Psychology and Computers

At first glance, it could appear that computers and psychology are two separate fields. Psychologists study human behavior and mental health and computer scientists are involved in coding algorithms and developing software that aids people complete everyday tasks. In reality, these two disciplines overlap on a variety of levels. In fact some of the most interesting research being conducted in both fields is involving mixing computer science and psychology.

In the field of psychological research technological advances in computer science have helped make it easier to conduct psychological studies. For example fMRI scans can help psychologists to determine which regions of the brain activate during certain types of thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires also remove the biases inherent in paper and pencil surveys.

But it’s the collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists that has changed the interaction we have with technology. The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction, published in 1983 by three researchers from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Stuart Card, Thomas Moran and Allen Newell, was one of the most significant developments in the convergence.

It moved studies of how people use computers into the realms of computer science. This removed psychological methods from their human context and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians as well as other areas of psychology that are concerned with numerical evaluations discovered the computer science approach particularly beneficial.

Now, psychologists and computer scientists are collaborating to create AI that can better comprehend human behavior. For instance psychologists are helping define the ethical guidelines for the creation of algorithms that could help predict a person’s depression risk by studying their social media use. Psychologists are applying cognitive behavior therapy to virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders as well as other disorders.

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