PSYCH101 Study Guide

Unit 8: Industrial and Organizational Psychology

8a. Define the subfield of Industrial/Organizational psychology and explain its history

  • What is the subfield of Industrial/Organizational psychology?
  • How has this subfield developed?

The subfield of Industrial/Organizational or I/O psychology is concerned with applying psychological principles to work settings. In other words, I/O psychologists study how human behavior impacts work as well as how work affects people.

This rather new subfield dates back to the early 20th century when a number of psychologists in the U.S. began to apply psychological principles to work settings. For example, Walter Dill Scott is credited with applying these principles to marketing, management, advertising as well as employee selection. Millicent Pond studied employee selection in relation to job performance and was among the first to develop pre-selection employment selection tools. Elton Mayo focused on organizational dynamics and his work ultimately led to the discovery of the Hawthorne effect, the phenomenon in which employees are more productive when they are observed. The Hawthorne effect is still a big focus today. Kurt Lewin contributed to the field by coining the term "group dynamics" and exploring group relations in work settings. Frederick Taylor focused on design aspects of the workplace (which led to the subfield of human-factor psychology) and Lillian Gilbreth applied psychological principles to employee fatigue and time management stress.

To review, read section 13.1 in the textbook.


8b. Differentiate between industrial and organizational psychology and the real-life applications of each

  • How does industrial psychology differ from organizational psychology?
  • What types of tasks do industrial vs. organizational psychologists undertake?

The subfield of I/O psychology can be further broken down into industrial vs. organizational psychology – the terms are not interchangeable. Industrial psychology focuses on job analysis, such as describing and measuring a task or a job. As such, people with a specialization in industrial psychology are often tasked with writing job requirements, interviewing and hiring employees, training new employees, evaluating performance, and assuring that an organization abides by equality laws.

Organizational psychologists, on the other hand, are mostly concerned with the social aspects of work life, for example ensuring job satisfaction, examining the effectiveness of different leadership or management styles, exploring work-family balance options, or conducting diversity training.

To review, read sections 13.2 and 13.3 in the textbook.


8c. Explain how human-factors psychology relates to Industrial/Organizational psychology

  • What is human-factors psychology? How does it relate to I/O psychology?
  • What type of work does a human-factors psychologists do?

Human-factors psychology is a third specialization within the realm of I/O psychology. This subfield has its roots in design and engineering and is concerned with how employees interact with tools and environments of the workplace. For example, human-factors psychologists might redesign an office space to allow more space for interaction or more room for quiet, focused activities. Human-factors psychologists also focus on workplace safety for example by developing checklists or similar procedures.

To review, read section 13.3 in the textbook.


Unit 8 Vocabulary

This vocabulary list includes terms that might help you with the review items above and some terms you should be familiar with to be successful in completing the final exam for the course.

Try to think of the reason why each term is included.

  • Industrial psychology
  • Organizational psychology
  • Human-factors psychology
  • Group dynamics
  • Checklist
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Job analysis
  • Job satisfaction