At first, it might appear that computers and psychology are two different fields. Psychologists study human behavior and mental health and computer scientists code algorithms and designing software that aids people accomplish everyday tasks. But the truth is that these two fields overlap in many ways. 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 psychological research. For instance, fMRI scanners enable psychologists to determine which areas of the brain are stimulated during particular thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires also eliminate the biases that can be found in pencil and paper surveys.
But it’s the interaction between computer scientists and psychologists which has truly transformed the interaction we have with technology. The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction which was published in 1983 by three scientists from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Stuart Card, Thomas Moran and Allen Newell, was one of the most important moments in the merging.
It shifted research into how people use computers into the domain of computer science. This removed psychological methods from their context in humans and made it necessary for psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians as well as other areas of psychology that focus on numerical evaluations found the computer science approach particularly beneficial.
In the present, psychologists and computer scientists are collaborating to develop AI which can better understand human behavior. Psychologists are helping to develop ethical guidelines for algorithms able to determine the risk of depression from the activities of a person’s social networks. Psychologists are also using cognitive behavioral therapy to create virtual reality, which can be used to treat anxiety and other disorders.