Psychology Applied to Life

What is I-O?

Depending on who you ask, it’s I/O, I-O, or IO… all of it stands for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP), the premier professional organization for this field in the United States, defines I-O as follows (emphasis added):

Industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology is the scientific study of the workplace. Rigor and methods of psychology are applied to issues of critical relevance to business, including talent management, coaching, assessment, selection, training, organizational development, performance, and work-life balance.

And SIOP and I-O psychologists:

SIOP was established in 1982 and its members, some 6,000 strong, are dedicated to applying psychology to people in the workplace. No, they are not “shrinks,” rather, their field of psychology tries to understand and measure human behavior to improve employees’ satisfaction in their work, employers’ ability to select and promote the best people, and to generally make the workplace better for the men and women who work there. They do this by creating tests and by designing products such as training courses, selection procedures and surveys. Industrial and organizational psychologists direct consulting and executive search firms, work for leadership centers, corporations and companies as well as universities. And at this juncture in U.S. economic history, with highly qualified people–from the hourly wage earning ranks to executive boardrooms–being vital to business success, industrial and organizational psychologists are in position to play major roles in aiding corporations and companies manage their workforces. I-O practitioners conduct a wide range of research and studies designed to provide information about all phases of the workplace. For example, stigmas in organizations (weight, physical attractiveness, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs, race); sexual harassment; the role of personality traits in the hiring process; barriers to successful employment of workers with disabilities; workplace culture, particularly when companies merge; selection of law enforcement officers; reducing absenteeism, workplace aggression; what attracts individuals to certain organizations, and the leadership behaviors of women as managers are just a few of the studies being done by I-O psychologists. For a brief history of SIOP go here.

Wikipedia (with help from an old SIOP brochure) defines I-O this way:

Industrial and Organizational Psychology (also known as industrial-organizational psychologyI-O psychologywork psychologyorganizational psychologywork and organizational psychologyoccupational psychologypersonnel psychology or talent assessment) applies psychology to organizations and the workplace. (In December 2009, the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology plans a vote to either retain its name or to change it to the Society for Organizational Psychology (TSOP) to eliminate the word “Industrial”. Any such change might cause many American researchers, practitioners and educational programs in I-O psychology to change over to the new name to describe their field.) “Industrial-organizational psychologists contribute to an organization’s success by improving the performance and well-being of its people. An I-O psychologist researches and identifies how behaviors and attitudes can be improved through hiring practices, training programs, and feedback systems.”

Basically, think of psychology in the workplace or basic psychological research methods and research findings applied to help make work and workers better (safer, more efficient, more productive, happier, healthier, etc.) and you’ve got I-O!


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