What is Organizational Psychology?

Staff picture
Updated August 4, 2020

Organizational psychology, better known in the field as industrial-organizational psychology, or I/O psychology for short, represents one of the many specialized branches of the greater field of psychology itself. What exactly is this specific discipline of the art all about? Here are the basics of I/O psychology today.

Resource: 19 Most Affordable Master's in Organizational Psychology Online

Basic Mission

There truly is plenty to grasp when it comes to this specialty science, but in a nutshell, I/O psychology is the study and utilization of psychological elements in and related to the work setting. Those working in or in conjunction with this area of expertise are involved in understanding workplace stressors, drivers, emotional triggers, and all other factors of psychological relevance or interest. While some organizations, and even individual employees, actively and knowingly utilize I/O psychology concepts, virtually all do to some degree or another, if unknowingly so.

Another subset focus of this branch of psychology is that of understanding directly relevant external psychological forces that can also affect an organization and its workforce. What factors in current regional culture may affect current employee culture within the company? How does the work/time off balance affect employees' drive, emotional motivations, and output? These are some of the external-based questions faced by this secondary focus of the science.

Origins of the Science

Anyone expecting to find some central figure or organization as the main force to birth this science might be surprised to find that, in fact, this specialty branch of psychology has a number of contributing figures and organizations, all of which can share in a portion of the story of the science. According to the Oxford Research Encyclopedia, some of the specific characters central to the field's development, however, include Charles Babbage – the famed British mathematician, American Scientist Henry Metcalfe, and even the socialism-connected, International Workingmen's Association, established in 1864.


So, how does this science actually work? How do the professionals responsible for organizational psychology matters work toward those above-mentioned missions and goals? Truly, this field is one of constant research toward understanding.

While certainly there are understood "laws" of psychology and sociology that do generally apply to workforces and the individuals within them, there are still many complexities, variables, and questions that remain when individual workplace situations are deeply examined. Aside from research, those who work in this field consult with like-minded experts and provide advice to organizations based on findings and observations. In short, it's all about analysis, questions, attempts at solutions, further analysis and research, and so on.

Locations of Practice, Populations Served

In official practice, I/O psychology takes place in many organizations, mostly larger ones, operating in any number of fields themselves. Public, private, and even government sector organizations utilize this science in an active and very intentional manner. As a result of such wide use, this science indeed touches the lives of nearly all working people, to some extent.

While it is a rather niche area of psychology when compared with the whole of the field, I/O psychology still commands an important presence and role in the greater developed world. In conclusion, the facts represented here are only of a summarizing scale, and even more complexity makes up the world of I/O psychology today. For more in-depth information on this specialty area of the field of psychology, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology is an excellent resource with which to gain further understanding.

Latest Posts