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The developing field of cyberpsychology encompasses all psychological phenomena that are associated with or affected by emerging technology. Cyber comes from the word cybernetics, the study of the operation of control and communication; psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Cyberpsychology is the study of the human mind and behavior in the context of human-technology interaction. However, mainstream research studies seem to focus on the effect of the Internet and cyberspace on the psychology of individuals and groups. Some hot topics include: online identity, online relationships, personality types in cyberspace, transference to computers, addiction to computers and Internet, regressive behavior in cyberspace, online gender-switching, etc.
While statistical and theoretical research in this field is based around Internet usage, cyberpsychology also includes the study of the psychological ramifications of cyborgs, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality amongst other things. Although some of these topics may appear to be the stuff of science fiction, they are quickly becoming science fact as evidenced by interdisciplinary approaches involving the fields of biology, engineering, and mathematics. The field of cyberpsychology remains open to refinement as well as new purposes including inquiry into the nature of current and future trends in mental illness associated with technological advances.
It was around the turn of the millennium that people in the United States broke the 50 percent mark in Internet use, personal computer use, and cell phone use. With such a broad exposure to computers and their displays, our perceptions go beyond objects and images in our natural environment and now includes the graphics and images on the computer screen. As the overlaps between man and machine expand, the relevance of Human-computer interaction (HCI) research within the field of cyberpsychology will become more visible and necessary in understanding the current modern lifestyles of many people. With the rising number of internet and computer users around the world, it is evident that computer technology's effects on the human psyche will continue to significantly shape both our interactions with each other and our perceptions of the world that is literally "at our fingertips."
Courses[edit | edit source]
An MSc in Cyberpsychology is offered at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Ireland. IADT has a four-walled VLab (a CAVE type virtual reality system) which students can use in research projects.
An honours-level 26-week CyberPsychology final year unit Social Psychology and Mediated Communication is offered at Bournemouth University by Dr Jacqui Taylor, Associate Professor in Psychology. This has been taught for over 15 years and uses online discussions and traditional lectures and interactive activities to enable students to experience many of the cyber-effects! Related research is located here: http://eprints.bournemouth.ac.uk/view/author/657d6ee5fbae9c7fd8d455d268bf293a.html
Psychotherapy in Cyberspace[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Online therapy
Psychotherapy in Cyberspace, also known as e-therapy, is a controversial matter with a history of doubts related to efficiency, validity and effectiveness. In the most common computer-mediated form of counseling a person e-mails or chats online with a therapist. E-therapy may be particularly effective when conducted via video conferencing, as important cues such as facial expression and body language may be conveyed albeit in a less present way. At the same time, there are new applications of technology within psychology and healthcare which utilize augmented and virtual reality components -- for example in pain management treatment, PTSD treatment, use of avatars in virtual environments, and self- and clinician-guided computerized cognitive behavior therapies. [ See http://www.fenichel.com/psychtech2011.shtml ] The voluminous work of Azy Barak (U. of Haifa) and a growing number of researchers in the US and UK gives strong evidence to the efficacy (and sometimes superiority) of Internet-facilitated, computer-assisted treatments relative to 'traditional' in-office-only approaches. The UK's National Health Service now recognizes CCBT (computerized cognitive behavioral therapy) as the preferred method of treatment for mild-to-moderate presentations of anxiety and depression. [ See http://www.fenichel.com/CCBT.shtml for an August 2011 presentation by Kate Cavanaugh, author of "Hands on Help" ] Applications in psychology and medicine also include such innovations as the "Virtual Patient" and other virtual/augmented reality programs which can provide trainees with simulated intake sessions while also providing a means for supplementing clinical supervision.
Many of the current controversies related to e-therapy have arisen in the context of ethical guidelines and considerations.  In the U.S. there are special circumstances which impact widespread online services among licensed health/mental health professionals given that each of 50 states has their own licensing and regulatory systems, and for most professions practitioners are limited to practicing 'within their state', with the recipient's location determining 'where the service is received' and spurring ongoing debate about restricted access and antiquity of the license system. But the applications and research expand at a rapid rate, and areas of research, practice, and education within the world of 'psychotherapy' have been exploding - especially with all of the research and experience demonstrating the value of technology/Internet assisted applications.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Computer mediated interaction
- Electronic commerce
- Electronic communication
- Electronic retailing
- Digital divide
- Internet addiction
- Internet usage
- Online social networks
Bibliography[edit | edit source]
- The Psychology of Cyberspace by Dr. John Suler
-  Cyberpsychology.com
- Gordo-López, J. & Parker, I. (1999). Cyberpsychology. New York: Routledge.
- Wallace, P. M. (1998). The Psychology of the Internet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Whittle, D. B. (1997). Cyberspace: The human dimension. New York: W.H. Freeman.
Journals[edit | edit source]
- Journal of Computer Mediated Communication : http://jcmc.indiana.edu/
- Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace : http://www.cyberpsychology.eu/
- Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking: http://www.liebertpub.com/publication.aspx?pub_id=10
- Journal of CyberTherapy & Rehabilitation : http://www.vrphobia.eu
Books[edit | edit source]
- The Psychology of Menu Selection: Designing Cognitive Control at the Human/Computer Interface by Kent Norman
- Cyberpsychology: An Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction by Kent Norman (2008) Cambridge University of Press.
- Virtual Reality Therapy for Anxiety Disorders: Advances in Evaluation and Treatment by Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold and Dr. Mark D. Wiederhold