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Premise and Origins of Business Psychology

Introduction and Premise of Business Psychology

The study of business psychology provides valuable knowledge and insights that assist business managers in understanding people’s behavior in business. Such knowledge, therefore, equips a business manager with relevant information in regard to human behavior when faced with challenges in business and management contexts. This sub-discipline of psychology has a significant contribution to the search for solutions in the business. According to McKenna (2000, p. 14), “business psychology has resulted in better management of human resources, improved methods of personnel selection, appraisal and training, improved morale and efficiency in operations, a reduction in accident rates and better working conditions”. In addition to the above, DuBrin (2004, p. 2) has indicated the role of this discipline of study by stating that “the study of psychology as applied to the workplace can help you resolve a wide range of human problems encountered in any job and it can also help you prepare for your career”. Besides, business psychology is primarily based on experiments conducted in both the workplace and laboratories (DuBrin, 2004, p. 17). The major premise of business psychology stems from the benefit of companies out of adequate recruitment regarding the personal characteristics of candidates. Moreover, DuBrin (2004, p. 18) suggests the idea that “People with an adequate degree of common sense often benefit more from a study of business psychology than do people who do not yet possess a well-developed degree of common sense.

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The Origins of Business Psychology

The beginning of 20th century was characterized by emergence of scientific management as a school of thought. This field of study was spear-headed by Taylor, Gilbreth, and Gantt put a lot of emphasis on efficiency and productivity in direct relations to quality interactions between people. The birth of this sub-discipline in psychology “generated applied research for professors to undertake, often at the request for business, it also created a new job market for psychologists to work within the business and management industry as independent consultants” (McKenna, 2000, p. 16). The advances in this field were revolutionized in the latter part of the century by Taylor who, according to Benjamin (2007, p. 107), believed that “this system benefited both employers and employees while it was viewed by workers as a form of exploitation.” The Hawthorne Effect is the reactivity of subjects in the adjustments of their natural behavior in the discovery that they are under investigation.

How the Hawthorne Effect may apply today?

“The Hawthorne Effect is basically the idea that if you pay attention to someone, their performance will improve” (Benjamin, 2007, p. 106). It is therefore imperative that employee performance and productivity can be improved and enhanced by the Hawthorne Effect. This remains the core reason why most organizations have the position of supervisors within their management ranks. Their supervisory role has the capacity to ensure that the reactivity in regard to employee shifts to benefit the organization; this “field emphasizes both self-help and responsibility for the welfare of others” (DuBrin, 2004, p. 13). In today’s business environment, the Hawthorne Effect influences the way managers to undertake their daily duties. In the understanding of Hawthorne’s effect, managers today invest resources in terms of time and money to supervise employees closely and be sure to sharpen their skills and improve their performance. Today’s business environment is characterized by employee supervision.

Effect of Individual Differences in the Workplace

The psychological understanding of different personality traits has the capacity to affect the workplace because some differences can be perceived by other employees as negative and thus cause discomfort to others. This would not only affect the spiritual culture of the organization but may also affect the primary collective responsibility and teamwork within the organization. Also, causing work productivity to drop; according to DuBrin (2004, pp. 50-51), productivity, talent and ability, propensity for striving for higher results as well as commitment, loyalty, and leadership competencies are factors that are different regarding different people; these factors influence the working process. This list may be enlarged with other factors including intelligence and mental ability, memory and word fluency, which are personal traits that contribute to the differences at the workplace (DuBrin, 2004, pp. 50-59). On the contrary, individual differences can act as a motivating factor in other employees especially in cases where the boss continuously demonstrates high work ethics. Moreover, personal values should remain stable in order to be treated accordingly in the company (DuBrin, 2004, p. 36). Values and beliefs can be regarded as the major individual differences in the workplace (DuBrin, 2004, p. 35). The bad apple explanation of unethical behavior suggests that people behave unethically primarily because of negative personal characteristics. This can impact negatively on co-workers.

The Relationship between Business Psychology and Three Major Learning Theories

Psychology is an interdisciplinary field of learning that encompasses and is intertwined with other learning theories. Three major learning theories include classical conditioning, operant conditioning, and modeling and informal learning. In this respect, it is necessary to focus on the relationship between Psychology and these three major learning theories. The classical theory of learning is the most elementary form of learning that seeks to understand human behavior through responses to stimuli. According to the study by DuBrin (2004, p. 30), the concept of classical conditioning has been introduced in the late 1980s by Ivan Pavlov, the Russian psychologist who identified certain reflexes as “basic principles and concepts [that] are included in more complicated forms of learning.” Operant conditioning or instrumental theory involves a change of behavior through reward and punishment of demonstration of positive and negative behavior respectively. The study by DuBrin (2004, p. 31) demonstrates an example of a person learning to operate through motivation and reinforcement. Another type of learning that should be approached while discussing learning theories relevant to business psychology includes modeling and informal learning. As can be viewed in the study by DuBrin (2004, p. 34), modeling is aimed at acquiring information via following the examples, whereas informal learning is the one that occurs in informal situations rather than in class. The relationship that exists between business psychology and the three defined major learning theories hinges on the fact that they all seek to understand human behavior through different perspectives.


  1. Benjamin, L.T. (2007). A brief history of modern psychology. New-York: Wiley-Blackwell
  2. DuBrin, A. (2004). Applying psychology: Individual and organizational effectiveness (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson / Prentice Hall.
  3. McKenna, F.E. (2000). Business psychology and organizational behavior: a student’s handbook. London: Psychology Press.

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