Cyberpsychology and Information Technology Literacy
José M. Prieto
Complutense University, Madrid
Faculty of Psychology, Somosaguas, Madrid, 28223
Fax +34, 913510091
Keynote Address, July 6th, 11:00 Aula Magna
6th European Congress of Psychology
Rome 4-9th, July 1999
This keynote address has been divided in four sections. The first analyzes
the conceptual emergence of Cyberspace. The second analyzes the conceptual
emergence of Information Technology Literacy. The third analyzes the concept of
Cyberpsychology. The fourth analyzes the Psychology of the Cyberspaces as a new
field of expertise comprising four ingredients: a) the transition from literacy
to proficiency in new information technologies; b) the use of Internet as a
continuing education system online; c) the use of Internet to carrying out
research online; d) the use of Internet as a new context for professional
practice taking advantage of knowledge-based expertise online.
Cyberpsychology and Information Technology Literacy
First we must clarify what do we mean by Cyberpsychology. Apparently this is
a new term, but in fact this is a term that has been used increasingly among
those scholars and practitioners who are becoming regular Internet users.
1. Here are some details highlighting the conceptual emergence
- The term "cybernetics" was coined by Nobert Wiener
(1894-1964) in 1948, as a title for his book, Cybernetics
(Wiener, 1965; 1988). The original meaning in old Greek, kybernetikos, means
"steersman" or "helmsman". That is, the person who steers a machine, the
person who steers a ship. Kibernao was the verb meaning "to lead", "to
steer", "to govern". Soon afterwards "Cybernatics" became a branch of
science studying the processing of information and communication as well as
control systems as applied to machines and living organisms.
- In Europe another term was coined, "Telematics"
(originated through the French influence in the administration of the EU in
Brussels) meaning the transmission of digital data through the telephone
network. However, this term is almost unknown all around the world except
Europe where it is used often in the newspapers and mass-media in some
languages such as French and Spanish. Telematics is just that place
you are in when you are connected online. This same idea is shared by the
- The term Cyborgs was coined in 1970 by Alvin Toffler in
his book Future Shock (Toffler, 1991) where he devoted several
pages analyzing the possibilities of the human/machine integration and the
interaction of human brains and databases through networked communication. A
cyborg is a person whose physiological functioning is aided by a
mechanical or depends upon an electronic device.
- The term "Cyberspace" started to be used as an argot among
computer literate but counter cultural circles in the mid 1970s as witnessed
by John Brunner, in his novel "Shockwave Rider" (Brunner,
1990, first edition of 1975) and by William Gibson in several science
fiction stories published first in magazines and afterwards collected in
1984 in a book "Neuromancer" (Gibson, 1995). These people started to call
themselves "cyberpunks" stressing that they were using computers and
video games as a way of self-expression. They realized that they have
developed a belief about the existence of some kind of actual space behind
the screen, "some place that you cannot see but you know is there". This
world of lucid dreaming beyond a computer or a television screen started to
be named Cyberspace.
- "Cyber" suggested the idea of computer memory and networked
communication systems. Now its is used as a short name for computers,
networked computers. "Space" alluded to a multidimensional but
virtual space. During the 1990s three layers coexist behind the term
"cyberspace". We are, thus, in the domain of connotations (Whittle, 1997): .
- Cyberspace as a imaginary and fictional space where sensory
experiences take place and in which the mind is absorbed and the person
experiences oneness with the set of stimuli, challenges and performance
elicited. It is a trancelike experience, actual. "Consensual
hallucination" was the expression used by cyberpunks.
- Cyberspace as the conceptual world where the individuals interact with
their intellectual creations of a very large nature made available online.
Or, in literary terms, "cyberspace … is the name some people use for the
conceptual space where words, human relationships, data, wealth and power
are manifested by people using computer-mediate communications" Rheingold
- Cyberspace as a world in which people share cognitive and emotional
patterns when they communicate, act and interact using digital
representations of language, images and sound and producing a large
variety of sensory experiences. They stay connected physically through
networks and access devices without sharing the same time and space. The
online behavior of individuals becomes a part of Internet psychological
environment (Wallace, 1998).
- The cyberspace also has already a universal time system, without time
zones nor geographical borders. The unit is named the beat. The 24 hours of
a day have been divided by 1,000 beats, each beat being e quivalent to 1
minute and 26.4 seconds. The 12:00 at noon is equivalent of @500. The
meridian time coincides with the winter European wintertime. This system has
been proposed by SWATCH (http://www.swatch.com/) and was
inaugurated on October 23rd, 1998. This system is now in the
dissemination process, using special converters that may be downloaded to
computers or with watches using both systems. The great advantage is that is
the same all over the world, be it night or day.
Summarizing: The concept of cyberspace appears insofar coexist:
- Computers interconnected vía a telephone line or a network, sharing
common processing mechanisms,
- A virtual space where the people immerse themselves realizing that the
borders between what is real and artificial, what is the present time or
space are confusing and deliberately fuzzy.
- Dense interactions maintained by networked individuals accessing
knowledge-based products and creations.
- A new intelligentsia creating, displaying and fostering a communal mind
for the 21st century using digital representations.
Figure 1 illustrates the new territory inhabited by people using computers in
the process of creating a society and a culture where tones of bits of
information are ready-made by-products or services.
2. Here are some details highlighting the emergence of Information Tecnologies Literacy (ITL):
- It is convenient to make the contrast between the access and use of
Internet before and after the creation of the HTML standard. Before 1992 we
were a tiny minority in Departments of Psychology both in American, Canadian
and European universities among others. Commands, instructions and addresses
were copied in notebooks managed by scholars literate in programming
languages and information technologies. Once the hypertext approach was
developed first in Geneva and afterwards in Champaign, a user friendly
standard, named Mosaic, opened the way to interested but illiterate scholars
ready to move around the world online by clicking on an hypertext link.
- Another important benchmark has been the period 1992-1996: Jacques
Delors, as President of the EU Council, and Al Gore, as Vicepresident of the
US, did converge and encouraged the idea of New Information Highways as the
essential infrastructure setting the pace for the advancement of science,
technology and quality of life during the 21st century. Both
contributed to bury the "Stars War" project sponsored by
Ronald Regan and Margaret Tatcher during the 1980s. The leading role of both
influenced the assignment of funds to New Information Technologies, the
waiting room for the Cyberspace and the platform to creative developments in
University campuses in both continents. The investment in computer rooms, in
programming languages, in innovative approaches generating learning and
knowledge-based infrastructures increased exponentially as a direct
consequence of policies backed at the top of the governmental pyramid.
- The commercionalization of Windows 95 marks another no-return event.
Many users had access to a large variety of protocols and programs
integrated under the umbrella of a single operating environment. In the past
the coordination of programs and standards turned into a contest between the
manual, the equipment and the aha! understanding of the situation. About 3
out of 4 incidents dealing with Internet connections in desktop PC at home
used did occur under Windows 3.1.
- In Spain we have another landmark. In 1996 the Spanish Psychological
Association (COP) started to provide, gratis, free access to Internet to
every associate as a service included in the membership fee. Differential
professional associations in Spain have created a Foundation to facilitate
free and direct access to Internet from home or the office. By mid June 1999
5702 members had an Internet account at the COP server. Two out three, that
is, 65%, are active, that is, they establish a connection 20 days per month
and the average connection has been 0:17 minutes in June 1999. This
initiative of the COP has favored that the degree of accessibility to
Internet has been the same for Spanish scholars and practitioners. In fact
the average speed at the COP has been regular 2-3 times higher than at the
campus. I am the coordinator of this online service of the COP.
- Figure 2 illustrates the number of email transactions performed by COP
members every month during the last two years and a half. There is a linear
increase related not only to the increasing number of members but also to
their active involvement exchanging emails.
Figure 3 also illustrates the number of web connections established in
the COP server online. It shows that it has become the target of an
increased number of visitors every month. In fact, there is a linear
relation between the number of visitors and the amount of documents made
available at http://www.cop.es/ because this homepage has become an actual
electronic library on Spanish psychology where official reports, journals,
databases, indices, catalogues have been made available and are updated
- In operational terms, the transition towards the Information Tecnology
Literacy and the Cyberspace culture is illustrated in Table 1. The left
column lists current items belonging to the Gutenberg tradition whereas the
right column lists items belonging to the Cyberspace culture.
There are always people stressing that we cannot keeping in mind "how things
have been always done" and those stressing a pioneering mind decided to move
always ahead (behind vs beyond). Ballpoint pens are somewhere around and some
people still consider it is main desk technology whereas others prefer the
keyboards, chips and mouse as their main desk technology. Some people started to
get used to PCs and view it as a work technology whereas others use PC as work
and entertainment technology. Handwriting in notebooks is still the main
technology for people organizing agendas or taking notes, whereas for others
electronic or PCMCIA notebooks shape the way of organizing things. Conventional
or fashioned phones at home or in the office are the standard for some people
whereas others use the cell phone as an standards plus a large variety of
integrated solutions as fax, notebooks plus Internet connections. Many students
still cannot consider the possibility of organizing exams without photocopies,
for instance, whereas only a few are used to take advantages of scanners and
online boards. Printed books are still the companion accepted for reading and
studying, whereas electronic books in flat screens is the new standard when they
need to read or study at home, in the office, in the beach. For some people ink
is still the standard in writing or printing documents in a permanent basis
whereas others try the electronic ink, of a reversible nature, allowing, for
instance, to print several times the same piece of paper. Some still visit Fine
Art Museum during the weekends or when they walk around in the role of tourists
whereas visit a large of Virtual Museum moving around at the touch of a click
online or offline. Some are used to conventional learning aids where the
information is ready linearly whereas other use learning wizards based on
hypertext technology introducing the information in a non-linear manner. Finally
national languages (included English) are protected or enhanced by law as an
essential proof of identity whereas others get used to a new metalanguage or
"lingua franca" known as Cyber-English whose grammar and entries in the
dictionary do change fluently and eloquently.
Table 1: Transition from Gutenberg to Cyberspace culture
Keyboards, Chips and mouse
PC Games off/line
Electronic & PCMCIA notebooks
Cell phone + fax + notebook + Internet
Scanners & online boards
Fine Art Museum
Each time I use this list I introduce new items. The critical issue is the
wording; new connotations are added to conventional terms and often a brand new
term might be more convenient. Should we name notebook to a flat screen with a
visit card size? Should we name telephone the combination of phone, screen, fax,
modem, keyboard and Internet tools? May we talk still of ink when we mention the
electronic and reversible ink?
3. Cyberpsychology: a soft, fuzzy dominion
- I detected the term Cyberpsychology by the academic year
1995-96 in different webpages located in the US. I was writing a paper on
"Psicología Telemática" (Prieto, 1997). I located at http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/~leonj/leonj/leonpsy/cyber.html
an hyperdocument on Cyberpsychology: Principles of Creating Virtual
Presence, written by Prof. Leon James at the University of Hawaii,
and another on The Psychology of Cyberspace launched by Prof.
John Suler at the Rider University, located now at http://www.rider.edu/users/suler/psycyber/psycyber.html
organized as an electronic book in a process of continuous expansion.
- In the US the first symposium on Cyberpsychology issues was convened in
1996 by Steven Kronheim at the annual convention of the EPA. In the EU I was
the convenor of the first symposium on Cyberpsychology issues held in
Dublin, in 1997, during the past 5th European Congress of
Psychology. Individual papers on cyberpsychology issues where also presented
to the 26 International Congress of Psychology held in Montreal in August
- A peer-reviewed journal, entitled "Cyberpsychology and
Behavior" has been launched in the US (http://www.liebertpub.com/) as a four
issues per year in 1998 and a six issues per year in 1999. It was made
public during the 24 International Congress of Applied Psychology and the
106th Annual APA Convention held both in San Francisco, August
Things seem to run swiftly in what concerns the settlement of
Cyberpsychology as a new field for research, action and training
purposes. Until June 1999 I have been able to locate up 483 hyperdocuments
available online where the main subject is "Cyberpsychology".
Several meanings and nuances have grown gradually nurturing the expression
Cyberpsychology as a conceptual and methodological backbone,
- On-line computer-based resources and support facilities and their use in
dealing with issues of training, counseling and intervention in psychology.
- Psychological processes and issues emerging in the world of networked
computers and hypermedia.
- The psychological dimensions of environments created by computers and
online networks (J. Suler)
- Understanding the principles of creating viable virtual presence in the
cyberspace and studying the navigation process in virtual reality zones (L.
- Influences by which technology and computerization reconstruct a
learner's educational environment, learning processes and accompanying human
relationships (S. Kronheim).
- Computer-mediated communication patterns among Internet users when they
read hypertext, share information, make contacts, collaborate and learn
about developments and events, shaping meaning for themselves.
- New dimensions of human experience created by computers and of
professional experience opened by computer networks.
- The use of computer networks as a tool for conducting psychological
- Virtual libraries specialized in cataloguing papers, books, software,
reports, surveys, assessment procedures, syllabus, discussion groups,
newsgroups, journals, proceedings devoted to psychological issues and
sponsored by individuals, departments, associations.
- Personality types and roles observed among regular and addict users
- Interactions, problems and disorders arising out of the use of the
- Therapy or support groups made available via Internet, that is
4. The Psychology of Cyberspace: A New Field of Expertise
Figure 4 illustrates the main components that, together, shape the new
dominion of "know how" and "know what" that psychologists manage
in the process of developing this new field of expertise.
4.1 The first challenge seems to be the information technology barrier. That
is, new comers must learn what the Internet is all about, what are the basic
tools and resources. In other words, mastering cyberspace concepts and skills to
operate and to survive successfully in the net (Bissel, 1996; Hamel &
Ryan-Jones, 1997; Labruzza, 1997; Zeichner, 1997).
At a first glance the purpose is acquiring literacy in networked computer
systems. However, the means-end perspective is the transition from literacy to
proficiency in new information technologies (Grohol & Zuckerman, 1997;
Lukoff, 1998; Morrison & Stamps, 1998; Stull, 1997).
- Hardware issues: such as modems, fax, ISDN, internal cards, ports,
LAN, push and plug standards, monitors, scanners, zip disks, printers and so
- Software issues: souch as browser, email programs, backup programs,
IRC, Netmeeting, Encryption, Upgrades and so on.
- CD-Rom and DVD issues: Multimedia standards, kits, speed,
reproduction, conversions from slow to fast CD-ROM, databases, reference
- Techno-structural issues: Server-client architectures, USENET,
discussion lists, bulletin boards, virtual communities, websites, addresses,
- Management issues: files, protocols, upgrading, hard disks,
diskettes, directories, compatible formats, transfer, Net-etiquette,
Instructions and so on.
- Searching issues: Search engines, Gopher, X-500, Whois, WAIS, SQL
databases, boolean markers, linguistic reportoires and so on.
- Authoring tools issues: HTML, Java, graphic and audio formats,
animations, movies, copyrights, layouts, editors and assistants, and so on.
- Cyber-English issues: Written communication skills, net-slang,
technical terms, multilingualism and so on
- New trends issues: emerging and declining technologies, innovative
firms and products, compatibilities, limits and feasibilities
- Scepticism issues: critical mind, assessment and evaluation of
outcomes, cost-benefit analyses, policies, limits. Online computers are the
means, not the end.
The distinction "training" versus "education" is quite convenient here. The
number of workshops teaching students and graduates how to run some programs or
how to use specific protocols and commands do, in fact, proliferate. This is a
matter of training and these courses are a common place. However, a second step
is necessary and it entails the process of helping our students and graduates
- to understand principles or concepts shaping the background of Internet,
- to perceive interrelationships that exists between some software and
- to pay attention to the fact that protocols and procedures have been
tested and optimized to run fluently in English (a new kind of
meta-language) and that many incidents may appear suddenly as soon as other
languages are used in the net,
- to be able to analyze situations and problems appearing somewhere in the
PC, in the telephone line, in the Internet service provider, in the
bandwidth and caudal, in the successive rings of connections at the national
or international level, in traffic jams that occur as a consequence of
specific events somewhere in the net.
The skills required to navigate the online environment may be learned through
a current training program. However more advanced users (that is,
cyberpsychologists) must have a cognitive map of what is running on when they
access, analyze and communicate effectively in the electronic information era.
Proficiency in using new information technologies (and not only literacy), is
now, for all practical purposes, a required competency in the younger cohort of
students and graduates in Psychology. They must be able to use these tools
independently and collaboratively.
4.2 The second challenge seems to be the use of Internet as a continuing
education scenario for students and graduates, as a continuous learning and
follow-up tool for scholars and practitioners. There is a shift from higher
education models centered in the campus where learning experiences take place as
a synchronous process to higher education models where learning experiences take
place somewhere in a multidimensional space in an asynchronous manner.
Courses are becoming different because the content is not in the blackboard
or in a printed book, but in hypermedia where text, sound, graphics, animation
are embedded. Our students were rocked, when they were jus a baby, with cartoon
and animated films; they get used to videoclips when they were teenagers. Do
they know Don Quixote, Hamlet, Faust, "Le malad imaginaire" because they have
read the masterpiece or because learned the story in a cartoon?.
Let me play the role of provocateur:
- Should I watch a movie or buy a compact disk if I do not like the
- Should I read or study a textbook if I do not like the video clip?
- Should I enroll myself in a course if I do not like the hypermedia
samples made available online by the professor?
The Internet and the interactive multimedia are changing the way we think
about what is an acceptable content, what is an acceptable syllabus, what is an
acceptable content provider. Special emphasis and developments take place in the
way resources and contents are made available:
- The virtual classroom. It means making available in the Web site all
kind of documents and materials students will need to reach the learning
goals for the course. Messages exchanged favor the maintenance of personal
links among students and among students and professors by creating the
feeling of a community involved in the same program. It is possible to
create an open space for experimentation, try out, making group
presentations, facilitating the expression of ideas as well as applications
among students. It is quite easy to create scenarios and procedures to carry
out formative and summative evaluations testing advances or stagnation in
the learning process. A showcase where the students may exhibit the outcomes
of their work and observe peers contributions. A virtual classroom is a
learning space shaped after certain psychological and educational principles
- Web-based projects for the classroom, that is a complementary
activity. Information available at different websites, discussion lists,
newsgroups and so on is used to create a contrast between what is taught in
the classroom and what may be verified online. For instance, a follow up of
messages exchanged among teenagers in one or several newsgroup may be a way
of studying unintrusively values, motives, beliefs, priorities. A follow up
of messages exchanges in discussion lists with the same subject but using
different languages may be an adequate tool to produce a cross cultural
research online unintrusively (Carson, Butcher & Mineka, 1997; Roerden,
- Web-based training. Three modalities have been tried successfully
during the last years. The basic one is text and graphics combined in an
hyper-document available online produced in the same way that paper-based
course materials. Interactive web-based instructional designs is the second
modality where exercises are performed online and and tutorials are made
available in a CD-ROM or in a high speed or a broad band networking system.
When the students manipulate graphic objects in real-time, for instance a
simulation or a game, it is the realm of Interactive multimedia programs
made available through a website. This third modality is held currently in
an Intranet system. Currently Web-based training facilitates self-paced
learning (Hall, 1997).
- Web-based assessment and evaluation: Web cameras may be used to
observe for instance very young children in a day care center. Within the
context of a course on Child Psychology these webcam may be very useful to
train students interpreting children behavior in an unintrusive manner. In a
similar vein, in the area of human resources management, after reading and
observing how to enter information in a common recordkeeping system for
personnel departments, students may observed entering data, accessing and
modifying records. The simulation may include feedback when they behave in
an incorrect manner. Some forms of feedback may be mechanized, for instance,
online comments that pop up on-screen and some other forms of feedback may
be forwarded via e-mail or chatting.
- Web-based follow-up of the transfer of training: Currently the
relationship between professors and students end the last day they meet in
the classroom or the exam day. For instance, there is a Rorschach test
seminar where the students stay in touch with the professor once the course
is ended via online. Students scan Rorschach test correction forms, send it
to the professor with their diagnosis via email and soon afterwards obtain
the feedback, comments or advice of the professor in the role of mentor for
a certain period. This follow-up connects colleagues living in Italy, Spain
- Online case studies: Multimedia and online tools have introduced a
new standard in what concerns case studies. For instance, clinical histories
of patients have been scanned and made available online in the Intranet of
the campus. Students have access to these databases of records, may download
into a diskettes the information they consider convenient and, finally, they
submit a diagnosis. The professor gets the report but also controls what
kind of information the student downloaded and analyzed and what information
has omitted or failed to download. Video-clips of interviews held with the
patient, x-ray photographs, computerized axial tomographies, blood tests,
projective tests, scanned manuscripts or photos may be accumulated in a
CD-Rom and handed directly by the students as an in-door or out-door
activity. Similar approaches to case studies have been tried in educational
psychology and in work and organizational psychology.
- Online seminars: My Ph.D. seminar this year has been online. I met
the 20 students only three times in a real classroom to specifiy approaches
and analyze difficulties. All the messages, reports, dialogues, took place
in a online conference room. There were two varieties, simultaneous talks
(chat) and asynchronous talks (something between a discussion list and a
newsgroup). The simultaneous talks have been archived and will be the
subject of a future follow up.
What is already upon us is the idea of a virtual campus in Psychology,
specially addressed to those students, graduates and scholars who are fluent in
English. The network expands the number of options for interactions among
advanced and inexperienced researchers, among faculty and students sharing only
the net and the common field of expertise.
At present the number of students combining learning experiences in the
campus and online is growing. If they are fluent in English the number of
possibilities are broader and quite often cheaper and more effective. There is a
higher probability of increasing the number of agreements between advanced
research or teaching units in different regions decided to share resources only
among students enrolled in the respective program. It means the proliferation of
restricted knowledge-based circles in Psychology that may be accessed and
visited via Internet. A new category may appear, online and offline campuses.
An special issue devoted to teaching demonstrations and tutorials (http://icdweb.cc.purdue.ed/~stevelin/special_issue/content.html)
has been published by the journal Behavior Research Methods, Instruments &
Computers last February 1999.
4.3 The third challenge is to change the way of carrying out research
benefiting from the plethora of online possibilities.
If we analyze the history of psychology we may realize that pioneers and
leading figures have been people who were many of them curious and some of them
fond of the prevailing technologies at that time. For instance, Wundt combined
introspective and psychophysiological methods to a wide range of subjects such
as reaction and inspection time, word associations, the elaboration of judgments
and the expression of emotions. He transformed elegant physiological methods to
elegant psychological methods in his laboratory. The Binet test had many details
in common with the medical efforts to standardize procedures used by health
professionals to gather and make sense of the information obtained interviewing
patients. The ink blots produced by Hermann Rorschach became the well-known
Rorschach test as a consequence of the advanced use of the engraving technology
that became an standard in the 1910s. The importance of original engraved plates
or of very reliable reproductions of such original plates is stressed to
students buying this collection of gravures. The Skinner box is a typical
by-product taking of the electromechanical devices developed at the aftermath of
the Second World War. The overuse of the analysis of variance by researchers in
our laboratories is a by-product of the analysis of agrobiological and
agrochemical data generated by the controlled variation of treatment conditions
in manipulative experiments. The analysis of variance designed by Ronald A.
Fisher was feasible with the technology available at that time whereas the
general linear model and the multiple regression and correlation system outlined
by Francis Galton and Karl Pearson had to await for the computer era. Fidelity
to an old fashioned approach, the analysis of variance, prevails over more
advanced and coherent approaches, the multivariate analysis or the non-linear
There have been some discussions on the methodological advantages and
disadvantages of Web Experiments. I am not to summarize them here, because I
favor strongly this approach but introducing adequate corrections and
restrictions on a contingent basis as is the case often in the laboratory. For
those interested a visit to http://psych.unit.ch/genpsy/Ulf/Lab/WebExpPsyLab.html
is like a guided tour to the treasure island. For those interested in getting
ideas and suggestions about how to use microcomputers in their teaching and
research, the Society for Computers in Psychology (http://www.lafayette.edu/allanr/scip.html)
supplies online another treasure island.
What kinds of experiments are already carried out via online? Here is a short
list of examples that may be used as stimuli or hints for those who came to this
lecture pushed by curiosity (Calbert, 1998; Forsythe, Grose & Ratner, 1998;
Gwinnell & Su, 1998: Kiesler, 1997; Rabin & Lagowski, 1999).
- Experiments on visual encoding of environments or on mental rotation
spatial skills using graphic and animation programs where pictures may be
modified at will by the subjects and by the experimenter.
- Decision making experiments using real values in the Stock Market and
investment decisions in a real or a simulated basis. Prof. Pol Coetsier at
the University of Ghent is involved in such a kind of research for instance.
- Online test on logical thinking for instance, obtaining individual
feedback of the results.
- Visual information processing and spatial orientation in 3D and VRML
scenarios accessible online: distal and proximal stimuli, 360º rotation, the
role of context in words recognition.
- Cognition and interpretation of gestures using static as well as
animated images, manipulating backgrounds, cloths, make up, sex. The same
person may be portrayed as male or female changing the picture digitally.
- Issues related to internet use such as addiction disorders, gender
differences, flirting and dating, purchasing online, crackers and hackers,
deviant behavior, trouble makers, pornography (Young, 1998).
- Virtual reality psychological treatment of simple phobias such as
- agoraphobia (by projecting images of oneself in the crowd),
- claustrophobia (images of chambers with moving walls)
- fear of flying (by desensitizing of apprehensive flyers),
- eating disorders (3D figures ranging from under to overweight),
- fear of heights( by graded exposure through a glass elevator),
- fear of driving.
- Applications of virtual reality to (Rizzo, Wiederhold, Riva, Van der
- social skills training in children and teenagers,
- training patients on surgical interventions or cancer treatments,
- training patients with impairments, disabilities or coping deficits
- improving the quality of life of bedridden patients and elderly.
- the treatment of impotence and premature ejaculation,
- the prevention of smoking among teenagers.
- Development of new psychological tests measuring the performance on
perceptual, motor and memorizing tasks
- Virtual support groups online such as Alcoholic Anonimous, encounter
groups, parents of children with special needs, role playing, virtual
- Construction, deconstruction and reconstruction of the self online
- Discourse processes studied through online synhronous and asynchronous
communication varying details such as message length, narrative vs.
expository messages, linguistic gendered biases, text presentation.
- Face to face versus electronic brainstorming
- Personal information management strategies through the email
- Navigation in structured and unestructured environments,
- Web design guidelines and readers' behavior and preferences,
- Digital library uses for research activities in Internet and in
- Groupware interfaces facilitating or colliding upon collaborative
- Children educational and recreational environments online
- All kind of surveys are available on issues such as suicide, food
beliefs, hand washing patterns, long term effects of war experience, health
role beliefs, language usage, child disciplinary practice, childhood and
adult life experiences, anger disorder, stress, grief reaction, romantic
relationships, marital affairs and so on.
The journal Cyberpsychology and Behavior, is the main source
where research programs on developments and applications of virtual reality to a
large variety of settings.
4.4 The four challenge has to do with the usefulness of Internet as tool in
professional practice taking advantage of our knowledge-based expertise through
the specialties. Education and research make sense if there is a psychological
product made available.
My conception of the issue is summarized in figure 5. Ideas
come, grow and vanish in all kind of lectures, presentations, books, debates as
well as in the solitude. There is an overflow of ideas around us in this
6th European Congress of Psychology. Ideas like thoughts, alone, are
ghosts in our minds, dreaming until the wakeup in a bookshelf. As soon as we
turn around an idea and consider the best way to share it with others, to
introduce it, to highlight it, we try to shape the idea, to frame the idea, to
give it a form. It is through form that an idea becomes something.
In other words, an idea plus a form, together, make sense: the idea has an
appearance, a shape, and then may be named: it is your shoes, your clothes, this
seat, this auditorium. Without a concrete shape, ideas have no names, are just
specters milling around in the mind, in the campus.
But that is not enough. People asking for something peremptorily have an idea
with a given in mind, the demand something that has a name, that it is
identified by a logo, by a trademark, that may be bought, exchanged, donated or
stolen. A given idea, with a form, with a certain demand is just a psychological
product, a psychological good or service. It is the focus of attention, it is
the "raison d'être" in Applied CyberPsychology. If there is no demand, the idea
is a vain fancy looking at your convenience. If there is no demand and no form,
the idea is just a succession of images, of thoughts, and maybe of cognitive
Applied Cyperpsychology exists as soon as there are goods or services
available online and there are users, visitors demanding upon it. It seems to be
the case. There are already practitioners and customers, consultants and
clients, psychotherapists and patients, behavioral or cognitive therapists and
clients, meeting together, exchanging together, obtaining a mutual benefit
online. Let me show up a few examples.
- Some clinical and health psychologist are already delivering some
services online such as counseling, follow up or feedback between sessions
to individuals or to groups. Some are involved in discussion groups
analyzing mental health issues such as suicide or divorce. The Albert Ellis
Institute answers one question per month gratis. Many of this websites still
stress that this is an educational not a therapeutical approach as a
consequence of the fact that several national associations of psychology are
reluctant to accept as an standard the exclusive use of Internet in the
therapeutical relationship. The concept "cybertherapy" is not yet accepted
and national association favor the use of Internet as a channel for
communications among clinical and health psychologists and as tool for
professional reference within the context of media management. However a
book exploring computer assisted therapeutic interventions online and
offline has been published (Fink, 1999).
- The fear of flying disorder is already approached succesfully in some
private centers combining relaxation training and thought-stopping
techniques with virtual reality (Klein, 1998).
- Some Work and Organizational Psychologists have started to use the
Internet as a new tool for the recruitment of candidates, for some kind of
preliminary assessments, for interviewing, for giving courses, for doing the
follow-up of the transfer of training, for informing about the outcomes of
selection procedures (Prieto, 1997).
Further details concerning developments in Internet from a psychological and
professional perspective may be found, regularly updated, at the following
An electronic version of this keynote address is available at http://www.ucm.es/info/Psyap/libros/roma.html
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