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Careers in the field of psychology ‘booming’ with the help of technology

A health care professional is shown interacting with someone via a computer

Human-computer interaction influences our daily lives including health care services

By Tyler Hansen

You’ve seen it in movies and read it in books — the doomsday tale of robots reaching a supreme level of intelligence as they overtake humans as the planet’s dominant force.

That’s a fantasy. (For now, at least, so plan accordingly.) In the real world, our lives are often made significantly better because of technological advances and the ways in which we interact with computers.

This is increasingly true in the field of psychology, one in which industry professionals and the people who benefit from psychological services use technology to conduct business and communicate.

Christopher Sanchez, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Oregon State University’s School of Psychological Science. He’s a researcher and expert in human-computer interaction, a rapidly expanding field that seeks to understand how humans design, use and consume technology.

Human-computer interaction “explores how best to implement technology in such a way that humans can safely and effectively use said technology to make their lives better,” Sanchez says. It’s a field that impacts everything, from the development of smartphones to the delivery of telehealth services to the design of online learning environments and beyond.

And it’s one of many reasons why earning a psychology bachelor’s degree online with Oregon State can help you build a career that positively impacts the lives of others by combining the skills of psychology with the tools of technology.

“Career outlooks in this area are booming,” Sanchez says of human-computer interaction. “I don’t think it is unfair to say that technology has really permeated our everyday lives to such a degree that it is somewhat difficult to imagine life without it.”

The professor is careful to note that technology has not necessarily “transformed” the field of psychology. As one example, the fundamentals of counseling do not change whether it’s conducted in person or online. It “relies heavily on a fruitful dialogue between patient and provider” no matter the delivery method, he says.

What technology does — and will continue to do with increased sophistication — is make essential aspects of our lives including health care services more accessible. For people who want to pursue a degree in psychology or a minor in user experience research online, that creates an exciting array of professional possibilities.

Sanchez shared some thoughts on what this looks like in practice.

On the benefits of online delivery of psychological services

“Patients are likely more comfortable in their own home and also likely to be more open when not in the same physical room as another person, especially when discussing taboo or difficult-to-talk-about topics. I am sure there are likely some downsides to this method of delivery (e.g., difficulty in building rapport between the doctor and patient), but at least in my mind the benefits far outweigh the costs.”

On the importance of telehealth availability

“This is very exciting and has significant implications for access, especially for underserved populations. Now anyone with an internet connection and rudimentary hardware — even just a phone — can receive services where they might not be able to otherwise.”

On technology helping to improve safety across the board

“Nowadays, records can be shared instantaneously and securely to whomever might need to see them, and the technology within the medical facilities is advancing at an exponential pace. … Designing devices that allow nurses and doctors to more effectively diagnose patient status and deliver appropriate interventions not only makes their jobs easier, but it also makes health care safer.”

On human-computer interaction being focused on meeting the needs of users

“I tell my students this all the time: Just because we can design a feature or product, it doesn’t mean we necessarily should. We instead have to step back and focus on making changes and designs that lead to improvements in user performance and acceptance, and not just do things we as designers think are ‘cool.’ ”

Learn more about earning your bachelor’s degree in psychology online with Oregon State Ecampus.

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  • An Whitt says:

    I find this article terrifyingly misleading to future college students.

    I picked my B.S. in Psych in 2013 after reading articles like this and even back then EVERYONE knew there were no jobs in psych that you could get with just a Bachelors degree.

    Heres my job hunting experience:

    You need at least a Masters to do anything fun in Psychology, a Bachelors will get you changing adult diapers to “prove yourself” or you can get a Receptionist position at a therapy office. And when it comes to the fringe fields that mix Psychology with something else cool like Computers or Ecosystems, employers seem to find the psychology cute and helpful but a B.S. in Biology or Computer Engineering would have gotten you into that job a lot quicker.

    Please do more research and write a more complete article next time so it’s not so misleading to our youth. We have enough depression and starving homeless veterans out here as it is.

  • Tyler Hansen says:

    Hi An Whitt. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and for raising some valid points and concerns. The job market is certainly challenging on many fronts for many people. We appreciate you sharing your real-world experience.

    As highlighted by Professor Sanchez’s quote (based on his direct and extensive experience working in the field), this article aims to highlight the expanding market for psychologists in the area of human-computer interaction, as well as the increasing prevalence of professionals who use technology to deliver psychological services.

    We’re excited that this is a fast-growing part in the field of psychology for students and others to explore.

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