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Careers in Psychology :  Workplace

Careers in Psychology :  Workplace

Author: Erick Taggart

Identify roles and specializations in workplace psychology.

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Careers in Psychology : Workplace

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Hello, class. So continuing our discussion of the different career specialties in the field of psychology, today we're going to be looking at workplace psychology. Now, workplace psychology is a sort of modern-day approach to psychology that we're seeing, in that it looks at the current environment and attempts to understand and explain the effects that it has on people and their behaviors.

It began as a sort of field that was attempting to understand the conditions of working people in places like factories. But today it's starting to expand even further as technologies has developed over time. And so there are a lot of new areas of research to go into. And it's a field of psychology that's very ripe for further explanation, if that's something you're interested.

Now, workplace psychology is very much an applied research field, which is to say that the research that's being done is used to solve practical problems and improve on the conditions that are currently going on in workplaces. This is opposed to some of the other fields of psychology, where the research that's being done is a bit more general and just trying to explain certain behavior and phenomena. This one is looking at specific problems and saying, how can we improve on those conditions for the people in that area?

So let's take a look at some of the subfields in workplace psychology. So the first two areas we're going to be looking at in this field attempt to improve on specific aspects of the workplace. The first one is Industrial/Organizational Psychology or I/O psych. The goal of I/O psychology is to improve work environments and human relations in organizations and different work settings. An I/O psychologist might attempt to improve productivity within a certain factory, trying to get things to work more effectively and more efficiently. Or they might work in human relations, where they're attempting to see what kinds of problems the workers might be having, and to resolve them in the best possible ways.

The I/O psychology is focused very much on the human aspects of the workplace. They might do things like select job applicants, do analysis of different skills involved in the workplace, and evaluate on-the-job training to make it the best possible education for the workers.

The next area we'll take a look at is on the other side of the workplace spectrum, and that's engineering psychology. Engineering psychology applies psychological concepts to design work environments and equipment that's better adapted to people's abilities. For example, a focus of engineering psychology is on computer-human interactions, how people are using the computers, and how they can use them more efficiently. So it's a little bit more of a natural or easier to use sorts of thing. You might take a look the computer you're using, or the tablet, or whatever kind of device you're using and see the work that an engineering psychologist has done to make its interface more accessible.

Another area of study under workplace psychology is environmental psychology. Now, contrary to what you might think from looking at the term initially, environmental psychology is actually a very broad area of study. In the simplest terms, environmental psychologists attempt to uncover what effect surroundings have on the people living within them.

So these could be natural surroundings, things like forests or living near the ocean. Or it could be built environments, like cities, towns, villages. So for example, an environmental psychologist might investigate the effect that urban noise has and overcrowding on inducing stress in people that are living in cities.

Now, environmental psychology might not be as specific an applied research area as some of the other aspects of workplace psychology. But you can see that there are definitely certain useful implications for that kind of area of research. Environmental psychologists might also be called in as experts for actual environmental issues as we think of them generally. They might be researching the effects that humans have on the environment. But they might also be looking at the effects that the natural environment has on people and why that might be beneficial.

Now an area of study that we're very familiar with at this point is evolutionary psychology, which also has implications for the workplace itself. So an environmental psychologist might try to solve problems that are the result of current working conditions and basic human tendencies that might have evolved over time. As an example of this, think of the 24-hour day that people generally go along with. They expect the sun to rise and set at a certain period of time.

Now the effect of modern technology and modern electricity is to essentially extend the workday to times when people might normally be asleep, which might disrupt their general flow of their days. So the environmental effects that might be studied under evolutionary psychology might be whether it is healthy or possible for people to continue on in a workplace like this. So that's why, again, environmental psychology can have further implications and improve on people's lives in different areas of study in psychology.

Terms to Know
Engineering Psychology

Designing “user-friendly” technology and the environments; engineering a better human-machine interaction.

Environmental Psychology

Studies the interaction between humans and their environment, including urban issues (overcrowding, noise pollution), environmental impact of humans, attitude about one’s environment and architecture design.

Industrial Organizational Psychology

Studies the issues of hiring, training, and employee assessment in the workplace.