Industrial / organizational psychology is a field that applies Psychology knowledge in industrial/ organization environment to help them realize the potential of human resources (Grant, 2008). This field of psychology focuses on the human part of an organization environment and aims at increasing work place productivity through ensuring the physical and mental well being of employees. Today psychology knowledge and methods are used to identify, motivate and develop talent that employees bring to an organization. Industrial/ organizational psychology may involve various activities such as studying workers attitude and behavior and evaluating organizations.
The term industrial psychology was first used in 1984 in Bryan’s APA address (McCarthy, 2002). In 1911, Water Dill Scott published two books that discussed application of psychology principles to motivation and productivity in the work place. The books were titled Influencing Men in Business and Increasing Human Efficiency in Business. Hugo Munsterberg is considered to have made the biggest contribution to the development of industrial psychology. In 1911 Munsterberg asked managers to put into consideration questions such as fatigue, work satisfaction, learning and rewards. In 1913 he wrote a book, Psychology and Industrial Efficiency, where he addressed issues such personnel selection and equipment design. During the same time another scholar, Fredrick W. Taylor, began publishing similar ideas which had significant influence on the development of industrial/ organizational psychology. Taylor wrote about the value of improving work situation in order to realize both high output by a company’s workers and high wages. Taylor’s book The Principle of Scientific Management addressed principles of work efficiency and selecting the best workers and training them in the best methods. Tailor’s principles were accused of advocating for higher wages for few workers while many others remain unemployed.
In 1917 World War I erupted. Robert Yerkes was the first psychologist to suggest the application of psychology knowledge in war (McCarthy, 2002). He suggested ways of screening army recruits for mental deficiency and assigning jobs to selected recruits. Psychology was used to study soldiers’ motivation, morale, Problems and discipline. The army was reluctant in adopting psychological proposal during the first Word War as they adopted them in small scale. Walter Dill Scott also came up with proposal to be used to classify those enlisted for army recruitment, to conduct performance evaluation and to develop work duty. Psychology continued to be applied in cooperates in the period between the first and the second World Wars. Personalities such as James Cattell in 1921 advance the concept of psychological corporation which main purpose was to promote usefulness of psychology knowledge to industry. In 1920 doctorate degrees that specialized in industrial psychology begun to be offered in UnitedState’s universities.
Of significant effect to the development of the field of Industrial/ organizational psychology were the Hawthorne studies which took place in 1924 (McCarthy, 2002). In these studies researchers from HarvardUniversity attempted to study the relation between lighting and employee efficiency. Results of the studies concluded that there is always change of behavior following the start on a novelty treatment. Behavior resumes to the original once the novelty of the treatment diminishes. During the world war two, industrial psychologists were sought after by the military to assist in recruitment and other processes. Industrial / organizational psychology contributed to the development of army general classification tests and test performance under situational stress. In the 1950 and 1960 the concept of industrial/ organizational psychology was enforced by the rise of motivational theories. Development of the I/O psychology continued into the 1970’s through personalities such as Skinner, Porter and Lawler. In the 1980 and 1990 I/O psychology focused on items such as work stress, work/ life balance, work place aggression and work place violence. These terms did not exist before 1980’s (McCarthy, 2002).
Industrial/ organizational psychology utilizes scientific principles to study and identify the underlying principles and applications relevant to a business or an organization (Anonymous, 2010). Therefore, research and statistics plays an important role in industrial/ organizational psychology as it forms the basis for many decisions and methods used in industrial/ organizational psychology. Research and statistics ensures that psychologist do not make unbiased and inaccurate suggestions for improvement at the workplace. Research and statistics also enables industrial/ organizational psychologist to identify variables that can form the basis for analysis. Research and statistics is also an important means for information gathering in industrial/ organizational psychology.
In conclusion, the field of industrial psychology has evolved from simple applications in the late 1800 and early 1900 to become an important part of modern businesses and organizations. Psychology knowledge and methods are now being applied in organization recruitment and in motivation of the work force in effort to increase the productivity of an organization. This has been based in the recognition of the fact that human resources are an organizational most important asset. Industrial/ organizational psychology attempts to assist business to attract the best human resources and develop and motivate talent while ensuring a favorable environment for optimum productivity.
Anonymous (2010), Industrial/ Organizational Psychology, retrieved on December 14, 2010, from http://stokercg2913.blogspot.com/2010/04/industrialorganizational-psychology.html
Pauline Grant (2008), Business Psychology in Practice, retrieved on December 13, 2010, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/book/10.1002/9780470713280
Patrick McCarthy (2002), Brief Outline of the I/O Psychology, retrieved on December 13, 2010, from http://frank.mtsu.edu/~pmccarth/io_hist.htm