When you first think of it, computers and psychology might seem like two completely distinct fields. Psychologists study human behavior and health while computer scientists code algorithms and designing software that allows people to do their daily tasks. But the truth is that these two fields overlap in a variety of ways. In fact some of the most interesting research being conducted in both fields is involving combining psychology and computer science.
Computer technology has made it easier to conduct research in psychology. For example the fMRI scanners can help psychologists to discover which regions of the brain are active during particular thoughts or actions. And online questionnaires eliminate the biases in paper-and-pencil surveys.
However, it’s the collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists that has truly changed the ways we interact with technology. One of the most significant moments of this fusion took place in 1983 with the publication of The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by three scientists from the Palo Alto Research Centre of Xerox–Stuart Card, Thomas Moran, and Allen Newell.
It also brought research on how people use computers into the domain of computer science. This detached psychological techniques from their context in humans and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians and other fields of psychology that focus on numerical evaluations found the computer science approach to be particularly beneficial.
Psychologists are currently working with computer scientists to create AI which can better understand human behavior. Psychologists are helping to develop ethical guidelines for algorithms that predict the risk of depression based upon a person’s social media activity. Psychologists are incorporating cognitive behavior therapy into virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders and other disorders.