Industrial-Organizational Psychology and
Other Branches of Applied Psychology
for Introductory Psychology
By Aaron U. Bolin
Arkansas State University
Survey Questions for this Chapter
What can you do with a degree in psychology?
Why would anyone want to study Applied psychology?
o What does psychology have to say about work?
o What is the best way to match workers to jobs?
o What is the best way to design, manage, and lead businesses and other
o Why do some people have high levels of motivation while others do just enough to
keep from getting fired?
o What exactly is leadership?
o How can we improve human productivity and reduce errors?
o How do the police and other law enforcement officials use psychology?
o Does hiring a sport psychologist improve a team’s chance of winning?
o Can psychology be used to influence and manipulate how people spend their money?
o Can psychology be used as a weapon?
How does someone become an applied psychologist?
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What can you do with a degree in psychology? Those of you who are majoring
in psychology or are planning on majoring in psychology have certainly heard this
question many times from your friends and family. Many people mistakenly assume that
psychologists are all clinicians who try to find the hidden meaning in everything that
other people do and say. Of course, this stereotype of psychologists is not entirely false; a
small number of psychologists do earn a living by offering psychoanalytic services.
However, you have undoubtedly realized that the field of psychology is much more
diverse than the clinician stereotype suggests, with many different areas of specialization.
Even so, you might still have trouble answering the question about what psychologists
do. This chapter is designed to help you answer that question by giving you more
information about a very special group of psychology specialties that collectively make
up the field of applied psychology.
Applied psychology: the Applied psychology is the branch of psychology that is concerned with using
branch of psychology that
is concerned with using the the principles of psychological science to solve real-life problems. Applied psychologists
principles of psychological
science to solve real-life
have used the principles of learning to train pigeons to help locate lost boaters wearing
life preservers, the principles of social psychology to improve coordination on sport
teams, and the principles of perception to improve the cockpit control panels of jumbo jet
airliners. Although the definition of applied psychology could technically encompass
clinical and counseling psychology, these specialties within psychology are typically
considered separate branches of psychology. For our purposes, the term Applied
psychology will only refer to the following areas of specialization within psychology:
industrial/organizational psychology, forensic psychology, sport psychology, consumer
psychology, and military psychology. Together, we will discuss each of these specialty
areas in turn. Figure 1 shows the relationships among the different areas of applied
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Figure 1. Branches of
Why would anyone want to study Applied Psychology? The answer to this question
depends a lot on the characteristics of the person who asks it. Many people study applied
psychology just to get through a classroom assignment. Some people study applied
psychology for the money. Applied psychology can be a very financially rewarding career
choice. Other people study applied psychology because they want to make a contribution to
society. As we will see in the rest of this chapter, applied psychologists contribute to society
in numerous capacities: by making workers more productive, by making industry safer, by
catching criminals, by strengthening the military, etc. Still others study applied psychology
out of a burning curiosity and a love of learning. Applied psychologists are in a constant
search for new information about how people function, how to solve interesting problems,
and how to take psychology out of the laboratory and into our lives. In addition to all of these
reasons, you should study applied psychology because of the profound impact it has on your
life. You cannot go to work, drive a car, turn on the television, or browse the Internet without
being affected by applied psychology.
Figure 2. Applied $93,000
Psychology 12-Month Doctoral-Level
Median Salary by $74,000
Degree and Position in
2001 10-14 years
$95,000 2-4 year
$- $50,000 $100,000 $150,000 $200,000
Source of Data: 2001 Salaries in Psychology, Research Office, American Psychological Association, 2003.
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What does psychology have to say about work? After all, most people spend
more of their time at work than they do engaged in any other activity. Sigmund Freud,
one of the founders of psychology, believed that work was central to the human
experience. In his book Civilization and Its Discontents (1962), Freud made his now
famous statement, “To do well, normal human beings must be able to love and to work.”
Of course, love and work are not always separate endeavors. Many people love their
work and office romances are on the rise. Industrial/Organizational psychology is the
branch of psychology that is interested in work and working.
Industrial/Organizational Specifically, Industrial/Organizational psychology (which is usually
psychology: The branch
of applied psychology that abbreviated as I/O Psychology) is the branch of applied psychology that is concerned
is concerned with the
application of psychological
with the application of psychological methods and research findings to the world of work
methods and research
findings to the world of
work and human and human performance. I/O Psychology is a very diverse and complex field. In its
broadest sense, I/O Psychology encompasses a wide variety of topics including (but not
limited to) employment policies and laws, worker satisfaction, leadership, employee
health, workplace design, and workplace safety. In general, I/O psychologists are
interested in helping workers to be more productive and efficient, to be safer and more
accurate, to be happier and more satisfied, and to get a higher rate of return for their
Brief History and Overview of I/O Psychology
The history of I/O psychology reaches back to the very beginnings of
psychology in the United States. I/O psychology and other branches of applied
psychology originated as an outgrowth of the functionalist movement in psychology. The
functionalists were interested in the adaptive value of human behavior. In other words,
the functionalist wanted to find a practical use for the principles of psychology; they
William James wanted to find solutions for real-life problems. William James (1890), who was a
functionalist, was the first to suggest the need for psychological study of the workplace.
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Many psychologists picked up on James’ suggestion and became early pioneers
in I/O psychology. Frederick Taylor (1911) and Hugo Münsterberg (1913) were among
the first psychologists to apply the principles of psychological science specifically to the
world of work. Taylor advocated a scientific approach to managing employees, while
Münsterberg did research on employee testing, eye witness testimony, and job placement.
Other pioneers in I/O psychology included Lillian Gilbreth (who helped develop and
refine time-and-motion studies), G. Stanley Hall (who founded the Journal of Applied
Psychology in 1917), Robert Yerkes (who helped develop two of the first intelligence
tests in 1917), and Walter Dill Scott (who founded the first psychological consulting
company in 1919 and also helped found consumer psychology).
In the early years, I/O psychology had a very narrow focus. I/O psychology in
the time period before the end of World War I focused mostly on issues related to
personnel psychology. Personnel psychology is the branch of I/O psychology that is
The branch of
industrial/organizational concerned with employee testing, selection, placement, retention, performance, and
psychology that is
concerned with employee training. Many I/O psychologists at this time believed that workers were ignorant of
placement, retention, proper work methods, disliked work, were only motivated by money and job security,
performance, and training.
preferred to be told what to do, and were just plain lazy. This system of beliefs about
Theory X: an approach to employees has come to be known as the Theory X approach.
management that is based
on the assumptions that I/O psychologists with a Theory X approach usually told managers that they
employees are lazy, do not
like to work, and are only should be very strict, should closely monitor employee performance, should diligently
motivated by financial
rewards. enforce policies and procedures, and should carefully match employees to jobs. A
modern example of a Theory X approach to management that you may be familiar with is
an army drill sergeant. A drill sergeant never smiles, follows all of the policies and
procedures, is very strict in his/her management style, and does not seem to be having
any fun while he/she trains new army recruits.
Of course, not all I/O psychologists had such a pessimistic view of employees.
I/O psychologists with a Theory Y approach assumed that workers enjoyed autonomy
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and responsibility and were naturally hard working. Managers were encouraged to smile,
Theory Y: an approach to
management that is based to treat workers with respect, to break the rules to get the job done, and to be easy-going
on the assumptions that
workers enjoy autonomy,
in their management styles.
are willing to accept
responsibility, and that
people are not naturally The Theory Y approach grew out of the work of another pioneer in I/O
passive or lazy.
psychology, Elton Mayo. In a series of famous experiments that began in 1924 and are
now known as the Hawthorne studies, Mayo and his associates discovered that people
would work harder and more efficiently if they were treated with respect, if their opinions
were valued, and if someone was likely to notice their improved performance. Mayo also
Organizational discovered that people go to work for many reasons and that money and job security were
psychology: The branch
of industrial/organizational not necessarily the only things that motivated employee performance. Mayo’s discoveries
psychology that is
concerned with job helped to increase the interest of I/O psychologists in organizational psychology.
organizational climate and
Organizational psychology is the branch of I/O psychology that is concerned with job
communication, and other
social processes in satisfaction, organizational climate and culture, leadership, communication, and other
social processes in organizations.
A third branch of I/O psychology is called human-factors psychology. Unlike
personnel psychology and organizational psychology, human-factors psychology grew
psychology: The branch
out of the field of engineering. Human-factors psychology is the branch of I/O
psychology that is psychology that is concerned with the multiple factors that influence human performance,
concerned with the multiple
factors that influence efficiency, errors, and injuries and the relationship between these factors and the design
efficiency, errors, and of tools, equipment, and machines. Frederick Taylor, one of the founders of human-
injuries and the relationship
between these factors and factors psychology, was trained as an engineer. Human-factors psychology has had a
the design of tools,
equipment, and machines.
tremendous impact on the efficiency and safety of the modern workplace. For example,
human-factors psychology is partly responsible for the now standard practice of putting
safety guards on industrial cutting equipment and for designing computer software
programs to make them user friendly.
Modern I/O Psychology
When taken together, personnel psychology, organizational psychology, and
human-factors psychology make up the core discipline of modern I/O psychology.
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Modern I/O psychology is a very interesting, growing, and financially rewarding field.
I/O psychologists are currently among the highest paid psychologists, and the job market
for I/O psychologists is expected to grow over the next several decades. Most modern I/O
approach to psychology
taken by most I/O
psychologists that psychologists consider themselves Scientist-Practitioners, an approach to psychology
emphasizes their dual roles
as both creating scientific that emphasizes the dual roles of psychologists as both creators of scientific knowledge
knowledge and using that
knowledge to solve real- and users of that knowledge to solve real-world problems. Our discussion of I/O
psychology now turns from a focus on the historical roots of the discipline to a more in-
depth discussion of specific and more current topics within personnel, organizational, and
Box: A Real Want Ad for an I/O Psychologist
Position: I/O Consultant
Experience Desired: Open
Degree Level Desired: MA/MS
When Available: Open
The Consultant position is a critical role within the professional services team requiring both consulting and
industrial organizational psychology skills. Successful Consultants are able to work on multiple client
projects while coordinating with various internal departments and external clients and maintaining a high
level of customer service and quality. Successful Consultants will also be expected to have strong inter-
personal, analytical, problem-solving and report development skills, enabling them to develop and deliver
outstanding value to clients. The position is based at corporate headquarters, but will require some travel to
customer locations, expected to be no more than 30% of the time.
• Developing and delivering quality projects, including job analyses, solutions and validation studies.
• Acting as an internal support to Sales and Professional Services team members.
• Contributing to the on-going development of intellectual property and best practices by identifying new
opportunities, collecting data and developing thought leadership content.
The ideal candidate will have relevant applied I-O experience and superior inter-personal and written
communication skills. You must have an ability to lead and adapt to change, to work effectively with people
from different backgrounds and cultures and have a strong customer focus. A professional and fun outlook
to achieve individual, team and company goals is a must as well as a strong drive for results!
Masters degree in I-O Psychology or closely related field is required. Strong knowledge of MS Office
applications and SPSS or similar statistical packages is also required.
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2003
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Job analysis: a detailed What is the best way to match workers to jobs? I/O psychologists have been
description and analysis of
a job that results in a conducting research to answer this question for some time. According to I/O
complete list of what needs
to be done, the conditions
psychologists, the process of matching workers to jobs should begin with a thorough job
under which the work must
be performed, and the
knowledge, skills, and analysis. A job analysis is a detailed description and analysis of a job that results in a
abilities that an employee
needs to perform the work complete list of what needs to be done (i.e., job-related tasks), the conditions under which
the work must be performed (i.e., the work environment), and the knowledge, skills, and
abilities that an employee needs to perform the work successfully.
Some jobs are relatively easy to analyze. For example, Frederick Taylor was
interested in selecting employees to shovel coal into a furnace in a steel mill. Taylor
identified one job-related task; the employee was expected to repeatedly get scoops of
coal from the coal bin and throw them into a hot furnace. The work environment
consisted of extremely hot temperatures and 10-hour days. To perform the work
successfully, employees needed the ability to withstand the heat, at least a moderate
amount of physical strength, a great deal of endurance, and the willingness to work at a
repetitive task for several hours. Other jobs, especially complex jobs such as brain
surgeon and CEO, are extremely difficult to analyze. However, the goal of the job
analysis is the same for both simple and complex jobs: to specifically state what needs to
be done, the nature of the work, and the type of individual who can perform the work
The job analysis is useful in the process of selecting employees for several
reasons. First, the job analysis results can be used to write a job description. A typical job
description states the job title, states the nature of the work to be performed, lists the
most common tasks performed in the job, and provides a narrative description of the job
holder’s responsibilities. Job descriptions are often used when advertising available
positions and usually discussed with job applicants during employment interviews. A
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second use for the job analysis is job evaluation. Job evaluation is the process used to
determine how much money to pay each employee. Although I/O psychologists use a
variety of job evaluation methods, the general procedure consist of determining the value
of each job-related task to the organization and then adding up the value of all tasks listed
in the job description to determine the overall value of the position. A third use for the
job analysis is to develop worker specifications. The worker specification is a description
of the minimally acceptable employee who could do the job successfully. The worker
specification is used as an aid in making selection (i.e., hiring) decisions. The basic idea
is for the hiring manager to know what the job requirements are ahead of time so that it is
easier to identify those applicants who meet the requirements. In other words, it is easier
to pick the best job applicants if you know what you are looking for in advance.
Sometimes, whether an applicant meets a job requirement is difficult to
determine based solely on things like job applications, resumes, and face-to-face job
interviews. To help make hiring decisions when applicant qualifications are difficult to
determine, psychological tests are sometimes used to assess job requirements such as
cognitive ability, work ethic, and temperament. Most college students have at least a little
experience with psychological tests. For example, the ACT and SAT are both
psychological tests that are often required for admission to college. The ACT and SAT
are both designed to assess the job requirement known as Academic Preparation for
College for the position of First-Year College Student. Just as a college admission officer
uses the SAT and ACT to select college students, I/O psychologists use psychological
tests to select job applicants.
However, the practice of using psychological tests to make selection decisions is
not without controversy. Many individuals have argued that psychological tests are
biased against certain ethnic groups and that the use of psychological tests to make
selection decisions is discriminatory. Partly in response to these criticisms and also to
prevent the misuse of psychological tests, I/O psychologists have helped to develop legal
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and professional standards for the use of psychological tests. These standards specify
how tests can be used, how the tests should be administered, and how to avoid using tests
in an unfair or discriminatory manner.
In fact, I/O psychologists are so concerned about the use and misuse of
psychological tests that many of them devote their whole careers to conducting research
on psychological tests. The study of the measurement properties of psychological tests,
Psychometrics: the study also known as psychometrics (from the root words “psycho” = mental and “metric” =
of the measurement
properties of psychological measurement), has increased in importance in recent years as more and more decisions
that affect the course of an individual’s life are now made on the basis of test scores. Test
scores in the broadest sense are used to determine the course of an individual’s education
and grades, to determine the course of medical treatments, to determine who gets a
particular job or a promotion, to determine who is guilty and not guilty, and even who
can borrow money from the bank.
Because psychological test scores are so important in our society, I/O
psychologists recommend only using psychological tests that produce consistent scores.
A test that produces inconsistent scores is like a tape measure that is printed on an elastic
band. Imagine the difficulty that carpenters would face if tape measures were printed on
an elastic band (i.e., were unreliable). One carpenter needing a board that measures 8 foot
2 inches might stretch the tape tight when measuring a particular board and conclude that
the board is too short. Another carpenter might measure the same board with little tension
in the tape and conclude the board is too long. Reliability refers to the consistency of a
measurement. Psychological tests, like tape measures, must be reliable in order to be
useful and fair.
Psychological tests must also have validity in order to be useful and fair.
Validity refers to the meaningfulness of a measurement. I/O psychologists are usually
most interested in a specific type of validity known as predictive validity. Predictive
validity addresses the issue of what a test score means for job performance. You could
think of predictive validity like a crystal ball. A valid test score tells me something about
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a job applicant’s future performance; those with a high score on the test are generally
expected to have higher job performance than those who score low on the test. The
situation is very similar to admission for college. The college admissions officer looks
into the crystal ball (SAT and ACT scores) and predicts which students will be successful
in college. Sometimes, the prediction is wrong on an individual basis, but the college
admission officer finds that he/she has a higher degree of accuracy when using the crystal
ball than when not using it. I/O psychologists recommend only using tests that show a
clear relationship with future performance on the job.
A valid test must also be fair in the sense that it should give everyone the same
chance of passing. Imagine the controversy that would result if the SAT or ACT
contained items about how to use bras, lipstick, eyeliner, and high-healed shoes. Males
taking the test might complain that the test is invalid (i.e., unfair). Females might have an
advantage on the test due to their greater familiarity with these products. If a male failed
these test items, we could not be sure if he failed because of low academic ability or
because he was just unfamiliar with the products mentioned. I/O psychologists spend a
great deal of time making sure that employment tests are valid for many different groups.
The idea is to make the crystal ball (i.e., the test) as clear and unbiased as possible so that
I/O psychologists can more accurately predict the future performance of each job
Once I/O psychologists have determined that a test is both reliable and valid,
Utility analysis: a they must often convince business leaders and other decision makers both to pay for the
procedure used by I/O
psychologists to translate
test and to use it during the hiring process. One problem that I/O psychologists often
the cost and benefits of
alternatives such as confront is the differences in language between psychologists and business leaders. The
whether or not to use a test
in the hiring process into language of business is dollars and cents, profit and loss. The language of psychologists
dollars and cents.
consists of theories, data, and statistics. I/O Psychologists help to cross this language
barrier with a procedure known as utility analysis. Utility analysis consists of translating
the cost and benefits of different business alternatives into dollars and cents. When they
talk to business leaders about starting to use psychological tests when selecting
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employees, I/O psychologists will use utility analysis to compare how much money the
company currently makes without using the test and how much money the company
would be expected to make if a testing program were implemented. If implementing a
testing program would result in greater profit for the company, then the business leaders
have a relatively easy decision to make.
While the number of psychological tests continues to grow, most tests that are
used by I/O psychologists fall into a relatively small number of categories. I/O
psychologists use ability tests to measure talents such as cognitive ability, physical
strength, and manual dexterity. Although abilities can be developed over time, they are
typically very stable characteristics of the individual; you cannot acquire abilities
overnight. Students are usually most familiar with achievement tests, because these are
the type of tests that are used to measure how well students have mastered the content in
a particular course or training experience. Interest inventories measure how much you
like to do a variety of tasks and then match your interests to the interest of others in a
particular field. The idea behind interest inventories is that if accountants generally like
to do crossword puzzles, plan finances, and play chess, and you share these same
interests, then you might enjoy accounting as a career. Many colleges and universities
offer their students the opportunity to take interest inventories through the advising or
student counseling office. Check with your instructor to see if this option is available to
you. A fourth type of tests that I/O psychologists frequently use is the assessment center.
Assessment centers actually consist of a large variety of ability, achievement, and interest
tests that are administered over the course of a day or several days. In addition, the
examinee often participates in a variety of activities such as group discussions, job
simulations, role playing exercises, and interviews. The I/O psychologist uses the results
of the assessment center to construct a comprehensive picture of each individual’s
strengths and weaknesses in relation to a specific job.
One final note about psychological testing. There is a strong trend toward
computerization of tests and even making tests available over the Internet. I/O
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psychologists are still studying the implications of this trend, but it is expected to
revolutionize the psychological testing industry.
Many if not all organizations use face-to-face interviews as part of the selection
process. It is very rare for a person to be hired without at least a brief interview (Berry,
2003). If you have ever gone for a job interview, you know that interviews can be an
anxious and confusing ordeal. However, many job applicants are surprised to learn that
most interviewers are also anxious and confused by the interviewing process. Interviews
are a great way to gather information about job applicants, to ask for clarification about
the applicant’s qualifications, and to assess an individual’s oral communication skills.
However, a variety of problems are built into the interview process, especially if you take
the view of an I/O psychologist and consider the interview a special kind of
Most people would agree that tests such as the SAT and ACT would be unfair if
bonus points were awarded on the tests for being physically attractive, belonging to a
certain ethnic group, or smiling warmly while taking the test. Most people would also
agree that there was a problem if one test administrator had a special set of questions and
passed everyone, while a second test administrator had a different set of questions and
failed everyone. Unfortunately, employment interviews (a special type of test) are subject
to exactly these same problems and biases. I/O psychologists have shown that job
applicants who are physically attractive, belong to the same ethnic group as the
interviewer, and who smile warmly during the interview have a much greater chance of
“passing” the interview test (Berry, 2003). In addition, some interviewers ask very easy
questions and recommend almost everyone for hire, but other interviewers ask very tough
questions and rarely recommend anyone for hire.
I/O psychologists have spent a great deal of time looking for ways to improve
the employment interview. The most promising method requires that employment
interviews be structured much like an oral examination. In a structured interview, the
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interview questions are written ahead of time and focus specifically on the job
requirements. The questions are asked in the same way and in the same order for each job
interview, and job applicants score points by giving superior answers to the questions.
Research has shown that structured interviews result in less bias, are less influenced of
irrelevant factors such as physical beauty, and are much more accurate in predicting who
will be a successful employee.
I/O psychologists have clearly shown that unstructured interviews are not very
effective. So why don’t more employers use structured interview techniques? A
combination of factors contributes to employers’ continued reliance on unstructured
interviews. Some of these factors include a lack of knowledge about the limitations of
unstructured interviews, the difficulty associated with developing structured interviews,
and the expense associated with training interviewers to use structured interviews.
A discussion about the process of hiring and promoting employees would be
incomplete without mentioning the legal requirements that employers must satisfy. The
development of many employment laws can be traced back to those now famous words
written by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths
to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Ever since these words became part of
the national consciousness, Americans have debated the meaning of equality. Does equal
mean that everyone should get the same rewards, regardless of their contributions? Does
equal mean that everyone should have the same opportunities, even if they have not
earned them? Should equality be extended to cover women as well as men? Should
equality be extended to cover individuals from different ethnic groups?
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Box: Getting Hired Based on a Bad Interview
What should you do if you are asked to give an unstructured interview as part of the hiring process? One
approach is to use your knowledge about the limitations of unstructured interviews to your advantage. Listed below are
common problems with unstructured interviews and suggestions on how to use them to improve your chances of getting
The Halo Effect is the tendency of interviewers to allow one prominent piece of information about a job
applicant to set the tone for the whole interview. Halo can be positive, such as when an unqualified applicant is given
high ratings because he/she is physically attractive, or negative such as when a qualified applicant is given low ratings
because he/she has a criminal history. Advice to the applicant: Help the interviewer choose which prominent piece of
information to focus on by emphasizing your most positive qualities first.
The Similarity Effect is the tendency of interviewers to prefer applicants who are like themselves. Male
interviewers have a slight tendency to hire male applicants, black interviewers have a slight tendency to hire black
applicants, and Harvard graduates have a slight tendency to hire Harvard graduates. Although the tendency to prefer
applicants who are similar to the interviewer may work against some applicants, smart job applicants make the similarity
effect work for them. Any two people always have something in common. The applicant’s job is to simply notice the
similarities and carefully call them to the interviewer’s attention. Advice to applicants: Listen to the interviewer, look
around the interviewer’s office, and ask questions until you find something that you both share in common, and then
bring the similarity to the interviewer’s attention.
The Framing Effect is the tendency of interviewers to judge a piece of information as positive or negative
depending on the context with which it is presented. For example, skydiving is an unattractive sport if you know that 10
percent of all skydivers have a fatal accident. However, skydiving is an attractive sport if 90 percent of all skydivers
never have a serious accident. The same piece of information can be presented or framed in many different ways.
Advice to applicants: Always present your faults with a positive twist. If I like to sleep until 10:30 everyday, I would tell the
interviewer that I like to work late into the night. If I have a hard time with mathematics, I would tell the interviewer that I
am a verbal thinker who would work well with someone who specializes in mathematics.
Negative Salience is the tendency of interviewers to pay more attention to and more time probing for reasons
to disqualify the applicant than reasons to hire the applicant. In other words, people generally pay more attention to
negative information than positive information. By the time you reach the interview stage of the application process, the
interviewer has already decided if you meet the minimum qualifications necessary to perform the job. The interview is
often designed as the last step in the application process to eliminate some applicants from further consideration. It is
important to remember that what you don’t say in an interview is more important than what you do say. If the interviewer
asks you about the worst part of your last job, do not take the bait. Advice to applicants: Do not talk badly about your
former employers or co-worker. Never dwell on the negative and avoid making negative comments if at all possible.
Every word from your mouth should be a positive reflection on your qualifications and positive attitude.
Final advice to applicant: Relax! Nervousness is contagious; try to make your interviewer feel at ease so that
he/she will feel comfortable hiring you. Good Luck!
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The gist of this debate hinges on the distinction between equality of opportunity
and equality of outcomes. Equal opportunity suggests that every person should have
access to the same educational, employment, and training experiences regardless of their
station in life. Equal outcomes suggests that every person should receive the same
amount of financial and personal rewards for the same contribution to society. The tricky
part of this debate lies in the fact that if some people receive more outcomes (such as
money) then they will be in a better position to take advantage of new opportunities than
those who receive less. Likewise, people who take advantage of more opportunities (such
as education) are likely to receive a greater share of outcomes in the long run. Most of the
laws that govern employment are designed to insure equal opportunity, but a few laws
(such as the Equal Pay Act) are designed to insure equal outcomes. While this debate is
important for philosophical reasons, the outcome of this debate also has very real
consequences for all Americans.
For most of its history, the United States has denied equal opportunity to large
numbers of its residents. African-Americans and other minority groups were prevented
from taking advantage of many educational, employment, and political opportunities
until very recent times. Historically, women have also been denied access to education
and employment opportunities. Several landmark legislative, judicial, and executive
actions in the 1960s helped to address the most glaring examples of unfairness. However,
some individuals believe that these actions did not go far enough, and the success of
women and minorities in securing a legal right to equal opportunity has led to charges of
unfairness by other groups. Groups such as older employees, disabled employees,
childless employees, homosexual employees, and white male employees have all alleged
unfairness and/or discrimination in the decades since the 1960s. Table 1 provides a list of
some of the most important laws that govern employment in the United States. Based on
the continuing debate about equal opportunity and equal outcomes, this list can be
expected to grow and change for years to come.
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Table 1: Major Laws Governing Employment Practices
Law or Statute Explanation
5 Amendment to the Requires due process under the law. It gives employees the right to a legal hearing in
Constitution some instances of dispute with employers.
13 Amendment to the Originally designed to abolish involuntary servitude and slavery, this law has been
Constitution interpreted to include a restriction on some forms of racial discrimination in employment.
14 Amendment to the Requires equal protection and fair treatment under the law and has been interpreted to
Constitution include employment.
Equal Pay Act of 1963 Requires equal pay for equal work.
Protects against employment discrimination by race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
Equal Rights Act of 1964
Established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as an enforcement agency.
Age Discrimination in Protects against employment discrimination by age; it is specifically designed to protect
Employment Act of 1967 workers who are aged 40 to 65.
Immigration Reform and Protects legal immigrants from employment discrimination and makes it against the law to
Control Act of 1986 hire illegal immigrants.
Americans with Disabilities
Prohibits employment discrimination against disabled individuals.
Act of 1990
Updates and extends earlier civil rights legislation to protect American workers employed
Civil Rights Act of 1991
in foreign branches of American companies from employment discrimination.
Various Judicial Orders,
Court Rulings, Executive Establish a wide variety of additional limits and responsibilities for different industries and
Orders, Agency Policies, employers such as affirmative action goals, employment rights, and local minimum
State Laws, and Local wages.
Of course, just because a person is hired using legal means does not mean that
he/she can do the job. Most, if not all, jobs require that employees receive some training
before they will be able to perform the job successfully. I/O psychologists are intimately
Training: a structured involved in training employees to do their jobs. Training is defined as a structured
learning process designed
to eliminate a specific learning process that is designed to eliminate a specific deficit in job-related skills. Many
deficit in job-related skills
by providing each trainee students have trouble distinguishing between education and training. Training is designed
the opportunity to develop
at least a minimum level of to address a specific gap in skills and often shoots for a minimum level of competence.
Education, in contrast, aims at providing a broad background of information and often
shoots for mastery of an entire content domain. It may be helpful to think of education as
pouring the concrete foundation of a large building: you want to be sure that the
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foundation can hold the weight of the building so you build it stronger and deeper than
will ever be needed. If education is like a foundation, then training is a lot like crack
filler. Training fills up a specific deficit (i.e., a crack) and you use just enough training to
get the job done. At the end of the day, a lot of training programs added together would
look like an education, and a single element of education would look a lot like a training
program. Table 2 describes some of the most common training methods used by I/O
Table 2: Common Training Methods
On-the-job Training (OJT) The trainee begins performing the job immediately under the supervision of a more
experienced employee or trainer.
Lectures Information is presented to trainees by speaking to them.
Vestibule training A separate workstation is set up so that the trainee can practice the job without disrupting
the production of other workers.
Job Rotation The trainee learns a variety of positions through OJT over an extended period of time. Job
rotation is designed to give the trainee a greater appreciation for the overall process and
to improve the flexibility of the workgroup.
Apprentice training The trainee works under the supervision of a more experienced and skilled worker for an
extended period of time. Initially, the trainee only performs routine tasks with the goal of
learning the ropes and making the experienced employee more productive. Over time as
the skill level of the trainee improves, he or she is given progressively more responsibility
until eventually taking on the responsibility for a new apprentice.
Programmed Instruction The trainee works through a series of manuals, booklets, or computer programs at his/her
own pace by completing mastery tests at each stage of the process.
Simulators The real-life aspects of the job are reproduced in an artificial environment to allow the
trainee to practice expensive or dangerous procedures.
Performance appraisal: Once a job applicant is hired and trained to do the job, I/O psychologists become
the evaluation of an
employee’s performance of very interested in performance appraisal. Performance appraisal is the evaluation of an
job-related tasks; it usually
involves a formal rating by
employee’s performance of job-related tasks; it usually involves a formal rating by the
the employee’s immediate
employee’s immediate supervisor. I/O psychologists are interested in performance
appraisal for a very practical reason; they want to know if they have done a good job. If
the I/O psychologist has diligently documented the job requirements in the job analysis,
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carefully used psychological tests and other measures to isolate job applicants with the
best chance of doing a good job, used a structured job interview to eliminate applicants
who do not seem to be a good fit with the company, and conducted a thorough training
program with new employees, then all of the new employees should be doing an
excellent job. Of course, sometimes bad employees still get hired, sometimes good
employees have circumstances in their personal lives that disrupt job performance, and
sometimes people intentionally do a poor job. In these circumstances, I/O psychologists
try to systematically determine the reasons for poor job performance and correct the
What is the best way to design, manage, and lead businesses and other
organizations? The people who search for the answer to this question using the tools of
science are organizational psychologists. Organizational psychology is the branch of
I/O psychology that is concerned with issues such as job satisfaction, motivation,
organizational climate and culture, leadership, communication, and other social processes
in organizations. While the focus of personnel psychology is how to best match people to
positions, the focus of organizational psychology is how to best direct, coordinate, and
facilitate the activities of multiple employees once they are on the job.
You may recall from earlier in this chapter that organizational psychology grew
out of Elton Mayo’s discovery that people will work harder and more efficiently if they
are treated with respect. Mayo’s work created a debate within I/O psychology about the
best way to manage organizations. You may also recall that one side of the debate
believed in a Theory X approach to management (i.e., that employees are lazy and do not
like to work). Advocates of the Theory X approach felt that managers should be bossy,
strict, and vigilant. In contrast, advocates of a Theory Y approach to management
believed that workers enjoy the responsibility of making their own decisions. According
to Theory Y, managers should take a hands-off approach and let employees manage
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themselves. In reality, both approaches have good points and bad points. Theory X
generally makes it easier for managers to plan ahead and keep things running with
machine-like efficiency, but it also makes most employees unhappy. Theory Y generally
makes the employees happy and loyal, but it makes planning very difficult and also
makes it possible for employees to take advantage of the company by choosing to do
While the debate over Theory X and Theory Y continued, an I/O psychologist
from the United Kingdom asked a very interesting question: What if a manager makes
sure the work gets done (Theory X) and treats the employees with respect (Theory Y)?
This psychologist’s name was Eric Trist, and the approach to management that he
recommended came to be known as socio-technical systems theory. Briefly, Socio-
theory: an approach to technical systems theory suggests that all organizations are comprised of two things: the
management that suggests
that all organizations are people and the work that needs to be accomplished. According to the theory, the best way
comprised of two things:
the people and the work
that needs to be to run an organization is to find a compromise between Theory X, which emphasizes the
work, and Theory Y, which emphasizes the people. As we will see in the remainder of
this section on organizational psychology, Trist’s ideas helped to end the debate between
Theory X and Theory Y.
Motivation and Job Design
Why do some people work hard and have high levels of motivation while others
do just enough to keep from getting fired? I/O psychologists have proposed a variety of
answers to this question, and we will briefly consider three of the most influential
perspectives. The first perspective is based on the idea that human beings are born with a
number of needs (e.g., need for food, need for water) and develop several additional
needs through learning and experience (e.g., need for respect, need to belong). Needs
theory, as this perspective is usually called, suggests that people will work hard at jobs
that meet their needs and slack off on jobs that fail to meet their needs.
Several psychologists have developed their own theories based on the needs
perspective, but Abraham Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy is clearly the most influential need
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theory. Maslow proposed that all human needs fall into one of five hierarchical
categories: survival needs, security needs, social needs, esteem needs, and self-
actualization needs (see Figure 2). According to Maslow, the needs at the bottom of the
hierarchy must be met before people become interested in satisfying the needs at the top
of the hierarchy. Based on this theory, employees will work hard at a job until it meets
their survival needs (i.e., until they earn enough money to survive). Once the employees’
survival needs are met, they will only work hard on a job that meets their security needs
(i.e., they work for job security). Once the employees’ security needs are met, they will
only work hard on a job that meets their social needs (i.e., they might want to talk while
they work). The only way, according to Maslow, to make someone work hard all of the
time is for the job to meet all of their needs and meet those needs in the order of the
hierarchy. One final word about Maslow’s theory: notice that people are only interested
in money when they are concerned about survival needs (Theory X), but they become
interested in responsibility and growth once their needs for survival and security are met
Figure 3. Maslow’s
Hierarchy of Needs
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The second perspective on worker motivation that we will discuss is known as
Job Characteristics Theory. Job Characteristics Theory proposes that some people do not
work hard at their jobs because the jobs themselves are tedious and boring. Just consider
the example of shoveling coal into a furnace from earlier in this chapter. Shoveling coal
is strenuous, repetitive, and boring. In addition, the person shoveling coal has to work
long days in high temperatures. In order to motivate someone to shovel coal, Job
Characteristics Theory suggests that managers alter characteristics of the work to make
them more appealing. For example, the manager could rotate responsibility for shoveling
coal among many employees; the person who shovels the coal could also be given
responsibility for ordering the coal shipments; the company could buy an inexpensive fan
to help cool the person who shovels the coal; and the people who shovel the coal could
work in pairs to keep each other company. Again, notice that the recommendations of Job
Characteristics Theory point to a compromise between the needs of the worker (Theory
Y) and the need of the company to get the work done (Theory X).
The third perspective on worker motivation that we will briefly review is Goal
Setting Theory (Locke & Latham, 2002). The Goal Setting Theory model of motivation
proposes that simply having goals is motivating. Goals serve several motivational
purposes such as directing workers’ attention, focusing effort, encouraging persistence,
and facilitating problem solving. Of course, some goals are more motivating than others.
In general, research on goals has shown that goals that are Specific, Measurable,
Attainable, Relevant, and Time sensitive encourage the highest level of performance.
These SMART goals are even more motivating if managers and employees both
participate in the goal setting process.
Job Satisfaction and Psychological Climate
I/O psychologists make a distinction between motivation and job satisfaction.
While motivation refers to the effort, energy, and persistence with which an employee
performs a job, job satisfaction refers to how the employee feels about his or her job.
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Clearly, if the employee really likes everything about the job then he/she has positive job
satisfaction, and if the employee absolutely hates everything about the job then he/she
has negative job satisfaction. In reality, most people have some things they like about
their jobs and some things they dislike about their jobs. Therefore, I/O psychologists
typically make a further distinction between global job satisfaction and facets of job
satisfaction. Global job satisfaction is used to refer to an overall evaluation of the job,
while facets of job satisfaction are more specific such as satisfaction with pay,
satisfaction with supervision, and satisfaction with promotion opportunities. I/O
psychologists are interested in job satisfaction because it has important implications for
the company and for the individual. For example, people who are dissatisfied with their
jobs experience higher stress and poorer health (Ivancevich, 1985), are more likely to quit
and to sabotage the company (Bolin & Heatherly, 2001), and are more likely to dislike
their next job (George, 1989).
Furthermore, individuals who are dissatisfied with their jobs can impact other
employees. The constant complaints and unhappiness of dissatisfied employees can
create a negative psychological climate for everyone else. I/O psychologists use the term
psychological climate to refer to the shared perceptions of employees about the work
environment. In other words, psychological climate is what the employees, as a group,
think about the work environment.
As an illustration of the relationship between job satisfaction and psychological
climate, consider the following story. Sally is dissatisfied with her job so she complains
all of the time. Sally complains to her co-worker, Steve, that the lighting in the building is
depressing. Steve never really noticed the lighting before, but now that Sally called it to
his attention, he agrees that it really is depressing. Later that day, Sally complains about
the lights to Tim, and Steve complains about the lights to Terry. Now, the company has
four dissatisfied employees with a shared perception (i.e., a psychological climate) that
the lighting in the building is depressing.
One of the most interesting things about psychological climate is that the impact
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of these shared perceptions on employee morale and productivity can be devastating,
even if they are not true. If the employees all believe that the lighting in the building is
depressing, then they are much more likely to feel depressed. If the employees all share a
belief that the company pays unfair wages, then the employees are much more likely to
quit, even if the wages are actually higher than the industry average.
The reason that psychological climate has such a large impact on employee
behavior lies in the fact that human beings are social animals. As a general rule, people
like to communicate and be around other people. We often socialize with others in the
workplace, and the behavior of other people makes up a large portion of most work
environments. Human beings are also active processors of information, especially social
information. In effect, we often allow ourselves to be influenced by other employees’
perceptions because these perceptions contain social information that suggests how we
should behave. If everyone at work complains about the lighting in the building, the
complaints suggest that the appropriate social response is to be unhappy with the lighting.
Scientists who have studied other social animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas,
elephants, wolves, lions, and even chickens have noticed that one animal in each of these
groups, known as Alpha, played a dominant role. The dominant animal had special
privileges, such as the right to eat first, and special responsibilities, such as protecting the
group from predators and competitors. Of course, human groups, like groups of other
social animals, are also characterized by the emergence of a dominant individual. In
human groups, the dominant individual is called the leader.
What exactly is leadership? I/O psychologists have typically taken one of three
major approaches to defining leadership. The first approach, known as the behavioral
approach to leadership, focuses on what leaders do. In a series of studies that are now
known as the Ohio State Leadership Studies (Stogdill & Croons, 1957), psychologists
discovered that leaders do two very important things. Leaders make sure that things get
done. They do this by assigning tasks to other group members and supervising the work,
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a class of behaviors known as initiating structure. In addition, leaders also help to insure
good relationships between other members of the group. They do this by mediating
conflicts and enforcing group norms, a class of behaviors known as consideration. So,
according to the Ohio State Leadership Studies, leadership consists of all of the behaviors
necessary to get the group’s work done (Theory X) and to keep the group members happy
A second major approach to leadership is known as the trait approach. The trait
approach to leadership attempts to define leadership by referring to characteristics of the
person in the leadership role. According to the trait approach, leaders should be
extraverted (i.e., have an outgoing personality), be high in the need to achieve difficult
goals and the need to exert power, be charismatic (i.e., have a magnetic personality), be
emotionally stable, be conscientious, and be optimistic. In other words, leadership is
having the personal characteristics that make it easier to initiate structure and show high
levels of consideration to other group members.
The third major approach to leadership is known as the contingency approach.
The contingency approach to leadership defines leadership in reference to the group’s
situation. According to the contingency approach, leadership is not a specific behavior or
a personality trait. Instead, leadership is being able to anticipate and adjust the group’s
behavior to the needs of the particular circumstances. For example, if I took my family
for a canoe ride down the river on a sunny day, then I would lead by anticipating the
needs of my family group. I would be sure to provide life preservers, lunch, and planned
rest periods. If my family group began to argue (as my children normally do), I would
lead by mediating the conflict and trying to prevent further arguing (perhaps by sitting
between the children). If the canoe began to sink, I would lead by checking to make sure
life preservers were on tight, ordering the children to start bailing out the water, and
getting my wife to help paddle toward the shore. Notice that while the contingency
approach to leadership still requires the leader to initiate structure and to show
consideration to other group members, the emphasis in this approach is on the flexible
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adaptation of the leader to the demands of the situation.
Box: Are Leaders Born, Made, or Self-Made?
In the animal world, the only real qualification for leadership is the ability to be more physically dominant and
aggressive than the other animals in the group. Since each individual animal’s physical size and aggressiveness are
genetically determined traits for many species, then a strong argument could be made that leaders in the animal
kingdom are just born to lead. Does that mean that some humans are also born to lead?
A lot of anecdotal stories suggest that some leaders are born to lead. For example, Napolean rose from
obscurity to lead one of the most feared armies on Earth by the time he was in his late twenties. George Patton, Martin
Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and Margaret Thatcher all seemed destined to lead from a very early age. In
addition, many anecdotal stories support the idea that leadership is learned or gained by experience. For example,
Theodore Roosevelt was a sick and weak little boy. However, through exercise and study, he built himself into a
president that most historians agree was one of the most hearty, effective, and aggressive. Leaders like Michael Jordan,
Vince Lombardi, and Winston Churchill also had frequent early failures that helped to shape the course of their lives.
Although anecdotal stories are very interesting and persuasive, psychologists rely on research evidence to
answer questions about the origins of leadership. Research studies generally confirm the idea that leaders are both born
and made. Some people are born with natural gifts that make them more likely to assume a leadership role later in life.
Inborn characteristics such as intelligence and high energy levels are closely associated with leadership. However,
leaders must also develop social skills, tenacity, decision-making, and knowledge in order to lead effectively. In addition,
extensive research shows that even if you are not born with leadership gifts, you can develop these gifts through
education, exercise, and self-study.
How can we improve human productivity and reduce human mistakes and
errors? Human-factors psychology is the branch of I/O psychology that is concerned
with the multiple factors that influence human performance, efficiency, errors, and
injuries and the relationship between these factors and the design of tools, equipment, and
machines. In a nutshell, I/O psychologists are interested in making tools and machines
safer and easier to use. Anyone who has ever tried to change the radio station in a strange
car while driving, tried to set the time on a digital watch, or struggled with electronic
hotel room keys can appreciate the difficulty that can be created by poorly designed
machines. However, human-factors psychology is also concerned with life-and-death
design problems. Human-factors psychology developed during World War I to help
design the control panels for tanks, planes, and ships. Today, everything from sports
equipment to video game controllers is influenced by human-factors psychology.
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While the field is quite broad, I/O psychologists who specialize in human-
factors psychology are especially interested in human-machine systems. Whenever a
human being and a machine must work together to accomplish a task, the interaction that
takes place is known as a human-machine system. Human-machine systems are common
in our modern technological society. In fact, I am part of a human-machine system right
now as I use this word processor to write this chapter.
Additional examples of human-machine systems include ATM’s, VCR/DVD
players, cars, and lawnmowers. I/O psychologists often study human-machine systems to
discover sources of tension, injury, error, and other difficulties. Once these difficulties
are identified, I/O psychologists can test ways of improving the system.
Over the years, I/O psychologists have isolated a number of principles that
should be used when designing human-machine systems. A well-designed human-
machine system is intuitive for the human (i.e., it makes logical sense such as an on-off
light switch), provides timely information and feedback (i.e., it lets the human know
something is wrong while the problem can still be fixed such as a low fuel warning light
on an automobile), and helps manage the user’s attention (i.e., it gets you to pay attention
only to what is important such as spell-checker that highlights questionable words).
Another area of great interest to I/O psychologists is workplace design.
Workplace injuries such as carpal-tunnel syndrome, eye-strain, and back injuries are
extremely common in the United States. I/O psychologists have discovered that many of
these problems can be reduced or eliminated by making small changes in the workplace
environment. Minor changes such as making tables and chairs adjustable, using natural
light, improving ventilation, and wearing a lift belt can save companies large sums of
money by reducing accident claims and absenteeism. Workplace design can also make
employees happier, less prone to illness, and more productive.
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Box: Control Dependency: Driving and QWERTY
Have you ever purchased an upgrade to your favorite software and found that the new version was harder to
use than the old version? Have you ever driven someone else’s car and been unable to figure out how to turn on your
headlights or the windshield wipers? If these experiences sound at all familiar, then you have experienced control
dependency first hand.
Control dependency refers to the tendency for people to have trouble switching from one method of controlling
a human-machine system to another. Control dependence is generally a positive development when the human-
machine system is stable, because it allows the human being to operate the machine system at a much higher rate of
efficiency and accuracy. However, once you become proficient at using a particular machine system, it is very difficult to
change, even if the change is only to a new version of the old system. The result is that once you get used to one
machine system, such as driving your car, it becomes difficult to locate the controls in a strange car. Perhaps the most
common case of control dependency is the standard computer keyboard.
The standard keyboard is known as QWERTY, because the first row of keys begins with those letters.
QWERTY was designed in a time when people were faster than machines. Because the old typewriters were slow and
mechanical, they would jam if people typed too fast. The solution to this problems was to design a keyboard, QWERTY,
that made it virtually impossible to type fast without making a large number of errors. Once people became proficient at
using the QWERTY keyboard, they found it very difficult to switch to a more efficient design. Besides, all of the
typewriters were already built with the QWERTY keyboard and all of the typing instructors were teaching students to
type using the QWERTY keyboard. When people began to switch from typewriters to word processors, they brought
their control dependency on the QWERTY keyboard along with them. If you find it difficult to type or if you make frequent
errors while typing, then QWERTY is doing exactly what it is designed to do, which is to get you to slow down.
Other Branches of Applied Psychology
In addition to I/O psychology, many applied psychologists specialize in using
psychology in exciting areas such as the legal system (forensic psychology), sports (sport
psychology), advertising (consumer psychology), and the military (military psychology).
We will now consider each of these areas in turn.
Forensic psychology: the How do the police and other law enforcement officials use psychology?
branch of applied
psychology that is Forensic psychology is the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the
concerned with the
scientific study and
scientific study and application of psychological principles to issues associated with the
application of psychological
principles to issues
associated with the law, law, the legal system, criminal investigation, criminal profiling, jury decision making,
the legal system, criminal
investigation, criminal and witness evaluation. Forensic psychology is also referred to as the psychology of law,
profiling, jury decision
making, and witness
-- 28 --
criminal psychology, police psychology, and correctional psychology. In addition to
performing research on the legal system and crime, forensic psychologists often serve as
expert witnesses at trials, aid police during criminal investigations, evaluate criminals for
selection: applying the sentencing and parole, and provide advice to lawyers about psychological jury selection.
principles of psychological
science to the task of Psychological jury selection is the application of the principles of psychological science
selecting jury members that
are most likely to return a to the task of selecting jury members that are most likely to return a favorable verdict. A
favorable verdict may be guilty or not guilty depending on whether the forensic
psychologist is working for the defense or for the prosecution.
Many students confuse forensic psychology with forensic science and forensic
psychiatry. Although the fields are closely related with a great deal of overlap, they can
be distinguished based on the training and focus of their practitioners. Forensic
psychologists are trained in the principles of human behavior and focus more on the
behavioral and mental aspect of the legal system. Forensic scientists have extensive
training in chemistry and biology and focus more on the physical evidence at a crime
scene. Forensic psychiatrists are trained in medicine and mental disease and focus more
on the identification, treatment, and prevention of the criminal mind and criminal
Forensic psychology dates back at least to the early 1900s. William Stern
conducted a series of pioneering studies on the accuracy of eyewitness testimony in 1901.
He showed that eyewitness memories are generally inaccurate and can be influenced by
leading questions. Stern briefly showed people a picture of a man with empty hands.
Later, he asked his “witnesses” to recall if they saw the knife in the man’s hand. Most of
the witnesses reported that they remembered a knife even though a knife was not present
in the photograph. Hugo Münsterberg was another pioneer in forensic psychology. In his
book, On the Witness Stand that was published in 1908, Münsterberg foresaw many
modern techniques of criminal investigation including criminal profiling, lie detector
machines, and cognitive interviewing of witnesses.
-- 29 --
Modern day forensic psychologists work in a variety of different settings and
practice in a variety of different forensic specialty areas. Forensic psychologists can be
found testifying in the courtroom, interviewing inmates in prisons, giving detailed
assessments to parolees, administering polygraph tests, teaching in the universities, and
gathering evidence at crime scenes. Some forensic psychologists who specialize in
criminal profiling work in multiple jurisdictions. Their work may require them to travel
to many different regions of the country. Criminal profiling involves the analysis of
Criminal profiling: a
technique that involves the crime scenes and physical evidence in an effort to infer characteristics of the perpetrator.
analysis of crime scenes
and physical evidence in Criminal profilers try to understand the criminal’s motivation, personality, and habits and
an effort to infer
characteristics of the use this understanding to help the police apprehend the offender. Geographic profiling is
a recent advance in criminal profiling in which the locations in a connected series of
crimes are used to predict the most probable area of the perpetrator’s residence (Holmes
& Rossmo, 1996). Forensic psychologist will certainly continue to add to our
understanding of criminal psychology and the law in the future.
Sports psychology: the If you remember back to our discussion in the opening paragraphs of this
branch of applied
psychology that is chapter, I/O psychologists are interested in helping people to be more productive and
concerned with the
scientific study and
efficient, to be safer and more accurate, to be happier and more satisfied, and to get a
application of psychological
principles to issues
associated with sports higher rate of return for their efforts. Sport psychologists pursue these same goals by
performance, sports- helping teams, athletes, coaches, and trainers improve performance in sports and
related safety, and
competition. athletics. Sports psychology is the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with
the scientific study and application of psychological principles to issues associated with
sports management, athletic performance, sports-related safety, and competition.
Although most students have an intuitive grasp of the meaning of the word sport, most
sport psychologists prefer the definition used by Wann (1997). According to Wann, a
sport is any activity that involves power and/or skill, competition, strategy and/or chance,
and that is engaged in for the enjoyment, satisfaction, and/or personal gain of the
-- 30 --
participants and spectators.
Psychologists have been conducting research on sports performance since 1898,
but widespread interest in the systematic study of sports is a recent historical occurrence.
Coleman Roberts Griffith founded the first sport psychology research facility in 1925, but
it closed just a few years later in 1932. Between the 1930s and the early 1960s, relatively
few psychologists showed any interest in sport psychology. However, sport psychology
has grown tremendously since the 1960s, so much in fact that the American
Psychological Association recognized sport psychology as a special area of study in
1987. Today, many professional sports teams, athletic associations, and coaches hire
sport psychologists to boost performance.
You might be wondering if it works. Does hiring a sport psychologist improve a
team’s chance of winning? The short answer to that question is, “Yes!” However, it is
important to realize that sport psychologists work on a wide variety of interesting
research projects, and many of these projects have nothing to do with winning or losing.
For example, sport psychologists are very interested in the decision to participate in
sports in the first place. They ask and answer questions such as: Who plays sports? How
do they choose which sport to play? Are there differences in athletes and non-athletes?
Are there differences in male athletes and female athletes? Sport psychologists are also
interested in how athletes learn to play sports and how they develop skill. They often try
to apply the principles of learning and cognition to sports. In addition, sport psychologists
do research on how to motivate athletes, how to help athletes avoid injury, how to help
athletes recover psychologically from injuries, how to encourage leadership and cohesion
within a team, how to limit fights and hostility between athletes, and even how to limit
fights and hostility between the fans. Finally, sport psychologists are concerned about
winning. They study ways to increase the “home-court advantage” at home and eliminate
it on the road, ways to improve athletes’ focus and teamwork under stress, ways to
improve the accuracy of judges and referees, and ways to get athletes “in the zone” and
keep them there.
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Box: I Think I Can, I Think I Can …
As children, many of us were told the story of The Little Engine That Could. For those of us who are unfamiliar
with the story, it is sufficient to know that the moral of the story was that the Little Engine believed in his own abilities and
visualized his goal. This belief and visualization helped the Little Engine perform a very difficult task successfully.
Surprisingly, sport psychologists have confirmed that belief and visualization really can impact performance. Below are
two examples of ways that you can use belief and visualization to improve your own athletic performance (Sheikh &
If you believe it, you can achieve it (over the course of time). Of course, not just any old belief will do. Sport
psychologists have discovered that athletes fall into three broad categories based on belief. Over-confident athletes
believe that their abilities greatly exceed the difficulty of the task and that superior performance can be taken for granted.
Over-confident athletes are not motivated to practice and often blame mistakes on causes that are external to
themselves such as inaccurate referees or bad teammates. As a result, it takes Over-confident athletes a long time to
improve their performance. In contrast, Under-confident athletes do not like to practice because they doubt their abilities
will be sufficient to perform the task, expect poor performance, and view mistakes as a permanent reflection of their own
incompetence. As a result, Under-confident athletes might actually get worse over time. A third type of athletes are Self-
confident. Self-confident athletes believe that they possess the ability and skill to complete a task successfully. Self-
confident athletes expect good performance and view mistakes as temporary setbacks that can be used as a learning
experience. Self-confident athletes have a high level of motivation to practice because they expect practice to increase
their level of competence. As a result, Self-confident athletes are much more likely to experience rapid and sustained
improvement. The neat thing about being Over-confidence, Under-confidence, or Self-confidence is that it is a choice. By
choosing to develop a realistic picture of their current abilities and an optimistic vision of their future abilities, Self-
confident athletes can actually choose to make the most of practice.
Not all practice has to be physical though. In fact, sport psychologists have discovered that mental practice can
actually be more effective than physical practice. Mental practice is easy to learn and can be conducted anywhere and at
any time. Just begin by relaxing and focusing on your breathing. Make your breath slow, deep, and regular. Next,
carefully imagine the performance situation in detail. Mentally rehearse the tasks necessary for successful performance.
For example, if you want to improve your free throw shooting in basketball, then vividly imagine shooting a series of
successful free throws. Feel the ball in your hands. Smell the atmosphere of the basketball court. Hear the cheering fans
as you slowly bounce the ball. Feel the smooth tension in your legs as you flex and then extend your knees. Notice how
your arms relax on the follow-through. Watch the ball rotate as it travels in a gentle arc. Hear the sudden hush of the
crowd as the ball makes a gentle swish. Experience the emotional reward provided by the cheering fans and the
encouraging high-fives of your teammates. Now, re-run the scene in your imagination over and over. Always use a
positive image, being sure that you make each and every shot. The trick in having a successful mental practice is to
make the image as vivid and compelling as possible. Perhaps you could imagine the color of the ball as bright orange
instead of dull orange. Maybe instead of cheering quietly, the crowd is deafening. Can you mentally turn up the intensity
of the lights? Always include a reward and encouragement in your image. Perhaps the free throw you just made won
your team the championship. Instead of high-fives, maybe the team could carry you off the court. Remember to relax
and keep your breathing slow, deep, and regular. If this is the first time you have tried mental practice, you should be
able to notice an improvement in performance after only one 30-minute session of mental practice.
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Consumer psychology: Can psychology be used to influence and manipulate how people spend their
the branch of applied
psychology that is money? Promotional messages are part of our everyday experience. The goals of these
concerned with the
scientific study and
advertisements are to influence our attitudes and to change our behavior, usually to make
application of psychological
principles to issues
associated with us buy more of a certain product. Consumer psychology is the branch of applied
consumer behavior, and psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application of psychological
principles to issues associated with advertising, marketing, consumer behavior, and
merchandising. Walter Dill Scott, an early consumer psychologist, pioneered the
scientific study of advertising with his 1903 book, The Theory of Advertising. Since that
time, consumer psychologists have accumulated a vast amount on information on the
science of subtle manipulation, also known as advertising. One pair of advertising
researchers noted that over 1,000 new scientific articles are now published on the topic of
advertising each year (Lindzey & Aronson, 1985). Due to the vast amount of advertising
Walter Dill Scott
research, complete coverage of advertising is well beyond the scope of this chapter.
Instead, I will only cover a few of the interesting highlights.
Advertisers use the principles of psychology in a variety of interesting ways to
influence consumer behavior. For example, advertisers have discovered that social
embarrassment is a very effective motivational strategy. Advertisers market products
such as toothpaste, tooth whitener, acne wash, deodorant, and even beer by creating
paranoia in customers about bad breath, yellow teeth, blemishes, body odor, and even
bitter-beer face. Advertisers have also explored the usefulness of subliminal persuasion
(Brean, 1958). Although the findings on subliminal persuasion are somewhat
inconclusive, most researchers agree that subliminal persuasion has a very weak effect on
attitudes and behavior. As a result, most advertisers opt for more direct forms of
advertising simply because it is much more effective than subliminal persuasion. In more
recent times, advertising researchers have explored the effectiveness of placing ads in
new places (e.g., shopping carts, public restrooms, and the bare skin of professional
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boxers). Another recent trend in advertising is the use of coordinated saturation
campaigns. In a saturation campaign, advertisements for products such as movies, fast
food, soft drinks, and cars are linked together with common themes and characters.
Advertisements are then distributed to the public using radio, television, print, and in-
store ads. Disney, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola have mastered the saturation campaign,
using it with great success to simultaneously market hamburgers, animated movies, and
soft drinks to young children.
Military Applications of Psychology
Military psychology: the Can psychology be used as a weapon? Military psychology is the branch of
branch of applied
psychology that is applied psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application of
concerned with the
scientific study and
psychological principles to issues associated with military performance, leadership, and
application of psychological
principles to issues
associated with military morale. Military psychology grew out of the work of a group of early psychologists
and morale. headed by Robert M. Yerkes. Yerkes helped to develop the Army Alpha and Beta
examination to aid in the placement of millions of new soldiers into appropriate military
jobs at the start of WWI. The field has grown since that time and now covers topics as
diverse as assimilating new recruits into the military, training for military occupations,
maintaining troop morale, selecting leaders, improving military intelligence, conducting
psychological warfare operations, eliminating sexual harassment, and engineering
weapons control systems.
Military psychology is a very exciting and growing field. For example, did you
known that military psychologists have developed methods of training animals to assist
in combat operations? During the war with Iraq in 2003, the U.S. military used specially
trained dolphins and seals to help mark floating mines. Military psychologists also help
train dogs to sniff out explosives and other hazards. The psychologist B.F. Skinner
(1960) even experimented with pigeon-guided missiles in WWII. Military psychologists
have also studied the effects of captivity on prisoners of war, interrogation techniques,
and even brain-washing (Watson, 1980). Today, the United States military maintains a
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special psychological operations division that is charged with designing and executing
psychological warfare campaigns.
Training for a Career in Applied Psychology
How does someone become an applied psychologist? The skills needed by an
applied psychologist vary greatly depending on their area of expertise and the role they
will play. I/O psychologists generally work with businesses and therefore need at least a
little background in business and quantitative methods. I/O psychologists who specialize
in human-factors psychology also require additional training in areas such as equipment
design, sensation and perception, and research methodology. Forensic psychologists
generally work with the legal system and normally receive some training in law and
criminal justice. Sport psychologists usually devote a portion of their time to the study of
exercise science, and consumer psychologists need to develop at least a rudimentary
understanding of the principles of marketing. In addition, military psychologists typically
seek out some exposure to the military either through ROTC, enlistment in the armed
services, or employment as a civilian for a military organization.
While all of these careers in applied psychology require specialized training, a
few general statements can be made about the necessary qualifications for a career in
applied psychology. First, most applied psychologists have an advanced degree, either a
master’s or a doctorate, in their specialized field. Second, most applied psychologists
have some training in a closely related field. If you are planning a career in I/O
psychology, perhaps you should minor in business as an undergraduate. For a career in
forensic psychology, you might consider a double major in psychology and pre-law.
Third, all applied psychologists develop a thorough understanding of the principles and
theories of psychological science. If you are an undergraduate considering a career in
applied psychology, you should take lots of psychology courses, seek out opportunities to
get involved with your psychology department, and seek out opportunities to get
experience in your field.
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For Further Exploration on the Web
Organization Web Address
Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology http://www.siop.org
Introduction to Military Psychology http://www.apa.org/about/division/div19intro.html
U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and www-ari.army.mil
U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program http://www.spawar.navy.mil/
The Ultimate Forensic Psychology Database http://flash.lakeheadu.ca/~pals/forensics/
The American Board of Forensic Psychology http://www.abfp.com/
Society for Consumer Psychology http://fisher.osu.edu/marketing/scp/
The Psychology of Consumers http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/
APA Exercise and Sport Psychology http://www.psyc.unt.edu/apadiv47/
Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport http://www.aaasponline.org/index2.html
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Berry, L. M. (2003). Employee Selection. Belmont: CA, Wadsworth.
Bolin, A. & Heatherly, L. (2001). Predictors of employee deviance: The relationship between bad attitudes and bad
behavior. Journal of Business and Psychology, 15(3), 405-418.
Brean, H. (1958). What hidden sell is all about. Life, 31 March, 104-114.
Driskell, J.E., & Olmstead, B. (1989). Psychology and the military: Research applications and trends. American
Psychologist, 44, 43-54.
Freud, S. (1962). Civilization and its discontents: Newly translated from the German and edited by James Strachey.
New York: Norton.
George, J. (1989). Mood and absence. Journal of Applied Psychology, 74, 317-324.
Holmes, R. & Rossmo, D.K. (1996). Geography, Profiling, and Predatory Criminals. In R. Holmes & S. Holmes
(Eds.). Profiling violent crimes. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ivancevich, J.M. (1985). Predicting absenteeism from prior absence and work attitudes. Academy of Management
Journal, 28, 219-228.
James, W. (1890). The principles of psychology. New York: Holt.
Lindzey, G. & Aronson, E. (1985). Handbook of social psychology (3rd Ed.), vol. 2. New York: Random House.
Locke, E. & Latham, G. (2002). Building a practically useful theory of goal setting and task motivation: A 35-year
odyssey. American Psychologist, 57, 705-717.
Münsterberg, H. (1913). Psychology and industrial efficiency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Scott, W. D. (1903). The theory of advertising. Boston: Small, Maynard.
Sheikh, A.A. & Korn, E. R. (Eds.). (1994). Imagery in sports and physical performance. Amityville, NY: Baywood.
Stogdill, R.M. & Coons, A.E. (Eds.). (1957). Leader behavior: Its description and measurement. Columbus, OH:
Bureau of Business Research, Ohio State University.
Skinner, B.F. (1960). Pigeons in a pelican. American Psychologist, 15, 28-37.
Taylor, F. W. (1911). The principles of scientific management. New York: Harper.
Wann, D. L. (1997). Sport psychology. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Watson, P. (1980). War on the mind: The military uses and abuses of psychology. London: Penguin.
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Applied Psychology: the branch of psychology that is concerned with using the principles of psychological science
to solve real-life problems; it consists of industrial/organizational psychology, forensic psychology, sport
psychology, military psychology, and consumer psychology.
Consumer Psychology: the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application
of psychological principles to issues associated with advertising, marketing, consumer behavior, and
Criminal profiling: a criminal investigation technique that involves the analysis of crime scenes and physical
evidence in an effort to infer characteristics of the perpetrator.
Forensic Psychology: the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application
of psychological principles to issues associated with the law, the legal system, criminal investigation and
profiling, jury decision making, and witness evaluation.
Human-Factors Psychology: The branch of industrial/organizational psychology that is concerned with the
multiple factors that influence human performance, efficiency, errors, and injuries and the relationship
between these factors and the design of tools, equipment, and machines.
Industrial/Organizational Psychology: The branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the application of
psychological methods and research findings to the world of work and human performance.
Job Analysis: a detailed description and analysis of a job that results in a complete list of what needs to be done
(i.e., job-related tasks), the conditions under which the work must be performed (i.e., the work
environment), and the knowledge, skills, and abilities that an employee needs to perform the work
Military psychology: the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application
of psychological principles to issues associated with military performance, leadership, and morale.
Organizational Psychology: The branch of industrial/organizational psychology that is concerned with job
satisfaction, motivation, organizational climate and culture, leadership, communication, and other social
processes in organizations.
Performance Appraisal: the evaluation of an employee’s performance of job-related tasks; it usually involves a
formal rating by the employee’s immediate supervisor.
Personnel Psychology: The branch of industrial/organizational psychology that is concerned with employee testing,
selection, placement, retention, performance, and training.
Psychological jury selection: applying the principles of psychological science to the task of selecting a jury that is
most likely to return a favorable verdict.
Psychometrics: the study of the measurement properties of psychological tests.
Scientist-Practitioner: an approach to psychology taken by most I/O psychologists that emphasizes their dual roles
as both creating scientific knowledge and using that knowledge to solve real world problems.
Socio-technical systems theory: an approach to management that suggests that all organizations are comprised of
two things: the people and the work that needs to be accomplished. According to the theory, the best way
to run an organization is to find a compromise between Theory X, which emphasizes the work, and Theory
Y, which emphasizes the people.
Sports psychology: the branch of applied psychology that is concerned with the scientific study and application of
psychological principles to issues associated with sports management, athletic performance, sports-related
safety, and competition.
Theory X: an approach to management (also known as scientific management) that is based on the assumptions that
employees are lazy, do not like to work, and are only motivated by financial rewards. Theory X uses time-
and-motion studies, task analysis, job specialization, assembly lines, pay schedules, and the like to increase
Theory Y: an approach to management that is based on the assumptions that workers enjoy autonomy, are willing
to accept responsibility, and that people are not naturally passive or lazy.
Training: a structured learning process designed to eliminate a specific deficit in job-related skills by providing
each trainee the opportunity to develop at least a minimum level of skill competence.
Utility Analysis: a procedure used by I/O psychologists to translate the cost and benefits of business alternatives
into dollars and cents.
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About the Author
Aaron U. Bolin earned his doctorate in Social and Industrial/Organizational Psychology
in 2002 from Northern Illinois University. He currently teaches in the Department of
Psychology and Counseling at Arkansas State University where he is involved in a
variety of student research projects and also serves as a faculty advisor to the local
Aaron U. Bolin chapter of Psi Chi. Dr. Bolin’s personal research interests include employee theft and
deviance, employee selection and testing, survey research, and personality. Outside of
work, Dr. Bolin enjoys reading and spending time with his family. Dr. Bolin wishes to
acknowledge the insightful comments and constructive criticisms of several anonymous
reviewers. Many of the reviewer comments were used to improve the text of this chapter.
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