Industrial and organizational psychology

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Industrial and organizational psychology (also known as I-O psychology, work psychology, work and organizational psychology, W-O psychology, occupational psychology, or personnel psychology) concerns the application of psychological theories, research methods, and intervention strategies to workplace issues. I-O psychologists are interested in making organizations more productive while ensuring workers are able to lead physically and psychologically healthy lives. Relevant topics include personnel psychology, motivation and leadership, employee selection, training, and development, organization development and guided change, organizational behavior, and work and family issues. I-O psychologists who work for an organization are most likely to work in the HR (human resources) department. However, many I-O psychologists pursue careers as independent consultants or applied academic researchers.



Industrial and Organizational (I-O) Psychology, Division 14 of the American Psychological Associations (APA), as a specialty area has, according to Paul M. Muchinsky, author of "Applied Psychology at Work," 1990, (06), 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) defines it as "simply the application or extension of psychological facts and principles to the problems concerning human being operating within the context of business and industry" (p 4). Broadly speaking, the I-O Psychologist is concerned with behavior in work situations, Muchinsky states.

In his text book titled Psychology Applied to Work, he explains the two sides of I-O Psychology: science and practice. He further states that I-O Psychology is a legitimate field of scientific inquiry, concerned with advancing knowledge of people at work; he points out that it is an academic discipline. The former and the latter being supported by him stating that "as in any area of science, questions are posed by I-O Psychologists to guide their investigation (with the) use of the scientific method to find answers ... useful to explaining behavior at work. [They also] replicate, [which would involve validity and reliability testing} findings to make generalizations about behavior." That is the science side of I-O Psychology. In the following paragraph(s) the practice side, that is to say, the professional or hands-on side will be described.

Muchinsky describes the professional or applied side of Industrial and Organizational (I-O) Psychology as the side concerned with the application of knowledge [by the science side) "to solve real problems in the world of work." To illustrate applications he gives us several examples of where I-O Psychology research findings can be used. Four of his examples are:

1) To hire better employees. 2) To reduce absenteeism. 3) To improve communication. 4) To increase job satisfaction.

Furthermore, he goes on to say that I-O Psychological research findings are used to solve countless other problems, indicating that most I-O Psychologists feel, to which I am not exception, a sense of kinship with both the science and the [professional] practice sides.

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 analysis measures both worker facets necessary to perform the job adequately (aka KSAOs - knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (such as personality, beliefs, and attitudes) 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 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 management coaching is an increasingly popular part of the psychologist's work.

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.

Many industrial and organizational psychologists specialize in one of the following aspects: psychometrics; quality; employment law; personnel selection; training; leadership selection, coaching and development; organizational design and change. Many of these activities are referred to as talent management. Some I-O psychologists are academic (working in both business and psychology departments) or non-academic researchers, while many others are engaged in practice, holding positions such as the following:

  • executive coach
  • counselor
  • diversity consultant
  • legislative compliance officer
  • labor relations specialist
  • human resources specialist
  • process improvement consultant
  • manager of selection and training
  • Assessment and Development Specialist

There are also a number of methodologies specifically dedicated to Organizational Psychology such as Peter Senge’s 5th Discipline and Arthur F. Carmazzi’s Directive Communication. These are a variety of psychological approaches that have been developed into a system for specific outcomes such as the 5th Discipline’s “learning organization” or Directive Communication’s “Organizational culture enhancement.”

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).

Financial compensation of industrial and organizational psychologists generally is among the highest in the whole field of psychology. While salary and benefits tend to be significantly greater in the private sector, academics who specialize in industrial and organizational psychology may command greater compensation than their faculty peers. Teaching (and sometimes research) opportunities exist in business schools as well as in psychology programs. Business schools typically offer more generous salaries and benefits than do psychology programs. Some academics choose to gain practical experience and access to data, as well as to supplement their incomes, by engaging in consulting work on the side.


(Comments on F.W. Taylor moved to discussion page)

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The history of the field differs country by country.

In the United States, its origins are those of applied psychology in the early 20th Century, when the nation was experiencing tremendous industrialization, corporatization, unionization, immigration, urbanization and physical expansion. Arguably, the field's greatest early pioneers were 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

Key works in industrial and organizational psychology

  • 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 [1]. Managing Behavior in Organizations, Prentice Hall, 2005. [2]
  • 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.
  • Lange, S. L. (2005). Content valid minimum qualifications: Does it reduce adverse impact? Unpublished dissertation, Central Michigan University, Mount Pleasant, MI.
  • 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.

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
  • Organizational Research Methods
  • The Journal of Vocational Behavior
  • Administrative Science Quarterly
  • Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
  • European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology
  • Applied Psychology: An International Review
  • International Journal of Selection and Assessment
  • International Journal of Training and Development
  • Work and Stress
  • Journal of Occupational Health Psychology
  • International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology [3] (edited annual volume)


• Industrial + Organizational / Marketing and Other CoB (College of Business) California Stzte University (CSU)' San Francisco State University (SFSU), Alumni Association: A Unit of The CSU, SFSU Alumni Association, U.S.A

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 taking 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.

See also

  • Behavioral Risk Management
  • Consulting Psychology
  • Educational Psychology
  • Employment Law
  • How Occupation and Employment can affect Identity
  • Human Factors
  • Human Resources Development
  • Human resource management
  • Industrial engineering
  • Industrial sociology
  • Labor and industrial relations
  • Labor Law
  • List of human resource management topics
  • List of psychological topics
  • Important publications in Industrial and organizational psychology
  • Organizational behavior
  • Organizational development
  • Organizational empowerment
  • Personality psychology
  • Psychometrics
  • Social psychology
  • Total quality management
  • Vocational (Counseling) Psychology
  • Sexual harrassment
    • Office romance

External links

All links Retrieved on December 12, 2007.


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