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Psychology and Computers

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When you first think of it, psychology and computers might appear to be two completely distinct areas. Computer scientists create software and code algorithms to help people in their daily lives, while psychologists study the human behavior and mental health of people. But the truth is that these two disciplines overlap in many ways. In fact some of the most exciting research being done in both fields is involving mixing computer science and psychology.

In the field of psychological research technological advances in computer science have helped make it easier to conduct psychological studies. For example the fMRI scanners can help psychologists to determine which areas of the brain are stimulated during specific actions or thoughts. Online questionnaires also eliminate the biases inherent in paper and pencil surveys.

The collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists has revolutionized the way we interact with technology. The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction, published in 1983 by three scientists from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, Stuart Card, Thomas Moran and Allen Newell, was one of the most significant events in the combination.

It shifted research into the way people use computers into realms of computer science. This removed psychological methods from their context in humans and forced psychologists to catch up. Psychometricians and other psychology branches that are concerned with numerical evaluations discovered the computer science approach particularly useful.

Now, psychologists and computer scientists are collaborating to create AI that can better understand human behavior. For instance, psychologists are helping shape the ethical guidelines for the development of algorithms that could help predict the likelihood of a person developing depression by studying their social media usage. And psychologists are incorporating cognitive behavioral therapy into virtual reality, which could be used to treat anxiety and other disorders.

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