Biopsychosocial Dimensions Of Human Behavior


The human species is distinctly different from all other species because of their behavioral aspect. Many scholars, psychologists and socialists have sought to explain human behavior. Some people prefer to look at it from a biological point of view while others prefer to consider the sociological aspects. For purposes of this paper, an analysis of the biopsychosocial aspects will be conducted and then applied to a critical life event.

Biopsychosocial dimension

The biopsychosocial dimension of human behavior is an incorporation of the biological psychological and social factors that explain human behavior. Starting with the biological dimensions; scientists assert that human behavior can be explained through genetics and heredity. In this case genetics is primarily determined by DNA (a special type of compound found in the cells). The latter compound is primarily responsible for an individual’s behavioral outcome. There are three main sections under which one can understand the biological aspect of human behavior. The first is through intelligence. Biological scientists assert that one’s intelligence is partly determined by their genes. This assertion is verified by the strong correlation between the IQ intelligence traits of twins. Similarly, certain depictions of intelligence are common in closely related family members. (Kimble and Colman, 1995)

The biological approach also explains certain peculiar behavior through heredity and genetics. For instance, schizophrenia; A study conducted upon two closely related subjects such as brothers who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia found that a large percentage of these individuals actually had genetic component that were similar in nature. These scientists however warned that the presence of a certain genetic component need not mean that persons will behave in a certain way. Instead other aspects have to be considered too.

The third component of the biological explanation of human behavior is related to certain uncontrollable actions that are common to all individuals. They explain this through the nervous system. For instance when one has been subjected to extreme hunger, their brain tells them to look for food. In cases where a human being is subjected to extreme conditions for instance when they are situated in a place with no conventional food; they may be forced to look for anything edible e.g. fruits, roots and herbs. Eating roots from the bush may not be a common occurrence in day to day lives; however, it is plausible in certain conditions. Taking another example of sleep; through the genetic approach, it is possible to understand why certain human beings tend to sleep more than others. Biochemists assert that there is a certain part of the brain responsible for controlling ones sleep known as  the medulla oblongata. Consequently, when there is a malfunction in ones medulla oblongata or when it is working excessively, then an individual will tend to sleep more or be less alert in meetings than others. Through these examples, it is possible to understand why the human being behaves the way he does in certain instances. (Barrett, 2004)

The biopsychosocial explanation also entails psychological aspects. Through this approach, one can understand human behavior through cognitive development. In this approach most human beings are able to deduce meaning from occurrences through the relationships which they develop in their minds about that particular item. As the mind develops and gets accustomed to certain ideas, then it begins reacting towards them in certain way and this brings about different reactions. There are numerous psychologists who contributed towards psychological theories of behavior and some of them include;

  • Maslow
  • Freud
  • Erikson

These psychologists all had their various explanations about human behavior. However, these will not be examined in detail here. Nonetheless, certain emerging issues come out of the work that these psychologists did. They tended to agree with the notion that humans are largely effected by their surroundings and that most of them may adopt behavior subconsciously.

Psychological analyses of the human mind also allow one to understand the reason behind certain emotions. They also provide a platform against which one can understand why certain human beings may react emotionally to a certain issue while others may be unaffected by it. For instance, the issue of temperance differs from person to person. This is largely shaped by the role that the mind has on that specific individual. (Barrett, 2004)

The last aspect of the biopsychosocial explanations of human behavior is the social aspect. Here, one must consider the influences that family and culture have on human behavior. When trying to understand the effect of culture and family on human behavior, it can be very difficult to do so since the influences are complicated. It should be noted that in social analysis, there is a difference between ideal behavior, actual behavior and believed behavior. For instance, when one visits another culture to find out things about them, it is likely that those persons may put on ‘a show’ to impress the visitor. If it is a family, then that person may want to portray his family in positive light thus asking his children and wife to tidy up and wear their best outfit. Consequently, in order to understand the influence of culture or family on foreign persons, it would be favorable to get them in their natural setting either when they are unaware or when the observer is far away from them.

The concept of believed behavior is also important in analyzing cultural influences on behavior because one can understand why certain things occur the way they do. For example, a study asking men in North America whether they assist their wives in household chores, it was found that a majority of them felt that housework was split fifty-fifty between the wife and the husband. However, when the researchers themselves sought to find out what actually proceeds in most households, it was found that a large percentage of the men actually did not assist their spouses with housework but in their minds, they honestly thought that this was the case. This sort of behavior can be classified as believed behavior.               When it comes to cultural influences, one must also consider ideal behavior. For instance, in China, the role of woman was strictly defined in the home. Most of them were thought as second class members of their families. However, with the introduction of the one child per family polices, more families preferred male children or females. Consequently, those who were pregnant with girls ended up terminating their pregnancies (although it was outlawed). This eventually created a generation in which the ratio of women to men was so very low. Men realized that in order to get a wife, they had to be educated, rich and maybe even willing to let them control the house. Consequently, the ideal behavior for a woman in Chinese society would have been to act subordinately to the man, however, because of the changes in demographics. Women had more leverage or bargaining power and could therefore choose no to do certain things. (Ashfor et al, 2007)

Culture has an intense effect on human behavior because it determines how people react to others, how they express their feelings among others. A study comparing American children with Japanese children found that there were substantial differences between these two groups. When American children were asked whether they would beat a child if they were punched, a large majority of them claimed that they would do so. When the Japanese children were asked whether they would hit back when actually hit, it was found that a larger number of them claimed that they would not. An actual analysis found that more Japanese children actually hit their counterparts than the Americans; its just that they did not articulate this. In other words, one can deduce the fact that in the American culture, children are more expressive and may even make assertions that they will not adhere to. However, in the Asian culture, children are taught to be subservient or to be less expressive in their words.

Culture also influences one’s understanding of the goings on in a particular area. For example, when a village woman from the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa is taken to a North American wedding, she might not understand what is going. She would wonder why a bride is dressed in white and why she is actually surrounded by other persons wearing closely related outfits. Perhaps the stranger from Africa might deduce that this is actually an ongoing ceremony but may not understand the intricacies surrounding that ceremony. She would also wonder why some people are holding flowers while others are not. Through this example, it is possible to understand why certain behaviors would occur the way they do.

Spiritual dimension

The latter biopsychosocial model of human behavior incorporates three parameters, yet there is another component to human behavior that may not be fully accounted for by the latter mentioned approaches. This is the spiritual dimension. The spiritual dimension is that element in the human being that some people call the inner psyche. In other words, it the aspect of a human being that decides between what is moral and what is immoral. It creates a conscious within us and it also allows an individual to exert more control of their lives. Through the spiritual dimension, it is possible for one to understand why human beings love one another. It is also possible to understand certain ‘abstract’ concepts such as freedom. The spiritual dimension is that inner voice of authority within any human beings that allows them to either control or act upon their instincts. (Ilham, 2000)

Without the spiritual opinions, human beings would be no different from the rest of the animal kingdom because they would let their feelings control them rather than vice versa. (it should be noted that feelings in this case refer to instincts). Many psychologists have claimed that there is a higher dimension in life. In other words, it is that aspect of the human being that prevents one from being impulsive. They strive to be better or for perfection and this is what sets human being apart from their counterparts in the animal kingdom.

Critical life event

An example of a critical life event that would affect all the three dimensions is living in a step family. In the event that a child is subjected to a painful loss of a parent, and then expected to cope with  step family, then chances are that that issue may affect them in all the three realms. For instance, a child who has grown up in a step family may be affected psychologically. This is because certain psychological needs may not be met. For instance, such a person is likely to develop sleep disorders, depressive disorders or even other more intense issues such a drug abuse. The psychological reasons behind this are that human beings require certain things at various stages of development in their lifespan. When one fails to access those things, then they are likely to carry forward that aspect into their lives. This is the reason why certain ladies tend to be promiscuous simply because they grew up without a father.

The critical event of loosing a parent can also affect a subject socially. In other words, one may be perceived by others s subordinate and this could result into feelings of low self esteem. Such a person may not be able to interact with his or her peers and may develop isolationist tendencies. It should be noted that these reactions will be affected by one’s cultural background. For instance, in certain cultures, it is normal to grow up with step families because polygamy is common. Consequently, such an individual will turn out very differently. (Ilham, 2000)

One’s heredity can also come into play when trying to understand the effects of step families. Certain individuals have greater temperaments and may depict their anger in more aggressive ways such as through antisocial behavior. Scientists assert that certain people have a greater tendency to exhibit antisocial behavior because of their biological makeup.


The biopsychosocial model is quite useful in understanding behavior because it explains some of the things that human beings cannot control and some of the things that they can. However, there is a limit to this approach because it does not account for the moral aspect of the human nature. In the model, issues such as love, freedom etc cannot be explained.


Barrett, C. (2004): Cognitive development and the understanding of animal behavior, Center for behavior, evolution, culture and Development, retrieved from

Kimble, D. and Colman, M (1995): Biological aspects of behavior, Longman Publishers, available at

Ilham, D. (2000): Psychology and Human Behavior: is there a limit to psychological explanation, Cambridge University Press, 75,183-201

Ashford, LeCray & Latie (2007): Human Behavior in the social environment, Rout ledge