For decades, psychologists have applied their research methods to solving big problems in design and creating more user-friendly objects, interfaces, and environments. In addition to advancing design and improving people’s daily experience, applied psychology
research has led to new advances in understanding the basic nature of human cognition and behavior.
Now, as people become more deeply connected with technology—and as that technology itself becomes more complex—the need for psychologically informed design that is both culturally and contextually appropriate is becoming more urgent. How should findings
about individual and cultural variation in cognition, emotion, or behavior shape design processes and outcomes? How could psychological evaluation techniques be used to improve the next generation of interfaces in a world of increasingly hybrid and
Psychology MA students have a unique opportunity to tailor their studies to connect with the growing field of user experience research and design by taking courses in the Applied Psychology and Design subject area. Students can select coursework that
provides conceptual knowledge and training in research methods and statistical skills they can use to collaborate successfully with designers, data scientists, coders, and others.
Coursework in Applied Psychology and Design provides students with opportunities for hands-on collaborative work with designers and designers in training at Parsons School of Design. Students will engage with critical questions about the ethical treatment
of humans—both research participants in the design process and the eventual users of what is being designed—and about the broader social systems in which psychologically informed design is embedded.
Introduction to Applied Psychology and Design, offered each fall, provides a launchpad for additional work in this subject
area. In this course, students learn how theories of human perception, cognition, and interaction have informed human factors and ergonomics and how attention to the psychology of individual capacities, along with environmental and social factors,
can shape design. They also encounter widely used lab and field research methods, including task analysis, usability testing, experimental design, and observational and self-report measures of users’ experience, cognition, and affect.
A deeper connection with the theoretical and empirical foundations of human factors work is available through coursework in cognitive psychology, visual perception, psycholinguistics, and statistical methods and research design. Other courses can provide
expertise in adjacent areas of psychology that can inform applied psychology and design, such as social psychology, developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, psychopathology, global mental health, political psychology, and qualitative methods.
And studio-based courses co-taught with Parsons School of Design, like Visualizing Uncertainty, can provide concrete experience in collaborative project-based design work that includes assessment of user experience.
The Applied Psychology and Design subject area is designed to fit into the standard two-year window of the MA in Psychology, although part-time options are available. The program is 30 credits, with seven required classes and options for three electives.
Available courses in the 2022–2023 academic year in both foundational and adjacent areas include:
*Indicates a class that can be used to fulfill a core requirement. All others can fulfill elective requirements.
Students interested in the Applied Psychology and Design subject area are advised to meet with psychology professor Michael Schober, with whom they can discuss how best
to plan their MA experience in and beyond the classroom to fulfill their longer-term aspirations. Students are also encouraged to attend conferences and explore memberships in relevant associations such as the Human Factors and Ergonomic Society (HFES),
Computer Human Interaction (CHI), IEEE, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), as well as psychology societies such as APS, the Society for Applied Research on Memory and Cognition (SARMAC), and the Cognitive Science Society.
Although this subject area currently constitutes an informal path within the Psychology MA and does not appear on students' transcripts or diplomas, the faculty will work with students to help them connect what they learn with their professional goals.