Psychology and Computers

When you first consider it, computers and psychology may appear to be two completely distinct fields. Psychologists study human behavior and health while computer scientists are involved in coding algorithms and developing software that aids people do their daily tasks. In the real world, these two disciplines overlap on a variety of levels. In fact, some of the most exciting research being done in both fields involves combining psychology and computer science.

In terms of psychological research technological advances in computer science have made it easier to conduct psychological studies. For example the fMRI scanners can help psychologists to determine which areas of the brain are activated during specific thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires can eliminate the biases inherent in pen-and-paper surveys.

The collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists has changed the way we interact with technology. One of the most significant events in this fusion was in 1983 with the publication of The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by three scientists at the Palo Alto Research Center of Xerox: Stuart Card, Thomas Moran, and Allen Newell.

It pushed studies of how computers are used by humans into the domain of computer science. It separated psychological techniques from their human context and forcing psychologists to catch up. Psychological branches that were already dealing with evaluations based on numbers, such as psychometricians, discovered the computer science approach particularly suited to their work.

Today, psychologists and computer scientists are working together to develop AI which can better comprehend human behavior. For instance, psychologists are helping shape the ethical guidelines for the development of algorithms that can predict the likelihood of a person developing depression by analyzing their social media activity. Psychologists are using cognitive behavior therapy in virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders as well as other disorders.

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