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What is Cyberpsychology?

Tara Barnett
Tara Barnett

Cyberpsychology is a type of psychology that deals with how humans are affected by technology, particularly technology that involves computers or mediated interactions between individuals. Most people use the term cyberpsychology to refer only to psychology that deals with behavior online, but there are much broader ways of using technology that could be considered part of this field. Online interactions are often considered different than interactions that occur in person, and psychologists in this field study phenomena like online identities, online relationships, and even virtual reality. In general, the Internet is not considered a space in which the normal behavior of the human mind is changed, but rather a place in which predictable but dangerous responses to new technology may occur.

Many people believe that interactions that occur online have special qualities due to the medium in which they occur. Perceived anonymity online encourages behaviors not often seen in the physical world. A person may act differently than her or she would in real life,or may become an entirely different person. Cyberpsychology looks at these problems and attempts to explain the reasons they occur. By understanding why a person acts a certain way, a psychologist can often help a patient overcome a particularly damaging mentality.


The ways in which people interact with technology more generally are also usually considered within the range of topics covered in cyberpsychology. While psychologists are often interested in the interactions between people, the way individuals experience technology is also of importance. Individual interactions with video games, automated devices, or even typewriters can be studied from the perspective of cyberpsychology.

One aspect of psychology involving the Internet that is often looked upon with suspicion is e-therapy, which involves providing therapeutic advice through an online medium. On the one hand, potential anonymity and the ability to receive therapy from home can be attractive to people who otherwise would not seek help. Even so, it can be very difficult for a therapist to provide accurate assistance without in-person interaction with a patient. Cyberpsychology can help a therapist develop methods to treat patients online more accurately.

Fears that new technology can lead to mental illness or violence have led to increased interest in the study of cyberpsychology. Someone who has experience in this field might be well suited to treating a person who suffers from Internet addiction or a person who only has relationships online, but it is arguable that these problems are merely specific cases of normal human malfunctions. Addiction, no matter what the substance, is still addiction, and being antisocial was a problem seen long before the Internet. Cyberpsychologists are often more interested in theory than the treatment of patients, as patients could reasonably be treated by any psychologist.

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