Psychology and Computers

When you first begin thinking about it, psychology and computers could appear as two totally distinct areas. Psychologists study human behavior and mental health, while computer scientists are involved in coding algorithms and developing software that aids people perform everyday tasks. In fact, these two fields have a lot in common on many levels. Some of the most interesting research in both fields is currently being conducted by combining psychology and computer science.

In the field of psychological research technological advancements in computer science have made it easier to conduct psychological tests. For example the fMRI scanners can help psychologists to identify which parts of the brain are stimulated during specific actions or thoughts. Online questionnaires remove the biases that are inherent in paper and pencil surveys.

But it’s the interaction between psychologists and computer scientists which has truly transformed the way we interact with technology. One of the most significant moments in this fusion was in 1983 when the publication of The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by three scientists at the Palo Alto Research Centre of Xerox–Stuart Card, Thomas Moran, and Allen Newell.

It brought studies of how people use computers into the realm of computer science. This separated psychological methods from their human context and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians as well as other areas of psychology that focus on numerical evaluations found the computer science approach to be particularly beneficial.

Today, psychologists and computer scientists are collaborating to develop AI that can better comprehend human behavior. For instance psychologists are helping define the ethical guidelines for the development of algorithms that can predict the likelihood of a person developing depression by analyzing their social media usage. Psychologists are applying cognitive behavior therapy to virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders and other illnesses.

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