When you first consider it, computers and psychology might appear to be two completely distinct fields. Psychologists analyze human behavior and health and computer scientists code algorithms and designing software that helps people accomplish everyday tasks. However, the reality is that these two disciplines overlap in many ways. In fact some of the most interesting research being conducted in both fields involves the combination of psychology and computer science.
Computer science has made it much easier to conduct experiments in psychology. For instance FMRI scans allow psychologists to see which areas of the brain activate during certain thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires also remove the biases that are present in paper and pencil surveys.
But it’s the interaction between psychologists and computer scientists which has truly transformed the interaction we have with technology. One of the most significant moments in this fusion came in 1983 with the publication of The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction by three researchers from the Palo Alto Research Centre of Xerox–Stuart Card, Thomas Moran, and Allen Newell.
It brought studies of how people use computers into domain of computer science. This separated psychological techniques from their context in humans and made it necessary for psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians as well as other areas of psychology that are concerned with numerical evaluations discovered the computer science method to be particularly beneficial.
Psychologists and computer scientists are collaborating to create AI that will better understand human behavior. Psychologists are helping develop ethical guidelines for algorithms able to determine the risk of depression from the activity of a person’s social media. And psychologists are incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy into virtual reality, which can be used to treat anxiety and other disorders.