Study of the Brain In Psychology

Psychology mainly focuses on the brain to fathom mental processes and behavior. This is critical since the brain controls all functionality through the nervous system. However, other elements in human existence influence their behavior and mental processes to an extent. For instance, genetics defiance characterizes of a person, while the environment shapes behavior and genome. Thus, psychology should not just be about studying the brain but also other related fields such as genetics, physical, and social environment.

Genetic makeup in a human being is a critical factor that influences behavior. While psychology addresses issues regarding the mind and behavior, thereby focusing on the brain, genetics is also a valuable psychological information source. In classical genetics, Gregor Mendel demonstrated that behavior (characteristics) could be manipulated through selective breeding. Thus, genetic expression and behavior are linked. Studies have found a genetic element in every psychiatric condition that was thoroughly studied (Kendler, 2001).  Kendler (2001) found that genes affected aspects of exposure to stress and feedback on social support and illnesses. This is similar to studying the brain, where the nervous system predicts the feedback for environmental stresses in psychology. Plomin & Davis (2009) found that genes are responsible for the heritability of childhood behavioral problems. That means genetics influences the behavioral outcomes, which are out of control of the brain or are inherent in humans rather than a brain function. Notably, the heredity aspect of genetics presents a better opportunity to study psychological niches. For instance, through generations, behavioral patterns may help predict or create a valuable hypothesis for research based on parents or offspring. Therefore, psychology should not just be about studying the brain, but genetics as well.


The physical environment is equally a critical factor that influences behavior and mental processes. Several aspects of the physical environment have been found to affect mental health (Guite, Clark & Ackrill, 2006). Other studies have found that mental health sequel can alter the psychosocial processes in certain physical environments (Evans, 2003). In that perspective, the environment can shape people in ways that are conventionally believed to be done by the mind and the brain, such as dictating feedback from stress and fatigue, social support, and personal control. However, the physical environment is complementary to both genetics and the brain. For instance, studies have found that children develop resilience as per the demands of the environment they are brought in through neural plasticity (Meagher, 2019). The environment also partakes in shaping the genome, as demonstrated in evolutionally patterns and mutation (Pfeifer, 2015). Therefore, besides studying the brain, psychology should also focus on the physical environment, which plays a critical role in influencing behavior.

Lastly, the social environment has been found to impact a person’s mental processes. In this context, the social environment is the socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, and relational situation that a person experience. In a recent study, Meagher (2019) explains that embodied cognition is linked to interpersonal context, which defined a person’s cognition in childhood development, interpersonal relationships, and influences their social identity. Other studies found that socioeconomic conditions impacted the provenance of childhood mental difficulties, such as coping with stress across developed and underdeveloped communities (Perna et al., 2010). These studies illustrate that other factors are critical to a person’s mental processes and behavioral function besides the brain. Thus, psychology should not just be about studying the brain but also other related fields such as genetics, physical, and social environment.

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Guite, H., Clark, C., & Ackrill, G. (2006). The impact of the physical and urban environment on mental well-being. Public Health, 120(12), 1117-1126. doi: 10.1016/j.puhe.2006.10.005

Kendler, K. (2001). Twin Studies of Psychiatric Illness. Archives Of General Psychiatry, 58(11), 1005. doi: 10.1001/archpsyc.58.11.1005

Meagher, B. (2019). Ecologizing Social Psychology: The Physical Environment as a Necessary Constituent of Social Processes. Personality And Social Psychology Review, 24(1), 3-23. doi: 10.1177/1088868319845938

Perna, L., Bolte, G., Mayrhofer, H., Spies, G., & Mielck, A. (2010). The impact of the social environment on children’s mental health in a prosperous city: an analysis with data from the city of Munich. BMC Public Health, 10(1). doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-199

Pfeifer, G. (2015). How the environment shapes cancer genomes. Current Opinion In Oncology, 27(1), 71-77. doi: 10.1097/cco.0000000000000152

Plomin, R., & Davis, O. (2009). The future of genetics in psychology and psychiatry: microarrays, genome-wide association, and non-coding RNA. Journal Of Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 50(1-2), 63-71. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2008.01978.x