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Social Sciences and Organizational Behavior

The field of organizational behavior (OB) deals with the behavior and impact of the interaction of individuals, groups, and structures within an organization, in order to apply the knowledge to improve the effectiveness of the organization. Effectively an applied science, OB, draws from various social sciences. The predominant subjects, which have enormously contributed to the formation of the discipline, are psychology, anthropology, sociology, and political science. The contribution of these fields has been segregated in the level at which their contribution lies. For instance, the contribution of psychology has been mostly in micro or individual level of analysis, while that that of sociology has been into group analysis. The next paragraphs will discuss the contributions of these fields separately in the discipline of OB.

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Psychology may be defined as “the science that seeks to measure, explain, and sometimes change the behavior of humans and other animals”. In other words, the study of psychology studies how individuals experience the human world. Thus, psychology is concerned with the prediction of the behavior of individuals in a given environment. Psychologists peruse to understand the reason for specific human behavior. The areas within psychology, which have been exceedingly important to OB, are industrial and organizational psychology, counseling, and personality theorists. In OB, industrial psychologists were mainly concerned with aspects of individual behavior. Traditionally, they aimed to understand the reason behind fatigue, boredom, etc. which hindered normal and efficient working conditions and individual performance. More recently, the contribution of psychology has been extended due to the inclusion of aspects like motivation, learning, personality, emotions, perceptions, leadership, performance appraisal, stress, etc.

Sociology may be defined as a field, which studies the relationship between individuals or groups. At the micro-level, they are concerned with the study of the relation between individuals, and on a macro, level studies the interaction between structures. Therefore, they are useful to understand the social system of the organization, when psychologists are concerned with individuals. The sociologists have mostly contributed to OB through their research of group behavior and social interaction pattern in complex organizational systems. The contribution of sociology in OB has been mainly in the fields of organizational theory and structure, work team, communication pattern, attitude, organizational technology, conflict, etc.

Anthropology is a field of study, which relates to the study of societies in order to gather knowledge about individuals and their activities. Anthropologists are concerned with the culture or environment in a system, which affects the behavior, attitude, values, etc. of the individuals in it. They also study the differences in the values, attitudes, etc. of individuals due to differences in their geographical proximity. In the case of OB, anthropology contributes to the study of organizational culture, organizational environment, and differences between national cultures, which affect the working of multinational corporations.

Another aspect of organizational behavior is the study of the self-interest of individuals, which is predominant in any organization. Political science helps to study this aspect of OB. Political science is the study of individuals or groups in a political environment. This field has a significant contribution to the understanding of OB. The areas of OB, which are created through the contribution of political science, are conflict management, power allocation, power manipulation by individuals, etc.

Truly, OB is a hybrid discipline. The study of OB is based on the aspects of psychology at the micro-level and on the other hand on the sociology, anthropology, and political science at the macro level.


Stephen P. Robins. 2003. Organizational Behavior, 10th Edition. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. p.8.

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