Biological Bases of behavior

Biological Bases of behaviorOrder Description
Critical Review
Your essay should be 1,500 words in total.
Title: Critical Review
This assignment assesses learning outcome 3.
Select one of the 5 articles below and provide a brief critical review, of no more than 1,500 words. Explain the key features of the study; discuss its implications and evaluate the methods used.
You can find guidance on writing a critical review in the attachments. You can also find information on fMRI methods, which will be useful if you choose to a review a paper that employs this technique.
1) Hogarth, L., Attwood, A.A., Bate, H.A., Munafo, M.R. (2012). Acute alcohol impairs human goal-directed action. Biological Psychology, 90, 154-160.
2) Koppelstaetter, F., Poeppel, T. D., Siedentopf, C. M., Ischebeck, a, Verius, M., Haala, I., Mottaghy, F. M., et al. (2008). Does caffeine modulate verbal working memory processes? An fMRI study. NeuroImage, 39(1), 492-9.
3) Kubzansky, L. D., Mendes, W. B., Appleton, A. a, Block, J., & Adler, G. K. (2012). A heartfelt response: Oxytocin effects on response to social stress in men and women. Biological psychology, 90(1), 1-9.
4) Lazar, S., Kerr, C., Wasserman, R., Gray, J., Greve, D., Treadway, M., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. Neuroreport,16(17): 1893–1897. Available from:
5) Parbery-Clark, A., Tierney, A., Strait, D. L., & Kraus, N. (2012). Musicians have fine-tuned neural distinction of speech syllables. Neuroscience, 219, 111-9.
Writing a critical review
A review of a single journal article needs to cover the following topics. It shouldn’t be divided into separate headed sections, but does need to address each.
The structure of the review
What is the background to the specific study? Does it test a particular theory, or compare predictions from two different theories? There may not be space to describe each theory in detail, but you need to identify them and, if there is more than one, explain how they differ. Do the author’s predictions derive from previous research? Is it intended to address a ‘real world’ problem?
What is the question or questions the authors set out to ask? What predictions did they make?
What are the key groups or conditions being compared? Identify important aspects of the procedure e.g. was there random allocation to groups, did the design control for potential confounding variables? What are the key dependent variables? How well does the study capture the essence of the topic under investigation?
Summarise the key findings in prose. You generally shouldn’t include statistics, unless the size of a difference (or correlation, etc.) is important to your evaluation.
What conclusions do the authors draw from their findings? What implications do the findings have outside the lab?
Are there any possible alternative explanations for the findings? Are there aspects of the design or analysis which would limit the confidence you could place in the conclusions? Don’t just list every criticism you can think of, no matter how trivial. Focus on those which are most serious and consider whether they do actually influence your conclusion.
Approaching the review
Steve Draper at Glasgow University has posted a good guide to critical reviews on the web at
This covers literature reviews as well as reviews of single articles, but provides a number of good suggestions for ways of being critical.
Marking scheme:
A passing answer must attempt to:
• Clearly describe the study, its findings and at least one key implication.
• Identify at least one strength and one potential limitation of the methodology used.

In addition, the general requirement for a good answer is to:
• Be well-written, showing evidence of sound argument and critical insight.
• Show reading of relevant recent research and an ability to integrate this research into the answer in a well-structured manner.

Furthermore, an excellent answer will include one or more of the following:
• Identification of appropriate follow-up research
• Critical understanding of the research area.
• Detailed critique of the methodology
• Critical evaluation of the theoretical assumptions of the study
IN ATTACH THERE ARE two example critical reviews written for a similar assessment. You can use them as a general guideline for approach and style, but be aware that they are not perfect, AND AN ESSAY – This is a very good essay (70-75%) from one of the previous years. It’s not perfect, but it should hopefully help with with judging the right level of writing and evidence for your assessment.
IN ATTACH THERE WILL ALSO BE – two papers that should help you with getting your head around fMRI research – what it’s used for, and how the different designs work. It should be useful if you’re reviewing a paper with fMRI design!

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