Computer to Cure Phobias

Article excerpt

NEW computer programs are being designed to help users to feel better about the machines, and about themselves.

A program launched this week is designed to help children conquer fear of the dark. "My Friend Fear" is a quest-style game aimed at teaching children aged five and over to see, rationalise, and deal with their fears.

In the program, a boy discovers a creature under his bed but, by playing the game, learns to overcome his fear of the creature and other things, like darkness.

Tasmir Segal, head of Scops Software which is selling the game, said the program was developed with Dr Edna Kazenelson, one of Israel's leading child psychologists. "During our research we found the things that children are afraid of," he said.

"We then developed the software so that it looked like an ordinary game, but when you get into it, everything is to do with the kid overcoming fear."

Patrick O'Donnell, researcher in human/computer interaction at Glasgow University, said the game worked on the psychological principles of getting a child to cope with fear and then to relax in the face of different levels of fear. "The problem is that if the program is too scary the child might not respond at all. …