Psychology & Computer Science Combined: Programs?

Here’s everything about programs combining psychology and computer science:

The most common fields where psychology and computer science meet are cognitive science, human-computer interaction, bioinformatics, and artificial intelligence.

Ultimately, the two disciplines can meet any time a psychologist needs a computer tool, but those are the fields that consider topics from both directions.

If you want to learn all about programs combining psychology and computer science, then this article is for you.

Keep reading!

Psychology & Computer Science Combined: Programs? (Many)

What Is Covered in the Study of Psychology?

Surely, you’re familiar with psychology on some level.

But, we’re going to be getting into some pretty deep topics today.

Why don’t we take a minute to really pin down the basics before venturing off into the weeds?

Specifically, psychology is the study of the mind and behavior.

This produces tons of different subgroups and branches of study, but each of those ties back to the central focus of studying the mind and behavior.

A few key categories of psychology show how the field can get rather specific without deviating from the original purpose.

For instance, cognitive psychology is all about understanding how thought works.

That’s a challenging concept.

Quantitative psychology is all about collecting data to try to mathematically describe behavior patterns.

Clinical psychology, something you might be more familiar with, aims to develop methods for understanding and addressing unwanted behavior patterns.

Here’s a short list of a few other leading branches of psychology to broaden the picture:

  • Developmental psychology
  • Evolutionary psychology
  • Forensic psychology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Occupational psychology

What About Computer Science?

On the other hand, we have computer science.

Most people think that this is the field of learning to program.

While that’s not entirely wrong, it paints an incomplete picture. 

Really, computer science is a large field that covers everything related to the study of computers and computing. 

Sure, programming and coding fit under that umbrella, but so do a lot of other things.

Computer scientists can work on developing computer hardware.

They can focus on systems-level analysis where they try to organize computers to carry out greater tasks.

The field is vast.

To keep this short, we can look at the leading areas of study under the umbrella of computer science:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Computer systems
  • Networks
  • Security
  • Databases
  • Human-computer interaction
  • Vision and graphics

There are plenty more, and you’ll even see some of them come up later.

How Are Psychology and Computer Science Combined in General?

Computer science and psychology actually combine forces very regularly in professional applications.

If you can think of any time a psychologist might be able to offer insight on a computer program, you’re already there, and that’s not even scratching the surface.

When it comes to formal study, things aren’t quite as fluid.

Yet, you’ll see expert computer scientists and psychologists combine their powers in the name of research and study.

At the research level, computer scientists often help psychologists develop computer-based tools for their research.

But, if you’re looking for specific programs that include both fields of study, I’ll be listing those next.

The point is that the insights of a computer expert and a psychologist can meet at many different points.

What Are the Leading Programs That Combine Psychology and Computer Science? (4 Options)

Still, the things I just mentioned are broad and vague.

There are specific programs that deliberately combine concepts from computer science and psychology.

In fact, the two fields are quite inseparable in many of the programs listed below.

The thing to remember is that you can get into these programs as a computer scientist or a psychologist.

You don’t need degrees in both.

If you happen to have expertise in both areas, then that’s even better for you.

And, for those who enter these fields from one side or the other, you’re going to pick up what is known as vertical knowledge.

A computer scientist can’t work in a psychological space without learning a bunch of things about psychology, and vice versa.

#1 Cognitive Science

This is the most obvious answer to the question.

Cognitive science is the study of how thought works.

There are specialized fields within psychology devoted specifically to this concept.

Naturally, they need computer tools to do their work, right?

While that’s true, that’s not really the point here.

Computer science pursues raw research in cognitive science just as thoroughly as psychologists do, and there’s a clear reason for that.

At the most basic level, computer scientists are interested in understanding how a computer can recognize and process information.

That is, in a sense, a form of cognition.

Meanwhile, psychologists are looking at the same thing, but with human or animal brains.

The crossover is intense, and in fact, psychologists and computer scientists learn a lot from each other in this area.

Understanding computer cognition can help psychologists think about human cognition on a neurological level.

Reversing that, knowing more about how the human brain and mind work can provide insights for a computer scientist to reimagine computer processing altogether.

Cognitive science very clearly provides a crossover point for psychology and computer science, and there are countless areas where they collaborate.

#2 Human-Computer Interaction

As a field of study, this is a little less intuitive, but it makes sense why you would want the computer science and psychology perspective here.

Basically, this is the study of how computers and humans interact.

What’s important to understand is that this looks at those interactions in both directions.

So, human-computer interaction studies how a human can give inputs to a computer.

This led to the development of the mouse and keyboard.

It also led to motion controls, voice controls, and in a more advanced format, direct neurological controls. 

As an example, Neuralink is a company that is trying to build direct interfaces from a human brain to a computer.

So, you could control a computer merely by thinking about it.

Obviously, you need computer scientists to understand how the machine side of things can work.

You also need psychologists to provide research and input on how humans will respond and be able to supply inputs through these methods.

And like I said, it goes the other way too.

Both computer scientists and psychologists study how humans can receive communications from a computer.

Video and audio are the most obvious, but haptic feedback (which works through your sense of touch), virtual reality, and, once again, Neuralink, all require inputs from both fields.

#3 Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is a whole other animal in this discussion.

This is the discipline of using computer technology to analyze biological data and information.

It is heavily used in genetics and genomics.

In those cases, the presence of psychology is a bit lower.

But, bioinformatics has areas where it crosses directly into psychology.

Some of that is evolutionary psychology, where researchers would try to identify genetic determiners of psychological behavior.

Bioinformatics has applications in behavioral psychology, clinical research, neuropsychology, and quantitative psychology.

In general, bioinformatics would look specifically at how to design or strategize the use of technology to pursue these fields of study.

When I talked earlier about psychologists leaning on computer scientists to build research tools, it led to this.

Bioinformatics is the formal discipline where you see those interactions, in a research sense.

So, someone specifically studying bioinformatics would look at either the way to make tools in these research areas or how to use tools that already exist for those same purposes.

Computer science and psychology fully meet at this intersection.

#4 Artificial Intelligence

The truth is, I saved the best for last.

Technically, there is any number of specific programs that might combine psychology and computer science, but now that we’re adding artificial intelligence (AI) to the list, the major programs are covered.

Artificial intelligence, as a research discipline, is basically a narrow application of cognitive science.

The goal is to make computer systems that can solve problems with reduced human impact.

The problem could be as complicated as climate change or as specific as winning a chess match.

You see AI applied to utility monitoring, self-driving cars, genomic research, and countless other topics.

What matters for this discussion is that AI fully utilized skills from psychologists and computer scientists, and in a number of ways.

The first is with cognitive science.

Both disciplines contribute to how AI experts view the very concept of artificial intelligence.

What actually counts as intelligence in a computer?

Is it any form of machine learning, or do you have to make an artificial conscious entity?

There’s a lot to hash out there, and both computer scientists and psychologists are heavily involved in this aspect of research.

There’s also the interface component.

How does a computer receive information?

Even trickier, how does it understand that information?

In terms of intelligence, understanding might be important.

There’s also the human component of AI.

How do humans interact with AI?

How do you need to design the AI so that it is effective and able to communicate or otherwise work with real people?

Psychologists clearly weigh in on these questions.

Ultimately, if you want to design a computer that can solve human problems but with reduced human interaction, you need to consider both angles.

You need computer scientists to design and develop the systems.

You also need psychologists to steer the designs in ways that work positively with people, and you even need their insights to really understand the broader implications of any artificial intelligence.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.