Computer Science Research Inspired by Psychology

Andrew Forney, assistant professor of computer science, felt pride in Loyola Marymount University even before he started here as an undergraduate. As a third generation Lion, he follows the footsteps of his father Mark and grandfather Eugene, who attended the university on the original G.I. Bill. This legacy, combined with Forney’s own formative years at the school, have put LMU’s mission of service and life-long learning near and dear to his heart.

Forney enjoys a wide spectrum of teaching opportunities at LMU, including classes in introductory Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence. He also teaches his own specialty course, Cognitive Systems Design, in which students design artificial agents inspired by elements from human psychology. Forney’s work imagines AI in which a machine can approximate or employ elements of human cognition, such as regret, and then subsequently avoid the actions that led to that regret. In this way, technology is inspired by the human psyche and how humans process the world.

The chief applications for these artificial intelligences are in natural language processing, automated decision-making and game playing agents. For Forney, though, some of the most powerful applications are those that improve the quality of human life. The LMU mission of service and justice has been central to many of his students’ projects. For example, one student is creating an interactive self-harm prevention app based on known therapies aimed at reducing self-harm. Another student is working on an app that analyzes for political bias in online news articles, allowing readers to benefit from truly impartial, nonpartisan news.

Another aspect of LMU’s mission that Forney appreciates is its emphasis on the teacher-scholar model. “We care about students and their interests,” he says of the LMU faculty. “We care about pedagogy and engaging with students.” He describes a collaborative, community-focused culture that is part of the LMU legacy. “We’re here to lift each other up.” And it doesn’t hurt that the campus itself is gorgeous, situated on an elevated plateau overlooking Silicon Beach and Marina Del Rey. “It’s a very inspiring view,” Forney says.

When Forney’s not engaging with students or doing research, you might find him hiking or traveling to his native Torrance to visit with friends and family. A self-proclaimed couch potato, he’ll never turn down an evening of staying home to play video games with his wife.