Psychology and Computers

When you first begin thinking about it, psychology and computers might seem like two completely distinct areas. Psychologists examine human behavior and mental health while computer scientists work on coding algorithms and developing software that helps people perform everyday tasks. In fact, these two fields have a lot in common on many levels. In fact, some of the most fascinating research being conducted in both fields is involving mixing computer science and psychology.

Computer technology has made it easier to conduct psychological research. For example FMRI scans allow psychologists to see which areas of the brain respond to certain kinds of actions or thoughts. Online questionnaires also eliminate the biases that are present in pencil and paper surveys.

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

It also pushed research on the way humans use computers into the realm of computer science. It separated psychological methods from their human context, and forcing psychologists to catch up. Branches of psychology already dealing with evaluations by number like psychometricians found the computer science approach particularly suited to their work.

Psychologists are now working with computer scientists in the development of AI that can better understand human behaviour. For instance psychologists are helping to shape the ethical guidelines for the creation of algorithms that could predict the risk of depression for a person by analyzing their social media activities. Psychologists are taking cognitive behavior therapy into virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders and other illnesses.

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