Over time, the blog will cover a colorful range of topics, from game studies and web experiments to usability and AI, but as a general topic, I will be writing about the role of psychology in information technology (and vice versa). Typically an initial response from people to the idea is befuddlement, as many of them think that people and computers don’t mix – I heard this a lot during the year I studied computer science on the side of psychology.
What a strange combination. Can anything useful come out of that?
I saw it as an opportunity to get the best from both worlds, since in a way, both psychology and IT are ubiquitous, though in a different way – psychology is ubiquitous by nature, whereas IT is ubiquitous by choice. Let me explain.
We carry psychology with us, wherever we go, since it is a science that has to do with us, quite literally. It studies our functions, interactions between us, how we experience the world, what motivates us… Psychology essentially has to do with everyone, because we are its very topic. Information technology, on the other hand, is ubiquitous, because we introduce it everywhere. We carry it with us, just like psychology, but not because we need to, but because we are are motivated to do so – because it provides us with useful tools that somehow help us in our everyday endeavors. IT is there to help compensate for basic human shortcomings – particularly those in information processing – and to enhance efficiency of functions and behaviors to fulfill inherently human needs, such as social interaction (social networks are an example of IT used for bonding, communication, gaining a feeling of belongingness and acceptance) and stimulation (news, games, music, video, to name a few). This way, one could even hope that mass psychology would dictate the needs for IT, and IT applications – specifically those to do with laic users as tech experts have a much higher level of tolerance when it comes to usability – would go through a nearly automated evolution as simple-to-use applications with the most potential for compensating for shortcomings and fulfilling needs would rapidly gain popularity. The reality is much more complicated, though, which is why psychology and its related fields are still actively consulted on topics such as usability, user motivation and marketing.
In a sense, psychology and IT are intertwined. On one hand, IT is naturally shaped around human characteristics, and on the other, IT provides indispensable tools for psychology as a science by offering a range of new tools and concepts. Thanks to technological development, psychology now has parsimonious computational models, access to improved research samples by size and diversity, computerized assessment, and entirely new contexts - such as online social networks or virtual reality – for both services and research.