“What is the purpose of Psychology & Technology?” High school students often ask me this when they visit information activities of our major, and they are not the only ones. I hear this question a lot in my environment. Both the psychology and technology direction is really interesting and the variety of courses are a big advantage of studying P&T. But how will we ever combine these two so different aspects of our major?
I have asked myself this question multiple times in the previous years. I follow a lot of Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering courses and when I say that I study Psychology & Technology, my fellow students of these courses are always suspicious about it. They mostly do not see the value of psychology in an engineering study.
In this quartile, I am following the last course in a USE learning line about robotics. I am in a group with 4 ME students, and we are making a robot for toddlers to keep them busy so their parents can work from home. As a start, we did some literature research about ethics and psychology. Our findings were seen as useless and untrue because the tutor did not experience the effects we found. Instead of literature research, we had to conduct a survey study among parents the tutor knew. This surprised me, as this sample is really biased (only highly educated parents) and I also had to explain the procedure of a survey. It looked like the tutor was not used to execute studies with humans involved. Then I found out that the tutor is also from Mechanical Engineering…
After the tutor meeting, we further discussed our idea. To my surprise, one of my group members proposed to let children play for the whole day with the robot so parents could work without being disturbed.
How could they forget to think about the effects of a robot on children’s development? I could only think of the dangers of anthropomorphism, the development of emotions, relationships with parents, and so on. Logical thinking for someone that followed psychology and research courses, but not for a ‘regular’ engineering student.
For me, this proves that psychology in technology development is more needed than ever. We as P&T students are the missing link in the development of software, living environments, and robots. It sometimes looks like psychology and technology are an impossible combination, but it is the opposite. Psychology & Technology makes human-centered technology possible!