Digital Psychology: Why Psychology Needs An Update

Published by Chavi Maheshwari on

Technology has become a crucial part of our lives, from checking our phones first thing in the morning to ending our day by keeping our screens close. Most of us have no clue how technology impacts our routine activities in the hustle and bustle of our lives. For instance,  the “top suggestion box”: on an e-commerce site like Amazon helps consumers make informed shopping decisions. There is a different side of the coin where technology has numerous effects on the subconscious mind of a user.

As mentioned before, many of us do not realize how our decision-making power is being influenced by technology.  Understanding how the brain gets affected by technology can help us learn how we might be getting manipulated. Psychology is the one domain that has dealt with the functionalities of the human mind for ages. But is present-day psychology ready to handle the tsunamis of shifts caused by technology? 

There is no doubt that technological disruptions have made their way to the psychology field as well. In this article, we will dive deep into the field of Psychology and the modernization it needs to stay relevant in the contemporary world. 

Psychology: A Little Backstory

The way humans live has been changing since the dawn of time and will continue to do so, which makes us acknowledge the evolution and the wonders science has led to today. The scientific discoveries about space, fossils, and fuels have made room for unique discussions. On a similar note, if researchers had not discovered the knowledge about the ways in which the human mind functions, the world wouldn’t have evolved in the manner it has. 

In other words, the birth of psychology has allowed millions around the world to understand themselves and fellow beings in a better manner. However, psychology wasn’t always as developed as it is in the present day. Back in the day, when mental disorders were considered demonic possessions, the only solutions available for those problems were exorcism or other religion-based procedures. 

In 1795, a French physician, Philippe Pinel, from Paris, took it upon himself to end the injustice against mentally ill people. He believed that mentally challenged people were as human as others and should be talked to and not chained. His and the efforts of many others were among the beginning steps towards the birth of various psychological techniques like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Psychodynamic therapy, Humanistic therapy, and other formal practices of the modern world. 

Not long ago, “Psychology” or “Mental Health” created a buzz in people’s minds. Over the past many years, very few people have taken steps to utilize traditional psychological practices for their betterment. Nonetheless, times are changing. Gradually a shift in people’s awareness of emotional and mental well-being has given rise to a new era of psychology. The younger population has broken taboos regarding mental health and disorders assistance. People now accept psychology as a core element in their lives; thus, psychology must also update itself with the ever-changing world. 

While the essence of psychology remains the same over the length and breadth of many decades, the manner of performing therapies and diagnoses needs to evolve with time. 

Well-Known Branches of Psychology

Clinical Psychology

Clinical Psychology is one of the most widely-known specializations in Psychology that assesses the treatments related to mental health and disabilities. It has two sub-fields, Applied Clinical Psychology, and Non-Applied Psychology. The former focuses on the application of psychology in real-life situations, whereas the latter focuses on the theory and research behind individual behavior and thoughts. 

Counseling Psychology

As the name suggests, Counselling Psychology is a sub-field of psychology suitable for all ages as it provides measures to incorporate a healthier lifestyle. Counselor Education holds a considerable part in counseling psychology, and it deals with preparing the next generation of counselors according to the needs of the modern world. 

Business Psychology

Another valuable sub-field of Psychology that concentrates on the comprehension of human behavior in business and work environments is Business Psychology. The role of business psychologists is to ensure increased productivity,  higher employee morale, and better management of operations in a workplace. 

Forensic Psychology

Forensic Psychology deals with the implementation of psychological concepts and procedures to solve problems related to law. It includes various fields within itself, like criminal behavior, Public Policies, Insanity, mental illnesses, and more. 

International Psychology

With globalization spreading its roots rapidly, the world is becoming smaller daily, not geographically. International boundaries are no longer barriers to conducting business or finding work opportunities. With such ease in connections, the need for understanding cultural differences repeatedly arises, thus, the concept of International Psychology.

General Psychology 

The one specialization that combines the knowledge of all other fields into one detailed course is General Psychology. It is the study of the fundamental concepts of the science of psychology. General Psychology also includes behavioral sciences that study human actions and behaviors. 

How Technology Impacts the Human Mind

Traveling to a place, eyes locked on our screens and music blasting in our earphones. Isn’t this a relatable scene? We are so invested in what’s being shown on the screens that we forget to observe what lies around us. This is just one example from the sea of many. Our addictions or involuntary involvement with technology leads us to miss out on beautiful and meaningful junctures of our lives. 

Sure, there are always two sides to the story, and no person can deny the ease technology has brought to their lives. Imagine living in the Paleolithic Era (a part of the stone age) without any surety about food, shelter, and companionship. Surviving a wild animal was the task of the day back then. But in the modern world, the only hunting one has to worry about is apartment hunting, which too is becoming convenient with the help of applications and social media. 

With the click of a button, we can now get food delivered, find friends and partners and enhance our careers. While all of this pertains to changes in our exterior world, technology can also play an influential role in our inner side. 

One of the most evident effects of tech is decreasing attention span. One recent study found that our average attention span has been reduced by 4 seconds, down from 12 to 8, shorter than that of a goldfish. The accessibility to smart devices and tons of content on it allows users to avoid boredom at any given time. While avoiding boredom might sound like a positive consequence, it damages the human mind in the long run. 

Another internal effect of technology usage is diminishing dependence on gut instinct. One of the differentiating factors between humans and machinery is the existence of gut instinct in humans. But with the rise of information on the internet, humans are relying more on data than their instincts for making decisions. While data helps in analysing costs, sometimes it can influence purchase decisions by providing the most profitable options for manufacturers. 

Let’s do a small activity; I want you to recall the mobile numbers of your family members and close friends. How many could you remember, three or maybe four? I surely couldn’t go above three that, too, including my number!  What does this activity tell us? Large storage of data is beneficial, but it hampers our memory power and causes difficulty in retaining facts. Technology affects our day-to-day lives in many other ways too.    

Technology Changing The Course of Psychology 

Every industry has undergone a 360-degree revolution with the advent of advanced technology. Technology has made its way to even the tiniest of activities, from automobiles to finance. Psychology is no exception in this scenario. Scientists have found insights into the human brain and how it has responded in different situations. These findings remain constrained to the hands of specific qualified individuals only, but today with the help of technology, the information is accessible globally. 

For example, the internet is the source of enormous data about mental health challenges that individuals can use for educational purposes. On a macro level, the impact of technology might be a little tough to relate to, so let us take an example of an individual. A range of virtual companies offers online assessments that psychologists could only conduct earlier. Online personality tests or Stress level tests are an illustration of how technology is modernizing the field of psychology.  

Advanced technology is revolutionizing the traditional front of Psychology in the following ways:

Accessing Global Education Resources through Online Modes

Experts worldwide can connect with budding psychologists and impart valuable insights from their experience in the industry. Education delivery through online modes allows learners to learn at their own pace and understand concepts thoroughly. Even for laypeople, access to innovative materials has become far more convenient than in the past. 

Application of Virtual Reality for Handling Disorders

Virtual reality allows psychologists to comprehend the triggers of their patients by putting them in a virtually stimulating environment. Virtual reality tools are most commonly used in anxiety disorder or substance abuse cases. A modern Psychologist can use virtual and augmented reality tools to help patients with better coping mechanisms.

Use of Artificial Intelligence to Predict Human Behaviours

The psychologist was responsible for predicting and analyzing the patient’s behavior, leaving room for human error in the past. The introduction of artificial intelligence in psychology ensures accurate predictions about human behavior. With the combination of compassion from therapists and accuracy from sophisticated tools like AI, the dynamics of the psychology industry are changing rapidly. 

The Emergence of Easily Accessible Applications

At a click of a button, people can get hold of websites and applications that provide mental health assistance on their devices. These digital resources are not a replacement for the role of a psychologist but only a way for individuals to build more awareness about particular topics. 

Increasing Demand for Teletherapy

Traditional psychology practices involve face-to-face interactions between the patient and the psychologist. In situations where physical presence would not be possible, access to help got restricted.  Teletherapy uses digital means like video conferencing and messaging to build communication between therapists and patients. 

Specifically Designed Diagnostic Equipment

Similar to other industries, modern-day psychology techniques also run on data. Advancements in technology have led to innovative methods for practitioners to collect and analyze data about patients’ physical, emotional and mental conditions. One of the recent developments in equipment is Galvanic Skin Response (GSR), and the tool helps practitioners determine an individual’s stress levels through a wireless communication system. 

Understanding the Concept of Digital Psychology

The involuntary action of checking our phones as soon as we hear a “ding!” is a common phenomenon for people all around the globe. Thus, it becomes vital to know how many ways technology impacts our behaviors. Digital Psychology involves studying the effects of digital technology and media on behaviors, attitudes, mindsets, and other psychological aspects of human lives. In simple terms, it explores why our brains respond in a certain way to technology. 

Another element in the study of digital psychology is how human psychology impacts technological advancements. By taking a closer look at the field of psychology and technological revolutions, one can understand how closely these two fields depend on one another. For instance, a business tries to understand the psychology of its target customer to create products or services that satisfy their needs. Therefore, consumer psychology establishes a need for sophisticated technological measures that produce data that businesses can use for growth.  

Influence on buyer decisions is only one example of the effect of technology on a large scale. Let us take a minute now to realize how technology is impacting us in our daily lives. Social media often subtly influences our perceptions about relationships and lifestyles, and we tend to adapt to these ever-changing scenarios to feel like a part of the community. Digital psychology examines how and why our mind responds the way it does toward technology. It also explores the formation of cultures that occurs when technology and psychology are combined. 

What Lies Ahead For The Future of Psychology? 

Modern technology is the main ingredient in the recipe for success for every industry, be it Marketing, Agriculture, or Psychology. The sector’s expansion is directly related to the adoption of the latest methodologies in its essential functions. Psychology is sure to be among the rising fields. However, its dynamics are changing majorly. Conventional research and diagnosis modes are digitized, and mundane processes are being automated rapidly. 

Patients have access to computerized tests that do not require the supervision of a psychologist. This allows patients to be more comfortable as it helps them avoid the fear of judgment that might creep in a while attempting a pen-and-paper test. Using digital tools creates a safer environment, ensuring that more and more people will feel okay with using mental health services. 

Access to online tests from smart devices allows the collection of large amounts of data, which is helpful for research purposes. Big Data and Analytics are no longer restricted to machine-based industries. Psychologists will have sounder mechanisms to store and track a patient’s data to plan out the right path to recovery quickly and conveniently. Big data has led to the emergence of different branches of psychology, like neuroeconomy and neuromarketing. 

The future of Psychology lies in the Internet and Virtual Reality Tools. With the introduction of Metaverse, people will connect in their comfort zones and support each other’s healing journey. Therapies for anxiety disorders and phobias would take place through virtual reality, which will substantially impact patients’ minds. The only viable path to allow psychology to become a part of every ordinary person’s life is to integrate it with the technology they use at every moment.

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