organizational psychology

Industrial and Organizational Psychology (also known as I/O psychology, work psychology, work and organizational psychology, occupational psychology, personnel psychology or talent assessment) is a branch of psychology devoted to organizations and the workplace. "Industrial-organizational psychologists contribute to an organizations success by improving the performance and well-being of its people. An I-O psychologist researches and identifies how behaviors and attitudes can be improved through hiring practices, training programs, and feedback systems.

I/O psychology has two paradigms, as evident in its name. Organizational psychology is commonly associated with interactions between workgroup members, leadership, management, and other aspects of task-oriented group mentality and behavior. Industrial psychology focuses more on individual differences, such as the use of personality or intelligence tests for personnel selection.

I/O psychologists are interested in making organizations more productive while ensuring physically and psychologically productive and healthy lives for workers. Research topics include personnel psychology, money, legal help, employee selection, training and development, organization development and guided change, organizational behavior, and work and family issues. I/O psychologists often work in an HR (human resources) department, though other I/O psychologists pursue careers as independent consultants or applied academic researchers.


Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology (Division 14 of the American Psychological Association) as a specialty area has a more restricted definition than Psychology as a whole. Guion (1965) defines Industrial and Organizational Psychology as "the scientific study of the relationship between man and the world of work:... in the process of making a living" (p. 817). Blum and Naylor (1968) define it as "simply the application or extension of psychological facts and principles to the problems concerning human beings operating within the context of business and industry" (p 4). Broadly speaking, I/O Psychologists are concerned with human behavior in work contexts. According to Muchinsky, the applied side of I/O Psychology is concerned with utilizing knowledge gathered from scientific inquiry "to solve real problems in the world of work". Example problems include hiring better employees, reducing absenteeism, improving communication, and increasing job satisfaction.

One of the tools I/O psychologists commonly utilize in the field is called a job analysis. Job analyses identify essential characteristics associated with any particular position through interviews of job incumbents, subject matter experts, supervisors and/or past job descriptions. Job analyses measure both worker facets necessary to perform the job adequately (aka KSAOs - knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics as well as unique facets of the job itself. Once a job analysis is complete, I/O psychologists will typically utilize this information to design and validate systems to select new applicants, restructure employee performance appraisals, uncover training needs, and analyze fairness in employee compensation. Though a thorough job analysis takes time, resources and money, its benefits tend to outweigh the costs.

  • I/O Psychologists are professionals seeking to address real-world issues or problems in the workplace.
    • As scientists, they derive principles of individual, group, and organizational behavior through research.
    • As consultants and staff psychologists, they develop scientific knowledge and apply it to the solution of problems at work.
    • As teachers, they train in the research and application of I/O Psychology

I/O psychologists also may employ psychometric tests to measure the abilities and personality traits of prospective and current employees. These tests are commonly used for employee selection and other employment decisions. Employee attitudes such as morale, job satisfaction, or feelings towards management or customers are other commonly measured work-related person variables.

Increasingly, people factors are recognized as a major determinant of organizational performance and a key competitive differential. Psychologists therefore may also advise senior managers on the management of organizational climate or culture, on dealing with organizational change, or on group dynamics within an organization. It is probably partly for this reason that business coaching, executive coaching, career coaching and management coaching is an increasingly popular part of the psychologist's work.

Another aspect of this field is the utilization of the concept of "mental space ".Workers who are unable to receive and integrate the amount of information necessary to perform a job reduce their productive output .The integrative and receptive capacities can be increased by splitting the information into abstract and concrete modalities.

Industrial and organizational psychology is a diverse field incorporating aspects of disciplines such as social psychology, personality psychology and quantitative psychology (which includes psychometrics) as well as less closely linked social studies such as law. As a diverse, applied field, influences from any branch of psychology, even clinical psychology, are not uncommon. At one point in time, industrial and organizational psychology was not distinguished from vocational (counseling) psychology or the study of human factors. Although the foregoing disciplines still overlap with industrial and organizational psychology, today they are formally taught in separate classes and housed in separate graduate-level psychology programs within a psychology department.

Methodologies in Organizational Psychology

In an attempt to correct for statistical artifacts (i.e., sampling error, unreliability and range restriction) that compromise the ability of I/O psychologists to draw general conclusions from a single study, I/O researchers have increasingly employed a technique known as meta-analysis. Meta-analysis is a methodology for averaging results across studies. It has been used to address research questions involving various levels of analysis (i.e., individual, group, organizational, and/or vocational). Although the use of meta-analytic methods is not without controversy, its more frequent appearance in the I/O research literature has profoundly impacted the field. The most well-known meta-analytic approaches are those of Hunter & Schmidt (1990, 2004), Rosenthal (1991), and Hedges & Olkin (1985).

Standardization and Management

Taylor, in his writing of Shop Management, made it clear that the key concept which he believed in and defended was not any particular wage system; instead it was the principle of standardization based on scientific investigation of real, tangible and measurable results. (Frank Barkley Copley; Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management; Volume II, 1923 and reprinted 1969; library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 68-55515 Vol. 2; page 173).

According to Frank Barkley Copley Shop Management, written by Frederick W. Taylor, is where for the first time in the history of management reference can be found to a semi-complete management system. While he worked at the Bethelham Company, he in addition to having in mind and using certain new and improved mechanisms and methods of management (e.g. time card, sliding rule, documentation for individual responsibility / accountability, matching task difficulty with best qualified equipment and / or individual or in some cases animal such as the horses example in the executive summary Definition of The Term- First-Class Men by Romullous A. Diaz; 2007), had moved beyond the independent existence of such methods and mechanisms. Taylor was able to link them together, see and coordinate their uses as to make their interplay a relationship of multiple methods, used to evaluate and measure different variables associated with a job. These methods and systems, he worked out and developed to improved stages, resulted in the formation of an improved system of professional scientific management of a higher caliber than its independent new parts (methods and mechanisms) he developed. That is where the more advanced, complex, well thought out professional scientific management system we tap into today appears to have been born.

We now refer to it or use more fancy terms such as Industrial and Organizational Psychology, organizational behavior, organizational development, applied Psychology at work, the psychology of work, motivation at work, personnel management; and to some of its sub-parts or applications we often refer to as human resources and lately as human capital management.

Frederick W. Taylor's Contributions to Personnel Management

The author of Frederick W. Taylor: Father of Scientific Management”, Volume two (2) reveals to us how Frederick W. Taylor, also well-known us the engineer in management, after he advanced personnel management in various private manufacturing companies such as the Bethelhelm company, during the last several decades of the 1800’s, continued his efforts to promote and further give time and effort towards the furtherance of it.

Taylor did advance core components, concepts, principles and applications or practices such as the following with the United States of America Federal Government during the first decade of the 1900’s and before 1907 of what we now call HRM, HRD, HR, Human Capital Management, Personnel Management, Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Organizational Behavior and Development or whatever we might call it now and or in the future and have called it in the past:

  • Job Performance Measurement.
  • Job Analysis.
  • Job Design.
  • Job Enrichment.
  • Job Enlargement.
  • Job Restructuring.
  • Benchmarking / Standardizing
  • Delegating
  • Change Process Management.
  • Classifications.
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis.
  • Applied Motivation at Work.
  • Organizational Re-Engineering / Reduction-In-Labor Force / Down-Sizing / Right-Sizing or Laying-Off.

Taylor also brought into our field very good basic economics concepts, theories, and practices such as:

  • Return-On-Investment (ROI).
  • Break-Even Point.
  • Feasibility Study and Analysis.

Although he might have had used different words to refer to the above terms, the meaning, the activity involved in, the information sought, gained and objective of its use were the same as what the henceforth mentioned contributed concepts, principles and practices of management usually mean. If you are able to see this in the content of the text book written about him, you might begin to see that our field is a spectacularly advanced science which has been around more than 200 years.

In fact beginnings of the science of management introduced by Taylor were so well advanced for the time that Frederick W. Taylor Scientific Management enlightened a high caliber management team named “Vickers” brought from England which was going to be used in the NAVY in lieu of Taylor’s by one skeptic major division.

According to the author of the text book about Taylor’s systems, there is no account of whether The Vicker’s System was ever used in the NAVY. Taylor’s certainly was adopted and used more by some than by others. This is not to say that our U.S.A. Government was behind the A-Ball before Taylor joined them. It was not at all. On the contrary, when Taylor executed his in-kind “government-efficiency” consulting service with the ARMY, he found that they were quite advanced already. In the first decade of 1900 The ARMY already “selected officers from the line by competitive examinations” or what we might now refer to as civil service process (Vol. 2; pp 328).

Taylor’s first contributions to this science within The United States of America (U.S.A.) Government (Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management, First edition 1923, reprinted 1969, pp. 210-327) were with the engineering and manufacturing work of The NAVY’s yards and of The ARMY’s Ordenance Department (Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management, Vol. II, First edition 1923, reprinted 1969, pp. 328 – 352). Now we are able to apply them to other industries, and business-sectors such as the non-profit sector, the for-profit sector, the public sector, the private sector, the start-up sector, and in City, County, state, and federal government agencies.

In addition to the terms mentioned previously, Frederick W. Taylor also contributed the term "First-Class Men", which in personnel selection is key. We look for the best fit between the job and the person. Taylor presented a House Committee a pretty interesting description of the meaning he intended when he used the term "First-Class Men." His description is as useful today as it might have been when he educated the House Committee on the subject. In the following paragraphs, you will find an executive summary using metaphors and parallel thinking as opposed to linear, describing the term creatively. Furthermore, it allows us to see how rich the Industrial and Organizational Psychology field is in its thought provoking ideas and yet manages to retain a simplicity in the down to earth illustrations of its concepts.

Character, Common Sense and Intellect

Three Individual Achievement Traits or learned behaviors if not traits, according to The American Engineer in American Management and Organizational Development Science and founding father of Industrial and Organizational Psychology in the United States Of America -- Frederick W. Taylor--are:

  1. Character
  2. Common Sense, and
  3. Intellect

Intellect without character Taylor pointed out makes many people end up in the jail/prison [i.e. the joint] (Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management by Frank Barkley Copley, Volume II, 1923 and reprinted 1969; library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 68-55515).

And character without common sense or without intellect, I would add, can become Puritanism or in other words just opinions without factual rational backing. It can become expecting people to believe anything just because some body says it. It can become de-individuation a concept in Group Psychology which leads to cults where the individual loses his or her individuality. You shall remedy by educating the group about group-think and thereby breaking it up (Social Psychology by David G. Myers, Third Edition; Copy Right 1990; page 292 to 298). The way to address de-individuation is to break group-think by making people aware of it. And letting the group know that it is perfectly fine and totally ok to state a dissenting opinion about whatever without caving-in under political or peer-pressure.

Working in Teams vs. in Pairs or Singly

Men will not do anything like one-half the work if they are herded together as they will when working in pairs or singly. … pretty soon it is a catch to see who is the slowest. This was the experience of two ore shovelers when relocated to work for a higher contingency payment on the per tone of ore shoveled. They did not know they were going to be thrown up in a herd of between 10 (ten) and 12 (twelve) shovellers where when one man stopped to spit on his hand, another begun to look at him and thought, that bugger is loafing. I will keep my eye on him. He is not doing as much as I do, decreasing his output to the lowest ratio of the loafer. Thereby the matching of who went the slowest, decreasing the ROI (Return-On-Investment) for all, begun (Frank Barkley Copley; Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management; Volume II, 1923 and reprinted 1969; library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 68-55515 pg 71 to pg 75).

Therefore the two man who thought were going to a higher earning employer did not earn as much as they did at their previous where men no longer are submerged in gangs, but are individualized ((Frank Barkley Copley; Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management; Volume II, 1923 and reprinted 1969; library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 68-55515; pg 73) .

The result: Taylor specially trained ore shoverlers whom had been taken from him by a Pittsburgh steel company came back to Taylor's company because they could earn more in the individualized compensation system based on scientific management.

Taylor had told his men about the higher compensation as to not keep them from what appeared to be a greener grass (i.e. a better opportunity); he always kept their best interest in mind; and thus he advised them to see the other employer with whom they went and later on in a matter of two (2) to four (4) weeks resigned from. This approach to not keeping blinders on his employees from better opportunities is, according to Frank Barkley Copley in his book Frederick W. Taylor: Father of Scientific Management, a particularly fine example of Taylor s gift for the dramatic and incidentally workings of his shrwed-yankee mind (page 73). Why did they return to Frederick Taylor because the pluses did not out-weight the minuses of what we might now refer to as teaming-up without the individualistic spirit of personal responsibility for specific, measurable, attainable, real and tangible results (SMART) which are measured.

Advantages to working in teams are that you are able to get more ideas from people, will probably take less time,and you will get different perspectives. Some problems though are that some people will not contribute anything to the group and some will dominate the group. When a person is working individually, you are able to get more detailed work. The down side of that is that it can be more biased and is just the point of view of that individual. As we can see, sometimes group work is better another time individual group can be best. It all depends on the situation and what needs to be done.

Job Enrichment vs. Job Enlargement

Job enrichment in organizational development, human resources management, and organizational behavior, is the process of giving an employee more responsibility and increased decision-making authority. This is the opposite of job enlargement, which does not give greater authority, just more duties.

Job enlargement is often called "multi-tasking". This perhaps violates of one of the key principles of human achievement, namely, concentration of effort. One can perhaps manage and work on a variety of projects and still practice concentrated effort, but multitasking is so out of hand that it often prevents an employee from getting anything done.

The current practice of job enrichment stemmed from the work of Frederick Herzberg in the 1950s and 1960s. Herzberg's two factor theory argued that job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction are not to be seen as one dimension, but two. Aspects of work contributed to job satisfaction are called motivators and aspects that contributed to job dissatisfaction are called hygiene factors; hence, the theory is also refereed to as motivator-hygiene theory. Examples of motivators are recognition, achievement, and advancement. Examples of hygiene factors are salary, company policies and working conditions. According to Herzberg's theory, the existence of motivators would lead to job satisfaction, but the lack of motivators would not lead to job dissatisfaction, and similarly; hygiene factors affect job dissatisfaction, but not job satisfaction. In general, research has failed to confirm these central aspects of the theory.

Hackman and Oldham later refined the work of Herzberg into the Job Characteristics Model , which forms the basis of job enrichment today. (UTC)

I/O in Ancient Times

  • Plato’s Republic
    • Created a taxonomy of citizens (e.g., guardians, auxiliaries, and workers)
    • Proposed ways to select and train members in each category
  • The Chinese
    • Developed a selection system for bureaucrats 3,000 years ago (lasted through 1905)
    • Multiple hurdle system

In the United States, its origins are those of applied psychology in the early 19th Century, when the nation was experiencing tremendous industrialization, corporatization, unionization, immigration, urbanization and physical expansion. The field's founding fathers were Frederick W. Taylor, Hugo Münsterberg (1863-1916), Walter Dill Scott (1869-1955), and Walter Van Dyke Bingham (1880-1952). As in other countries, wartime necessity (e.g., World War I and World War II) led to the discipline's substantial growth. Business demand for scientific management, selection and training also has promoted and sustained the field's development.

For a detailed history of industrial and organizational psychology, particularly in the United States (but with some discussion of developments in other countries), one can consult Koppes, L. L. (Ed.). (2007). Historical perspectives in industrial and organizational psychology. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.

For a concise history of Industrial/Organizational Psychology please visit History

Milestones in industrial and organizational psychology

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2007), the job outlook for industrial-organizational psychologists looks promising. Businesses will enlist the services of these psychologists in order to retain employees and maintain good work ethic. Industrial-organizational psychologists specializing in research will conduct studies within companies to aid in marketing research. In 2006, the median annual salary for industrial-organizational psychologists was $86,420.


  • Anderson, N., Ones, D. S., Sinangil, H. K., & Viswesvaran, C. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of industrial, work and organizational psychology, Volume 1: Personnel psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Anderson, N., Ones, D. S., Sinangil, H. K., & Viswesvaran, C. (Eds.). (2002). Handbook of industrial, work and organizational psychology, Volume 2: Organizational psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Ltd.
  • Borman, W. C., Ilgen, D., R., & Klimoski, R., J. (Eds.). (2003). Handbook of Psychology: Vol 12 Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Borman, W. C., & Motowidlo, S. J. (1993). Expanding the criterion domain to include elements of contextual performance. Chapter in N. Schmitt and W. C. Borman (Eds.), Personnel Selection. San Francisco: Josey-Bass (pp. 71-98).
  • Campbell, J. P., Gasser, M. B., & Oswald, F. L. (1996). The substantive nature of job performance variability. In K. R. Murphy (Ed.), Individual differences and behavior in organizations (pp. 258–299). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Dunnette, M. D. (Ed.). (1976). Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Chicago: Rand McNally.
  • Dunnette, M. D., & Hough, L. M. (Eds.). (1991). Handbook of Industrial/Organizational Psychology (4 Volumes). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  • Greenberg, Jerald Managing Behavior in Organizations, Prentice Hall, 2005.
  • Guion, R. M. (1998). Assessment, measurement and prediction for personnel decisions. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (1990). Methods of meta-analysis: Correcting error and bias in research findings. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Hunter, J. E., & Schmidt, F. L. (2004). Methods of meta-analysis: Correcting error and bias in research findings. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  • Lowman, R. L. (Ed.). (2002). The California School of Organizational Studies handbook of organizational consulting psychology: A comprehensive guide to theory, skills and techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
  • Muchinsky, P. M. (Ed.). (2002). Psychology Applied to Work. Wadsworth Publishing Company.
  • Rogelberg, S., G. (Ed.). (2002). Handbook of research methods in industrial and organizational psychology. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
  • Sackett, P. R., & Wilk, S. L. (1994). Within group norming and other forms of score adjustment in pre-employment testing. American Psychologist, 49, 929-954.
  • Schmidt, F. L., & Hunter, J. E. (1998). The validity and utility of selection methods in personnel psychology: Practical and theoretical implications of 85 years of research findings. Psychological Bulletin, 124, 262-274.
  • Muchinsky, Paul M., (199). Psychology Applied to Work: An Introduction to Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Third Edition.
  • Frederick W. Taylor Father of Scientific Management, Vol. I and II, First edition 1923, reprinted 1969

Key journals in industrial and organizational psychology

  • Journal of Applied Psychology
  • Personnel Psychology
  • Academy of Management Journal
  • Academy of Management Review
  • Journal of Management
  • Human Performance
  • The Journal of Organizational Behavior
  • Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology


Graduate Programs

In many countries it is possible to obtain a bachelor's degree, master's degree, Psy.D., and/or a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology. The types of degrees offered vary by educational institution. There are both advantages and disadvantages to obtaining a specific type of degree (e.g., master's degree) in lieu of another type of degree (e.g., Ph.D.). Some helpful ways to learn more about graduate programs and their fit to one's needs and goals include talking or sitting in on an industrial and organizational psychology course or class; speaking to industrial and organizational psychology faculty, students, and practitioners; consulting with a career counselor; taking a reputable vocational interest survey; and visiting program websites. Regardless of one's needs or goals, admission into industrial and organizational psychology programs can be highly competitive, especially given that many programs accept only a small number of students each year.

In the United States, specific resources that can help to clarify the fit of particular programs to an individual's needs, goals, and abilities are Graduate Training Programs (Including Program Rankings) - SIOP, Top U.S. Graduate School Programs - U.S. News & World Report, and Professional I/O Psychologist Network

In the UK, you must take an accredited psychology degree before you can gain Graduate Basis for Registration with the British Psychological Society and then follow an approved Masters and three years supervision to gain Chartered Occupational Psychologist status.

See also

External links

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