they were suppose too.
I did not note any grammatical errors.
The images used included a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds. I did not observe any culturally insensitive materials.
This textbook has some really interesting modules. There is a decent amount about biological psychology, and it may work well for an Introduction to Psychology course. However, I do not think it has enough detail for a Brain and Behavior (or... read more
This textbook has some really interesting modules. There is a decent amount about biological psychology, and it may work well for an Introduction to Psychology course. However, I do not think it has enough detail for a Brain and Behavior (or similar lower level biological psychology or behavioral neuroscience) course. There are some great modules that go in-depth on specific topics ("Hormones and Behavior" and "Biochemistry of Love" modules are very interesting). Unfortunately, some topics I consider foundational appear to be missing from this text. There is not a section that provides an overview of neurons, action potentials, and neurotransmitters; and I consider these topics to be crucial for an Introduction to Psychology (or Brain and Behavior) course. Thus, supplemental reading would be needed in order to adequately cover these topics.
Content appears to be accurate.
The content in this textbook generally appears to include recent scientific research (although I think the “Healthy Life” module could be updated). It seems that updates based on recent studies will be easy to implement.
Most of this textbook is clear and easy to understand. However, some modules contain higher level information that may require some background knowledge to fully comprehend. The actual text of the modules is generally strong, but including more images (diagrams, figures, tables, etc.) would strengthen the majority of the modules included in this book.
Most terms and general organization appear consistent throughout the book. However, each module is written by a different author, so there are some stylistic differences from one module to the next.
This textbook is very modular. Each reading can stand on its own. However, that means that some topics are covered multiple times, while others are left out.
Generally well organized. A professor can easily present the modules in any order s/he chooses. Some specific modules might be better with a few more subheadings in sections.
Easy to navigate to different topics. I like that you can hover over some words to get definitions. Links to videos and additional resources at the end of each module are also helpful.
I did not notice any grammatical errors.
I did not find this textbook to be offensive or insensitive. However, I think that health disparities (based on race and socioeconomic status) are an important topic in the field of Healthy Psychology, and they were barely mentioned in “The Healthy Life” module.
This book would provide appropriate depth for a 300-level course, but not a 400-level. There is no description of neurons, synaptic communication, long-term potentiation, etc. So essentially the book gives a good overview of the important topics,... read more
This book would provide appropriate depth for a 300-level course, but not a 400-level. There is no description of neurons, synaptic communication, long-term potentiation, etc. So essentially the book gives a good overview of the important topics, but does not actually delve very deeply into the biology behind them.
The content seems accurate and sources are cited well.
Since the book doesn't delve too deeply into the physiology of behavior, and tends towards overviews of the behavior, it won't need too much updating.
The book is generally consistently clear throughout; I think an undergraduate would be able to follow along successfully, and the embedded videos and links would be a helpful resource.
There are certainly some inconsistencies from chapter to chapter, and this could potentially be jarring for students. Overall, the inconsistencies are more in terms of style and organization.
This varies from chapter to chapter. Many of the chapters could benefit from additional headings / more explicit organization, but overall there are no major issues.
The topics feel as though any chapter relating to cognitive science or neuroscience was grabbed and put into the book. There are many chapters that would not typically be covered in a biological psychology course, and they do not feel as if they've been written explicitly with a biological perspective, so it feels a bit muddy and jumps around quite a bit.
Interface was pretty clean.
Hardly any typos.
I did not come across anything that could be construed as offensive. That being said, the book does not necessarily target inclusivity explicitly within its contents.
These chapters would be a great addition to a 200-level course, and maybe a 300-level course, but would not be sufficient for a 400-level course. There was hardly any content at all on cellular/molecular biological psychology.
This text covers a broad range of psychology topics and provides a biological aspect to each. The detail and depth provided for each topic, though, ranges considerably throughout the book. Additionally, the addition of some topics, specifically... read more
This text covers a broad range of psychology topics and provides a biological aspect to each. The detail and depth provided for each topic, though, ranges considerably throughout the book. Additionally, the addition of some topics, specifically function of the neuron, would strengthen the text. The structure of the glossary may be frustrating to some. Since a glossary exists for each chapter, when these individual glossaries are combined into the Vocabulary section at the end of the text, it can lead to repeated information.
The material in this text was accurate, but the level of detail of each chapter varies quite a bit.
The text will need to be updated as new research becomes available. The structure of the book will allow for additional material to be added easily.
The text is well written, but the variation in level of detail throughout the chapters may lead to confusion at times. Some chapters assume a prior knowledge that may not have been explicitly covered previously in the text.
There is variation in the level of consistency among chapters. Some give a very cursory overview of their topic whereas others dive in with more depth and detail. Some chapters can stand on their own; some need background information to be fully understood.
The text lends itself well to modular use. However, this benefit can disrupt the ability to read straight through. Topics are repeated, sometimes without much additional information, so the reader is seeing the same information.
The topics are organized in a logical way, but content is sometimes repeated, and sometimes not enough background information is given. There is some consistency issues among chapters.
I had no issues related to the interface.
I found no grammatical errors.
The text did not appear to be culturally insensitive or offensive. Examples were inclusive of different races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
For a special topics course, this book is appropriately comprehensive. It covers everything I would expect from a course on the biological underpinnings of human behavior and is not limited to a physiological perspective. As an introductory... read more
For a special topics course, this book is appropriately comprehensive. It covers everything I would expect from a course on the biological underpinnings of human behavior and is not limited to a physiological perspective. As an introductory psychology course, some of the modules are too specialized (e.g. module on autism). I would like to see more diagrams in some modules, but the embedded videos are a terrific addition.
I thought this book was highly accurate, although this varied according to the module author. Some of the modules seemed oversimplified, but it was fine as an introduction, overall.
I think this book is highly relevant for any psychology student interested in behavior from a biological perspective. I would have enjoyed this book myself as an undergraduate. Biology students with an interest in behavior would also find the book useful. As biological issues are some of the fasted advancing in psychology, the longevity of some modules might be limited. I would hope to see new additions in the future to keep pace.
Most, but not all, authors were extremely clear. This is as would be expected because modules were written by some of the top authors in their field.
Within modules, I do not see any issues with consistency. The flow of the book has its limits, as each module was written by a different author. I think this is a minor issue, and it did not distract from my overall enjoyment of the book.
Each module can largely stand alone. For the most part, modules could be assigned in any order and can even be assigned as readings for different classes. For example, it would be appropriate to assign the chapter on the history of mental illness to an abnormal psychology class or a class on the history of psychology.
Within modules, the topics are generally organized well.
The interface is fine and easy to use on a computer screen. I do not know if this would carry over to other devices, such as tablets or cellular phones. Some students might prefer a hard copy of the book. While I love the embedded video clips, they would not be available to students that with to print the pdf.
I did not notice any grammatical issues.
The text did not contain a section on cultural psychology, as I recall. Give the subject matter, I would not necessarily expect it to. However, David Buss does make mention of culture in his module on evolutionary psychology.
This text is a wonderful read, but I don't think this book is a good fit for a general, introductory psychology course. There are a few subject areas that are missing. For example, it does not attempt to address some of the more applied fields in psychology such as clinical or industrial/organizational. However I would highly recommend it for a "special topics" course in biological topics in psychology. I would personally consider using this book myself for such a course, but I might omit some of the modules that are less biological in nature. I might also select certain modules as readings for other courses.
This somewhat comprehensive textbook would be appropriate for an introduction to psychology as a biological science. While it covers a number of major areas of basic biological psychology with some in-depth discussion, there are some are some... read more
This somewhat comprehensive textbook would be appropriate for an introduction to psychology as a biological science. While it covers a number of major areas of basic biological psychology with some in-depth discussion, there are some are some missing topics that are very necessary. For example, there is no real discussion, nor are there pictures or diagrams about the basic unit of the nervous system, the neuron. It seems that another chapter is needed to discuss the neuron, how it functions, and how it communicates with other neurons. This omission could lead the reader to struggle with later chapters that discussion sensation and perception as well as psychopharmacology. The inclusion of a vocabulary section, discussion questions, and citations at the end of each chapter is a nice feature that would be beneficial to the student.
From what I reviewed, the material within this textbook was generally accurate. Some of the text was oversimplified at times, but I don’t think that detracts from the text.
The content appears to be up-to-date, so it should not become obsolete. I checked several of the modules and found that they had 2018 dates so the content is current. I think that the chapters are organized in such a way that new sections can be added as needed.
I found the text to be written clearly and at a level that most undergraduates could follow for a basic introduction to Biological Psychology. The lack of coverage of the neuron in the early chapters could create confusion in later chapters where neurotransmitters and signaling is discussed.
The text appears to be consistent across chapters although some chapters don’t seem to go into the depth that other chapters do.
I found the book to be clearly organized and readily divisible into smaller independent modules.
I found the book to be clearly and logically organized.
I had no problems with navigating through the chapters. The images/charts were all clear and there was no distortion.
I didn’t find any grammatical errors.
I didn’t find any of the text to be culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. There are several examples of inclusivity of race diversity, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
I completed a training webinar on open source textbooks and was asked to review a textbook as part of that experience. Generally, I think this text is a good source for an undergraduate beginning to learn the basics of biological psychology. However, I couldn’t find discussion or diagrams on neurons and how they function, so the text will have to be supplemented for this information (or a module needs to be written to cover this gap). This open textbook will have to be supplemented with recent published articles but is definitely a viable option when compared to high cost textbooks.
This textbook is very comprehensive in my opinion. It covers all the major areas of basic psychology and includes some in-depth discussion of examples within these. For example, within biological basis on behavior, there are discussions on both... read more
This textbook is very comprehensive in my opinion. It covers all the major areas of basic psychology and includes some in-depth discussion of examples within these. For example, within biological basis on behavior, there are discussions on both the macro level (brain and hormonal regulation) as well as molecular (epigenetics in psychology). There is a vocabulary section at the end of each chapter as well as discussion questions and citations. From Noba, there are many instructor's resources available as well. Still, there are gaps, which is expected when covering such a large field. This text does give students the basics so with light supplement it would seem appropriate for a introductory course or with supplement could aid in upper level courses.
From what I was able to review, this text is accurate and thorough. While details can be a little oversimplified at times, I think these are necessary in the scope of an overview of an entire field.
The author attempts to keep the content as current as possible by including details on areas that are "hot" in research right now. I don't believe that this will make this text obsolete quickly. It does at least bring in newer concepts rather than sticking to the traditional. I think that it allows is organized in such a manner that new sections could be easily added to existing as needed. Even for an individual instructor it would be easy to select the overview chapters within an unit and then simply use review articles if they should want to drive deeper into a different topic that what the author choose to use.
I think this text is written at a level that is easy to follow for an undergraduate student. In additional, the vocabulary section are the end of the chapter are useful aides as well.
I think this text is consistent across chapters.
Yes, this text is broken into sections that are mostly able to stand alone.
Overall, I think it's well done.
I didn't find any issues with the interface.
I found no issues worth mentioning.
I didn't find any material that seemed to be offensive. It might benefit from a little more discussion on cultural impacts on psychology.
Overall, I found this text to be a good source for basics within each area. I think this text as one of the few open access in this area could be used in addition to recently published reviews to give the students both the basics and detailed information without the high cost of commercial textbooks. This may not be the best option if you want one source to support a course.
I found this textbook to be quite comprehensive, including the "traditional" topics usually covered in a biopsychology text , but also adding fascinating chapters on topics such as epigenetics and aging. The coverage of the material seemed... read more
I found this textbook to be quite comprehensive, including the "traditional" topics usually covered in a biopsychology text , but also adding fascinating chapters on topics such as epigenetics and aging. The coverage of the material seemed ideally appropriate for a 3000 or 4000 level course for psychology and biology majors, including higher level concepts that required understanding from other areas of science, not just biology and chemistry. Although the throughness of the content did vary by chapter/topic, overall I was impressed with the material that was presented and would certainly have no problem augmenting any area in which I considered the text to be deficient. I did notice one glaring absence - a chapter covering the neuron and how it fires, as well as the function of glial cells - also something I could easily provdie myself, but unusual to be missing from a biopsychology text. While many higher-order concepts were covered, it is highly unusual to find any physiological psychology text that does not discuss the neuron because it is the basic unit of the nervous system and understadning its physiology is essential to such areas as sensroy function and psychopharmacology. The index at the end of the book was quite thorough. However the glossaries were placed at the end of each chapter, and, as with the content of the chapters, varied in thoroughness - also a very easily corrected problem for any adaptations of the text.
Given the rate at which information changes in the field of neuroscience, I was impressed with its accuracy and inclusiveness. In this field accuracy often is not the issue, but new structures/concepts are being found every day, so they are more frequently the material that is easy to leave out. I found this book to contain coverage of topics that are currently on the front line of investigation, such as entrainment and the psychophysiology of emotion, with a high degree of accuracy.
As I previously mentioned, the very basic concepts of cell firing and maintaining the resting potential of the neuron were completely absent from discussion anywhere int his text. Therefore by the time the student hits the chapter on psychopharmacology, he/she will be unprepared to understand the basic mechanisms of how different drugs work. I found the chapter on psychopharmacology to be particularly short, offering only the most simplistic introduction to the topic, whereas it is central to the field of psychology, particularly clinical psychology. Almost all clients are on psychoactive medications and the therapist should have a slightly better than average understanding of how these drugs work. This text will provide only an introductory psychology level perspective on that area.
The writing was very engaging, something to be treasured in the STEM fields, where emphasis is usually more on the information being presented than on the style in which it is being presented. Since each chapter had a different author(s), this varied, but only slightly across chapters.
The consistency across chapters is poor. Some writers are clearly masters of their fields and provide extremely well-written and detailed accounts of their field, while others write short, concise introductions to their area, but leave the reader with little "meat to chew on." The internal consistency within the chapters was high and I did not always feel as if I were being introduced to another voice as I moved from chapter to chapter.
The book's modularity is what contributes to the ease of which one could address its omissions. Modules were complete and did not rely on other modules in order to fit well into the scheme of things. I would find this book easy to adapt to my own purposes, supplementing when I thought necessary and omitting topics that I did not consider particularly relevant to the course, without taking away from the "book" quality of the text.
The overall flow of the book was good. Chapters were organized in such a way that the topics seemed to flow logically from one to the next. There was some duplication in coverage, but this makes omitting certain chapters easier if the instructor wants to include other material without losing all of the material from any particular chapter.
I accessed the book as a pdf requiring Adobe Acrobat and printed selected topics for closer inspection. Both methods permitted me to find exactly what I wanted when I wanted it. It ws very easy to move throughout the book by just sliding my mouse. Between the table of contents and the index, I had no trouble locating particular terms or concepts.
The grammar was excellent - and I am a grammar gestapo, according to my students. These folks do not only write well, but they write in grammatically correct English - a rare finding in my opinion.
Given the biological nature of the book, I did not find it to be biased toward any particular culture. There were some discussions of social functioning and interpersonal relationships that were geared more toward Western European values than toward Easter/Mideastern values, but not offensively so.
I very much enjoyed reading this text and will probably adopt it for my physiological psychology text the next time I teach the course.
If a comprehensive introduction to psychology as a biological science is expected from this 40-module open textbook, the reader will be disappointed. This is because each topic has been given unexpectedly cursory coverage. For example, recalling... read more
If a comprehensive introduction to psychology as a biological science is expected from this 40-module open textbook, the reader will be disappointed. This is because each topic has been given unexpectedly cursory coverage. For example, recalling that the title of the book promises to inform students about psychology as a biological science, the glossary contains no definitions for the terms neuron, nerve cell, or glial cell. Unfortunately, there really is very little about this book that would appeal to a professor wishing to take the neuroscience approach to the teaching of an Introductory Psychology course. The lack of depth extends to most topics. For example, the discussion of research methods fails to include a discussion of the different types of research designs or their interpretation, nor is there even a discussion of independent or dependent variables despite the reference to those undefined terms in a later chapter. The figures and graphics in this text are largely ineffective as tools for clarifying concepts. For example, there is no detailed diagram of how a neuron works, or even an image of how one looks, but there are two different photographs of a finger with a string tied around it (page 321 and page 342). The student is not provided with adequate information to understand difficult concepts such as neurotransmission, but is treated to numerous appealing images of babies, families, and puppies.
The material that was included was generally accurate. However there were a few minor inaccuracies in the discussion of the brain that were mainly due to oversimplification.
This book is no more vulnerable to longevity issues than any other. It will need to be updated annually. I did use the search feature on the PDF reader to check out the age of the sources and it appears that the chapters are largely updated thru the end of 2014 with three sources from 2015. So a revision will be needed at the end of 2016 to keep current.
The lack of depth in many of the early chapters creates serious issues with clarity in later chapters. For example, the failure to define and discuss research designs creates a problem in later chapters that refer to experimental designs (e.g. page 172) or correctly refer to the problems of interpreting correlational research (e.g., page 189). The authors of later chapters appear to assume that the students have a working knowledge that is probably not there unless it has been covered in supplemental materials outside of this book. An old idiom came to mind by the time I reached the fifth chapter: “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” This work has by my count 61 authors. To be fair, it is hard to write a book with more than two or three authors (Kandel’s Principles of Neural Science being one of the few successful examples). This work needed a strong editor.
Some chapters were very shallow and other chapters were assuming a depth of knowledge that was at a much higher level. The book reads as if it were aimed at two different groups of students.
The book is clearly organized into independent modules. The problem, however, is that the content in any one module is inadequate to cover that topic without extensive use of outside materials. Said another way the modules themselves fail to give the students adequate content to come prepared to discuss in lecture. In short, this book has many modules but not enough content within each module to support a lecture that would enrich a student’s knowledge.
There is a clear organization that is easy to follow (just not enough content).
The free PDF version was cumbersome to navigate. The images and figures that are included (with one or two exceptions) are clear and can be enlarged without too much distortion.
No problems here.
The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It is inclusive of diverse races, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
I read this text after completing a training webinar that had me fired up to try an open textbook. I was further encouraged by the fact that one of the contributors has written a textbook I had previously used and valued. Maybe my expectations were too high. I came in with over 25 years of experience teaching with high quality commercially edited and reviewed textbooks. This open textbook is not in any way comparable in quality to any text I have used previously. I now have a renewed appreciation for the editorial process and I guess it is true that you get what you pay for. Respectfully, I just cannot recommend adopting this book, especially if you are a professor at a MNSCU institution and need to be in compliance with the “Common Course Outcomes.”
Table of Contents
- Psychology as Science
- Biological Basis of Behavior
- Sensation and Perception
- Learning and Memory
- Cognition and Language
- Emotions and Motivation
- Psychological Disorders
About the Book
This textbook provides standard introduction to psychology course content with a specific emphasis on biological aspects of psychology. This includes more content related to neuroscience methods, the brain and the nervous system. This book can be modified: feel free to add or remove modules to better suit your specific needs. Please note that the publisher requires you to login to access and download the PDF.
About the Contributors
Robert Biswas-Diener has written a number of books including Happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of psychological wealth and The Courage Quotient. He is senior editor for the free-textbook platform, Noba.
Ed Diener is a psychologist, professor, and author. Diener is a professor of psychology at the Universities of Utah and Virginia, and Joseph R. Smiley Distinguished Professor Emeritus from the University of Illinois as well as a senior scientist for the Gallup Organization.