What is Organizational Psychology?

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In the world of business, how people within an organization act as members of that organization has an immense influence upon the lives of all individuals. Often, this impact is something that many people do not always consider except when the result is very bad or very good. One example of this occurs when individuals praise a company’s success or express disappointment at instances of corruption within a corporation.

An important step in understanding the influence that the behavior of people within organizations has on the many aspects of people’s lives is learning about organizational psychology. The purpose of this paper is to define organizational psychology, explain that role that research and statistics play in organizational psychology, and finally to describe how organizations can use organizational psychology.

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Defining Organizational Psychology

In the most basic terms, organizational psychology uses the scientific psychological principles and research methodology to study numerous topics that are vital to comprehending human behavior in different organizations. An applied field, organizational psychology is relevant to numerous work settings, applies research in the effort to increase productivity in the workplace. For example, choosing which employees are suited for a certain position within an organization. According to Jex (2008), an organization’s very essence is patterned human behavior, or that individuals have a specific type of structure imposed upon them.

Within an organization, this structure generally relates to the organizations policies, job descriptions, and for most organizations a set of values that employees must follow. No organization can become successful if the individuals within the organization are doing what they want without consciousness of how other individuals’ behavior (Jex, 2008). Members of the organizational psychology field focus mainly upon studying formal organizations; however, this does not mean businesses or profit-making organizations are the only formal organizations of interest.

This is a common misconception among psychologists trained in other areas of psychology. Government agencies, nonprofit agencies, and universities have also been a source of study for organizational psychologists. Another thing to keep in mind is that while organizational psychologists do focus on formal organizations, a preclusion of studies of informal organization processes and informal groups or organizations does not exist. This is because the informal ties of friendship that exist within formal organizations have vital implications for employees (Jex, 2008).

When defining organizational psychology one has to consider the definition of psychology. This is because organizational psychology is a subfield of psychology. Psychology is a scientific study of individual mental processes and human behavior. Jex (2008) states that in order to comprehend the influence of organizational and group level variables, organizational psychologists focus on how the group level variables influence individual behavior, and how individual behavior influences the group level variables.

The major focus upon individual behavior is what sets organizational psychology apart from fields such as sociology, political science, and economics, which try to explain the organizational processes but use less focus on individual behavior. While organizational psychology is a legitimate field of study, this form of psychology is, in fact, a part of the broader field of Industrial/Organizational or I/O psychology (Jex, 2008). Role of Research and Statistics Research and statistics play an important role in organizational psychology.

The design of a scientific investigation by organizational psychologists aids in answering numerous research questions about the behavior of individuals and groups within an organization. Organizational psychologists use research to provide organization decision-makers with information about employee attitudes. Both research and statistical analysis allow organizational psychologists to evaluate intervention designs that may enhance the organizations effectiveness properly (Jex, 2008).

Jex (2008) uses the example of management in an organization needing to know if a particular intervention design will be able to increase employee work group functioning. While research and statistics help facilitate the practice and science of organizational psychology, both statistics and research are also legitimate areas of study within organizational psychology. Organizational psychologists have numerous questions that research and statistics help to answer. No matter what the questions psychologists ask, relevant data needs to be collected.

Four data-collection methods exist, which organizational psychologists use, survey research, experimentation, observational methods, and quasiexperimentation. The one used most often by organizational researchers is survey research. Whichever data-collection method the organizational psychologists chooses, analysis of the data is necessary to ascertain if the data supports the hypotheses or does not support the hypotheses. Organizational researchers are fortunate in that numerous statistical methods exist, which can help make sense of the collected data.

The most frequently used statistical methods used by organizational researchers are descriptive statistics, testing of the mean differences, correlation and regression analysis and Meta analysis. The choice of which statistical technique to use relies upon the nature of the question being asked (Jex, 2008).

Organizational Psychology in Organizations

In many companies, organizational psychology’s main concern is the use of scientific knowledge to increase the organizations’ effectiveness. In recent years, research performed by organizational psychologists has enhanced the understanding of behavior within organizations, such as providing management with insights on group effectiveness, goalsetting processes, and socialization of new employees. The findings from the research have helped guide intervention designs, which help organizational effectiveness (Jex, 2008). Data-collection methods used in organizational psychology, such as simple observation, find common use in retail stores.

One form of this type of simple observation, which the restaurant Burger King uses, is the mystery shop. For this, a mystery shopper goes into a store to measure the customer service quality. This information goes to the decision makers, often the district manager, and restaurant managers who then create ways in which to enhance the quality of customer service when necessary.


Organizational psychology plays a major role in the business world. As noted, this form of psychology is a scientific study of the behavior of individuals and groups within formal organizations.

Organizational researchers and psychologists use research and statistics to observe and make note of the organizational problems occurring and to develop intervention methods that will allow management to solve these problems. With proper research and statistical analysis, organizational psychologist can help management to create and implement intervening programs that will help the organization become more effective.


  1. Jex, S. M. (2008). Organizational psychology: A scientist-practitioner approach. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

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What is Organizational Psychology?. (2018, Jun 13). Retrieved from


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