Five Ways That Technology Has Affected Psychological Research
Information technology has played a large role in enhancing research efforts in science of the mind and behavior. Technology has influenced the discipline not only in how research studies are carried out and analyzed, but also in the actual phenomena that psychologists can investigate. Here are five ways that technology has affected psychological research.
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The people studied
Psychological research has historically been strongly biased towards the study of psychology students, because they are convenient for research to find and you can basically force them to do it as a compulsory course requirement. Although this bias towards students still exists, it is assuaged somewhat by the ability to use the internet and mobile apps to reach broader samples of people.
The primary research method in psychology is the self-report questionnaire, which typically involves asking participants to rate certain statements on a numerical scale. Although this method has its critics, one advantage is that is can easily be conducted and analyzed online. Where pen and paper surveys once ruled, computers have taken over. This has reduced the cost of surveying dramatically.
Easier and more complex analysis
There was a time when psychologists conducted statistical analyses essentially by hand, with the help of whatever rudimentary calculators were available at the time. Software such as SPSS means that people who are “not good with numbers” are no less able to work as psychological researchers, and greatly reduces the time that researchers spend analyzing their data.
New measurement tools
Incredibly accurate research on things like reaction times can now be conducted using specialized computer packages. Mobile technology, using a technique called the experience sampling method, allows psychologists to ask people questions as they go about daily lives. But perhaps the largest shift in measurement has come from neuroscience, where brain-imaging technology has drastically enhanced the understanding of the brain.
Technology, and people’s relation to it, is a research topic in itself. For example, some studies are looking into how social groups behave online compared to real-life groups. Others are looking into how internet use affects people, such as the link between social media use and anxiety, or how the internet is impacting people’s ability to concentrate. It’s easy to entice people who spend a lot of time online to participate in studies by offering them discount codes for services they tend to use such as g2a.com, or a product that they might want such as an MP3 player (for top picks you can see the list here).
Advances in neuroscience mean that at some point in your lifetime, researchers will be able to monitor people’s thoughts, and display what they are thinking or dreaming on a computer monitor. Other researchers are theorizing that brain implants could be used to treat certain neurological conditions, enhance certain mental functions, or enable several people with these implants to communicate telepathically perhaps for use in the military.
More and more, technological advancements are being brought into psychological research, and this trend will continue. The future of this marriage may seem like science fiction, but it is coming. Psychology and technology are now locked onto the same path.