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Organizational Psychology: Definition, Evolution, and Comparison With Related Disciplines


Organizational psychology is as old as time. It is primarily concerned with how best organizations can work under specific conditions. It is obvious to assume that the success of an organization leads to the psychological satisfaction of employees and even volunteers.

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It emphasizes group-type settings especially in offices and at workplaces. It is courtesy of this field that theories, research, and communication strategies are investigated and applied accordingly in job and non-job settings.

It is rather unfortunate if a person within an organization is unaware of his/her interactions with one another. It is for this reason that organizational psychologists involve a participatory approach to make all people within an organizational set up realize their roles (Kanfer, 2005).

The productivity is hence increased by improved communication skills and so is the mental and physical health. Organizational psychology is enhanced by team building programs, leadership workshops, and exchange programs.

The fact that organizational psychology is concerned with employee-to-employer relational behavior makes the organizational psychologists depend directly on services rendered by the human resources department (Kanfer, 2005).

The paper, after defining organizational psychology, offers an account of the evolution of the field, then compares and contrasts with other related areas. It further analyzes the role of research and statistics in organizational psychology. A conclusion is also provided.

Evolution of Organizational Psychology

Organizational psychology has a history just like every other field. The fact that organizational psychology was introduced in 1960 is not proof enough that it was first applied then.

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What happened then was the distinction of organizational psychology from the other related disciplines of sociology and social psychology. The individualistic nature of employees, managers, and workers were given a thorough consideration as opposed to social psychology.

Else the genesis of organizational psychology can be attributed to the formation of several professional associations.

The creation of the American Psychological Association (APA) in 1892 was spearheaded by several industrial psychologists like Hugo Munsterberg and James McKeen Cattell (Leavitt & Bass, 2004).

The year 1921 saw the formation of the New York Association of Consulting Psychologists that was majorly comprised of clinical, educational and industrial psychologists.

The active participation of industrial psychologists in the association every year gave rise to the establishment of a Division within the association that addressed purely organizational psychological matters. The corporate psychology division was to accomplish the following goals.

A high standard of practice was to be ensured and maintained. Research and development, as well as advanced publication, was also to be promoted. Thirdly, it was considered noble to create a platform through which exchange of experience and information would be affected.

The development of new professional ventures for organizational psychologists as well as the advancement of applied psychology was also considered.

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Organizational psychology, however, is transforming itself into an integrated field that no longer embraces individualistic ideologies but incorporates social psychology, sociology, and anthropology in its application.

The creation of successful business empires is based on the fact that the senior management and leaders can give incentives and controls that target many yet the shared values by employees make things work for good due to organizational psychology (Leavitt &Bernard, 2004).

The evolution of organizational psychology is advanced but still much bias is placed on the human factor.

For example, it is common for an accountant who is usually engrossed in endless financial sums to imagine that an engineer can easily give up his technocratic emphasis for his/her book-keeping culture.

It is thus essential to ensure that different religions that are within organizational domains are understood. The discovery and learning of different cultures will in effect broaden one’s knowledge of how organizations work (Spector, 2008).

Anthropology is the study that is concerned with the cultural and physical aspects of life. Cultural aspects include human behavior, family relationships, social norms and routines, technical advancements and societal roles.

Physical anthropology addresses biological aspects that explain racial differences and evolution that succeeded in human origin. Social psychology is concerned with how a person will behave in a given cultural or social environment.

The study establishes how individualistic personality, attitudes, motivations, and behavior impact society as a whole. If we consider a question such as; how do electronic media affect the educational attitudes in children?

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This can be well answered by a social psychologist. It can be seen that both disciplines contribute to the various social relations that are formed in organizations.

The only difference between anthropology and organizational psychology is the fact that the latter is multidisciplinary. Social psychology can be seen as the mother of organizational psychology in the definition of certain attitudes and behavior (Spector, 2008).

Research and statistics play a crucial role in organizational psychology. A typical organizational psychology exercise is usually based on particular research theory and practice (Kanfer, 2005). The research process will, as usual, be characterized by a research question or hypothesis.

It will go on to make use of several research methods such as quantitative and qualitative methods. The attitudes and behavior of workers are qualitatively analyzed while the number of employees within a given organization is quantitative.

A typical organizational psychology project will statistically involve the analytical computation of possible errors and uncertainties (Spector, 2008). True scores will be obtained based on several theorems such as the central limit theorem.

Deviations, means and confidence limits will always arise in any organizational study because people are different and will yield different outcomes if each is placed in isolation.

The paper has defined organizational psychology, its evolution and how it is related to other fields. It has also discussed the role of research and statistics in this field.

It can be concluded that organizational adaptation, learning and adjusting to the environment are influential in the growth of organizations.

Whether organizations will develop or not will depend on how fast individuals will learn and cope with their working environment. Organizational psychology has helped improve the relationship between employees and their employers.


Kanfer, R. (2005). Self-regulation research in work and psychology, Applied Psychology: An International Review, 54 (2), 186-191. Human Resources Abstracts database.

Leavitt, H. J. & Bass, B. M. (2004). “Organizational psychology.” In P. R. Farnsworth, Olga McNemar, & McNemar, Q. (eds.). Annual Review of Psychology, 15, 371-398. Palo Alto, CA: Annual Reviews

Spector, P. (2008). Industrial and organizational psychology: Research and practice (5th ed). New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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