Betsy L. Shatzer
University of Phoenix
July 22, 2013
What is Organizational Psychology? Organizational psychology is a discipline that uses scientific methodology to provide better understanding of how individuals behave when acting as members of an organization (Jex & Britt, 2008). This knowledge is used to enhance the effectiveness of organizations. Effective organizations are more productive, offer higher quality goods and services, and tend to be more financially successful (Jex & Britt, 2008). Organizational psychology is part of the broader field of industrial–organizational psychology. However, it is a legitimate field of study in its own right and it applies psychological theories and principles to solve problems that are related to the workplace and organizations. There are six key areas of organizational psychology: Training and development, employee selection, ergonomics, performance management, work life, and organizational development.
The Evolution of Organizational Psychology Organizational psychology evolved from the convergence of several disciplines to include philosophy, economics, differential psychology, science, the study of individual differences, experimental psychology, scientific management, and social psychology (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). The science had its beginnings in the broader field of industrial-organizational (I/O) psychology (Jex & Britt, 2008). The industrial side of I/O psychology developed quicker than the organizational side of the science (Jex & Britt, 2008). During the Industrial Revolution, it became increasingly important for factory managers organize workers into hierarchies based on the workers’ individual abilities (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). In addition, it was important for the workers to understand where his or her abilities stood in relationship to other workers (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). In the late 19th century, European scientists began to study the science of work, now known as ergonomics, which was shaped by physiology, nutrition, and fatigue. “European scientists sought to understand the science of work to help maximize human resources and expanded the notion of energy into the idea of labor power” (Koopes & Pickren, n.d., p. 8). Also in the 19th century, laboratory experimentation became the primary approach to understanding the problem of physical and mental fatigue (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). Mosso (1846-1910), employed an experimental technique illustrating that muscle fatigue, a physiological process, could have psychological implications (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). Cattell (1860-1944) and Műnsterberg (1863-1916) initiated the application of psychology to solve industrial problems in the United States (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). This led to several scientists pursuing the study of the physical and mental fatigue had on workers’ cognitive abilities and its connection with the loss of productivity in the workplace (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). As early as 1932, experimental studies into psychological differences between individuals and economic studies emphasizing efficiency served as the foundation of industrial-organizational psychology (Koopes & Pickren, n.d.). Most of the work at that time dealt with topics regarding skill acquisition and personnel selection (Jex & Britt, 2008). “Katzell and Austin (1992) and Koppes (2003) identified several cultural forces that came together at the turn of the 20th century in the United States, such as advances in science, the rise of Darwin’s theory, the functionalist psychology, faith in capitalism and the Protestant work ethic, and the growth of industrialism” (Koopes & Pickren, n.d., p.5). Other influences to the evolution of O/I psychology were the introduction of mass production, the growth of vertical and horizontal organizations, the growth of mega corporations,