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Introduction to Industrial/Organizational Psychology

Updated on January 31, 2016

What is I/O Psychology and how does it differ from other subfields? What does the ā€œIā€ side cover as compared to the ā€œOā€ side? Which side (I or O) is more interesting to you, and why?

Industrial and organizational psychology, often referred to as I-O psychology, is a field of psychology dedicated to the application of psychological principles, theory, and research to the work setting (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 7). I-O psychology is often mistakenly believed to only encompass the work setting, it in fact stretches beyond just the work place; I-O psychologists also study the factors that influence work behavior. Some of these factors are: family responsibilities, cultural influences, employment-related legislation, and the personality of the individual and non-work events (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 7). I-O psychologist also observe and study the effect of work on behaviors that occur outside of work; for instance an I-O psychologist might concentrate on the effect a bad work day has on familiar bonds (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 7). I-O psychology remains different from many of the other psychology subfields in that it mainly focuses on the workplace and areas that relate to the work environment; the other subfields of psychology tend to focus on either a specific method or practice. For instance, in behavioral psychology, the behavioral psychologist uses the method of observation to focus on the study and alteration of behavior. While in clinical psychology the clinical psychologist focus on the individual, these psychologists focus on assessment and/or treatment of mental illnesses and disabilities.

There are two sides to I-O psychology; there is the I side which stands for industrial psychology and then there is the O side which stands for organizational psychology. Industrial psychology is one of the two branches in I-O psychology; industrial psychology focuses on the efficiency of management of a labor force especially when the work environment is mechanized (American Heritage Dictionary, n.d.). Industrial psychologists strive to increase worker productivity, create safe work environments, train new employees, and to organize the management structure of companies and organizations in the most effective and beneficial manner (What Is Industrial Psychology, 2015). Organizational psychology is the combination of research and ideas from social psychology and organizational behavior with the goal of addressing the emotional and motivational side of work (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 10). Organizational psychology encompasses the areas of: attitude, level of fairness, motivation, stress, leadership, the reaction of individuals to work, and teams (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 10). Organizational psychologists work to improve the quality of life for workers, to solve work place problems as they arise, and to prevent problems from occurring in the workplace. I personally find the O side of I-O psychology to be the more interesting side as it seems to focus more on improving the work place environment through the use of psychological techniques and methods. I find this more interesting than the idea of training new employees and organizing the management structure. However I do think industrial and organizational psychology are two different sides of the same coin so it would be difficult to focus on just one branch as they are both heavily linked together.


American Heritage Dictionary. (n.d.). Industrial Psychology. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from psychology

Landy, F., & Conte, J. (2013). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (4th ed.). Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

What Is Industrial Psychology? (2015). Retrieved December 1, 2015, from


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