Nuban Institute

Psychology and Computers

When you first begin thinking about it, computers and psychology could appear as two totally distinct fields. Psychologists study human behavior and mental health, while computer scientists develop algorithms and developing software that aids people complete everyday tasks. In fact, these two fields overlap on a variety of levels. In fact, some of the most interesting research being conducted in both fields is involving the combination of psychology and computer science.

Computer technology has made it easier to conduct psychological research. For instance FMRI scanners allow psychologists to determine which areas of the brain are activated during specific thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires remove the biases in paper-and-pencil surveys.

The collaboration between psychologists and computer scientists has transformed the way that we interact with technology. One of the most significant events in this fusion came 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 shifted research into how people use computers into realm of computer science. This detached psychological techniques from their context in humans and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychology departments that dealt with evaluations based on numbers like psychometricians discovered the computer science approach particularly amenable to their work.

Psychologists are now working with computer scientists to create AI that will help us better understand human behaviour. For instance, psychologists are helping shape the ethical guidelines for the creation of algorithms that could predict the likelihood of a person developing depression by studying their social media use. Psychologists are also using cognitive behavioral therapy to create virtual reality, which can be used to treat anxiety and other disorders.

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