Psychology and Computers

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At first, it might appear as if psychology and computing are two distinct fields. Psychologists examine human behavior and mental health while computer scientists are involved in coding algorithms and developing software that can help people perform everyday tasks. However, the reality is that these two fields have a lot in common. Some of the most exciting research in both fields is currently being conducted by combining psychology and computer science.

Computer technology has made it easier to conduct experiments in psychology. For example FMRI scans enable psychologists to determine which regions of the brain are activated during certain kinds of actions or thoughts. Online questionnaires eliminate the biases inherent in pen-and-paper surveys.

However, it’s the collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists which has truly transformed the ways 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 researchers from the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox: Stuart Card, Thomas Moran, and Allen Newell.

It also brought research on how people use computers into realms of computer science. This separated psychological methods from their context in humans and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychological branches that were already dealing with evaluations by number like psychometricians found the computer science method particularly suited to their work.

Now, psychologists are working with computer scientists to create AI which can better understand human behavior. For instance psychologists are helping define the ethical guidelines for the creation of algorithms that can predict the risk of depression for a person by analyzing their social media use. Psychologists are incorporating cognitive behavior therapy into virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders as well as other diseases.