Psychology and Computers

When you first begin thinking about it, computers and psychology might appear to be two completely separate domains. Psychologists study human behavior and mental health while computer scientists develop algorithms and designing software that helps people do their daily tasks. In real life, these two fields are inextricably linked on many levels. In fact, some of the most exciting research currently being conducted in both fields is involving mixing computer science and psychology.

Computer science has made it simpler to conduct experiments in psychology. For example FMRI scans enable psychologists to determine which regions of the brain are active during certain actions or thoughts. Online questionnaires also remove the biases that can be found in paper and pencil surveys.

But it’s the interaction between computer scientists and psychologists which has truly transformed the way we interact with technology. One of the most significant moments in this fusion occurred in 1983 with the release of The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by three scientists at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center–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 prompting psychologists to play catch-up. Psychological branches that were already dealing with evaluations based on numbers, such as psychometricians, found the computer science approach particularly suitable to their work.

Today, psychologists are working with computer scientists in the development of AI that will help us better understand human behavior. For instance, psychologists are helping shape the ethical guidelines for the development of algorithms to predict the risk of depression in a person by studying their social media usage. Psychologists are applying cognitive behavior therapy to virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders and other illnesses.