Industrial-Organizational Psychology: Definition & Subfields

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  • 0:03 What Is I-O Psychology?
  • 1:00 Industrial Psychology
  • 2:34 Organizational Psychology
  • 4:06 Human Factors Psychology
  • 4:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk
The following lesson describes the field of psychology that focuses on the interactions that take place in the working world. This field is also known as industrial-organizational psychology.

What Is I-O Psychology?

Apart from sleeping, the average person spends more hours per week working than any other activity. That much time given to an activity deeply impacts a person's life - in both positive and negative ways. Thus, studying how the working world affects a person's behavior and psychological makeup is a major focus in the world of psychology. This specific branch of psychology is known as industrial and organizational (I-O) psychology.

The field of I-O psychology is a broad one and can be further subdivided into three subfields. These subfields include industrial psychology, organizational psychology, and human factors psychology. While these fields may overlap in some areas, they each have some distinctive features. I-O psychologists are involved in many different work environments, but there are four main areas in which their work takes place: academia, government, consulting, and business.

Industrial Psychology

Industrial psychology is concerned with describing job requirements and assessing individuals for their ability to meet those requirements. Thus, one of the main jobs of an industrial psychologist is selecting employees. In most cases, when you apply for a job, there's an accompanying job description that goes along with the job announcement that describes what the job entails and what qualities a company is looking for in candidates. Many of these descriptions are written with the help of industrial psychologists.

Imagine now that you found a job you wanted to apply for and submitted your application. Many industrial psychologists are also involved with selecting candidates who, based on their analysis, best match the culture and personality characteristics of the hiring company. For example, if the job you applied for was a customer service-based position, an industrial psychologist would most likely look for candidates that had personality traits that would indicate they would be good working with people. They can obtain this information through things like personality inventories and observing behavior during interviews.

Suppose now that the company offering the job you applied for ended up hiring you. An industrial psychologist may also help develop procedures and processes for training and evaluating you and other new employees. For instance, an industrial psychologist may suggest the company institute a mentoring program for new hires. Lastly, because industrial psychologists are so involved in the hiring process, it is important for them to be knowledgeable on issues regarding labor law and potential discriminatory practices in hiring.

Organizational Psychology

If we carry our hypothetical situation even further, suppose now that you've been working at your job for some time. Your time spent interacting with your colleagues and within the company in general is of great interest to organizational psychologists. Organizational psychology is a subfield of I-O psychology that's interested in how the relationships among employees affect those employees and the performance of a business.

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