Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) School of Psychology associate head, Vinorra Shaker (centre) conducting a Virtual Reality therapy (VRT) training at the XR (Meta) Studio.
IN the 21st century, the field of psychology has undergone significant evolution since the inception of modern psychology in 1879.
Today, psychology is not only focused on the cognitive realm but also integrates fully with technology, particularly in light of the rise of digital and mobile technology.
Psychology shaped by technological advancements
Have you ever imagined that psychologists nowadays would be involved in building machines with human-like characteristics, known as Artificial Intelligence (AI)?
Or have you ever witnessed psychology students learning to treat individuals with phobias or anxiety by using Virtual Reality (VR) headsets?
On the ground, the integration of virtual and augmented reality, wearables, and mobile apps has opened up new avenues for delivering psychological interventions, conducting assessments, and monitoring mental health.
Another noticeable trend is the growth of online counselling services, which have replaced in-person counselling in many cases.
Let us explore the potential future developments in psychology studies with Asia Pacific University of Technology and Innovation (APU) School of Psychology associate head, Vinorra Shaker, who shares her insights.
In modern psychology, there are five main domains: Biological, Cognitive, Developmental, Social and Personality, as well as Mental and Physical Health.
While the focus of psychology studies has shifted toward the cognitive realm, it is not surprising to find a close relationship between cognitive psychology and AI.
The close relationship between cognitive psychology and AI. APU School of Psychology lecturer Izzati Mohd Bashir uses the state-of-the-art Tobii Pro Fusion Eye Tracker to process human cognitive activity information through reading, scene perception, and visual searching.
"Psychology and computer science have become increasingly interconnected,” Vinorra explained.
“Cognitive psychology studies mental processes such as perception, attention, memory, language, and problem-solving.
“On the other hand, AI involves the development of computer systems that can perform tasks requiring human intelligence, such as understanding natural language, recognising images, and making decisions," she elaborated.
She further emphasised the role of psychology in providing insights into human cognition and behaviour.
“These insights can be utilised to develop AI systems that simulate human thinking processes and behaviour, ultimately enhancing human cognition and augmenting our abilities.”
Vinorra, who holds a Master's degree in Counselling from Monash University Australia and is currently pursuing her PhD in Education and Psychology, shared how computer science has attempted to engineer "feelings" in robots and machines.
Thus, a psychology degree today can pave the way for a career in developing AI, provided one possesses the necessary qualifications.
An example of readily available AI in psychology studies is natural language processing (NLP), an AI technique that aims to enable computers to understand human language.
NLP algorithms leverage cognitive psychology theories of language processing to analyze and interpret language.
Pursue a tech-infused Psychology degree at the Premier Digital Tech Institution
While acknowledging that a psychology degree can lead to rewarding careers in social science, Vinorra stressed that it can also play a crucial role in computer science.
"The future of psychology will undoubtedly be shaped by technological advancements,” Vinorra pointed out.
"The future of psychology will undoubtedly be shaped by technological advancements," she highlighted.
The School of Psychology at APU, established in a leading tech university with the endorsement of "Premier Digital Tech Institution (PDTI)" by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), offers rich resources and cutting-edge tech facilities. It also integrates tech elements into its teaching and learning capacity.
Vinorra elaborated, "In addition to conventional psychology teaching, we offer technology-infused psychology modules at the School of Psychology, providing students with a stronger edge in the modern world.
“For instance, we can conduct Virtual Reality therapy (VRT) training at the XR (Meta) Studio, which is readily available on campus."
The APU XR (Meta) Studio is a first-of-its-kind facility that comprises technologies capable of developing Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) applications.
VRT employs VR technology to simulate real-world situations that trigger phobias or anxiety in a safe and controlled environment.
During a VRT session, clients wear a headset that displays a computer-generated simulation of the feared situation.
This allows clients to interact with the simulation and practice coping skills, such as relaxation techniques while receiving guidance and feedback from a therapist.
Vinorra highlighted the increasing overlap between psychology and computer science, particularly in areas such as human-computer interaction and computational neuroscience.
These intersections offer various opportunities for psychology graduates or experts to transition into careers in computer science and technology.
Some potential pathways include:
> Pursuing additional education or training in relevant areas such as computer programming, data science, or machine learning.
> Engaging in crossover roles that combine computer science and technology, such as designing user interfaces or taking on psychology roles that require technology, like developing VR interventions.
> Leveraging existing skills highly valued in the tech industry, such as critical thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills, to pursue roles such as project management, product development, or user experience design.
Diagnose human-technology interaction with Cyberpsychology
To cultivate future psychological experts, APU has established the Centre for Psychology and Well-Being, equipped with advanced equipment integrated with state-of-the-art technology to support psychology learning and research, setting it apart from other institutions.
In the psychoanalysis therapy suite, Amirah Husna, APU School of Psychology lab technician, is demonstrating the use of the wearable sensing Electroencephalogram(EEG) DSI-24 dry electrode headset on a psychology student.
The high-tech centre includes an eye-tracking laboratory, psychobiological laboratory, psychoanalysis therapy suites for both individual and group therapy, psychological testing and measurement rooms, psychology group observation suites with a one-way mirror and AV capture equipment, activity and discussion rooms, as well as classrooms designed for instructional learning and research activities.
APU psychology lecturer, Jaff Choong Gian Yong, guides his students to analyse human behaviour in the psychology group observation suites with a one-way mirror and AV capture equipment.
In summary, the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Psychology Degree programme offered by APU's School of Psychology, which fosters cyberpsychology, prepares students to understand human behaviour and mental processes in the context of human-technology interaction.
Graduates from this programme are tech-savvy and well-equipped for competitive psychology professions.
APU also offers the APU-DMU dual degree programme, where students can receive two-degree certificates upon graduation: one from APU and another from De Montfort University in the UK, renowned for its 150 years of experience in providing higher education.
This dual degree enhances the employability of graduates, growing their competencies towards maintaining APU’s 100% employability track record.