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When you first begin thinking about it, psychology and computers could appear as two totally distinct fields. Computer scientists develop software and code algorithms that aid people with their daily tasks and psychologists study human behavior and mental well-being. In reality, these two disciplines are inextricably linked on many levels. Some of the most interesting research in both fields is being conducted by combining psychology and computer science.
Computer science has made it much easier to conduct studies in psychology. For instance FMRI scanners allow psychologists to see what areas of the brain are activated during specific thoughts or actions. Online questionnaires also eliminate the biases that can be found in paper and pencil surveys.
But it’s the collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists that has truly changed 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 important moments in the convergence.
It brought research into the way humans use computers into the realm of computer science, separating psychological methods from their human context, and causing psychologists to catch up. Psychology branches that already dealt with evaluations by number, such as psychometricians, discovered the computer science approach particularly amenable to their work.
Psychologists are currently working with computer scientists to create AI that can better understand human behavior. For instance, psychologists are helping shape the ethical guidelines for the creation of algorithms that could predict the risk of depression for a person by studying their social media activities. Psychologists are using cognitive behavior therapy in virtual reality to treat anxiety disorders as well as other illnesses.