Clemente I. Diaz, M.A.
Baruch College, City University of New York
Roni Reiter-Palmon, PhD
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Psychology is an extremely diverse field. Its diversity can be seen in its various subfields as well as the numerous career paths one can pursue. Consider the fact that individuals with a bachelor’s degree in psychology were employed in 92 different occupation categories, individuals with a master’s degree in 74 occupation categories, and those with a doctoral degree in 61 occupation categories (American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies, 2018). While the field of psychology is diverse, there is one constant regardless of which career path one takes or which subfield one pursues, we will be working for most of our lives. Yet despite this, most introductory psychology courses don’t cover Industrial-Organizational (I-O) psychology (i.e., the psychology of work).
Why I-O Psychology should be included in Introductory Psychology
There are various reasons to include I-O psychology in introductory psychology courses, the most basic being that working is a fundamental aspect of human life and behavior. In fact, estimates show that we spend roughly one-third of our lives at work. It’s no surprise that under its guidelines for the undergraduate major the American Psychological Association (APA) has specifically included professional development as a key goal (APA, 2013). Additionally, whether one agrees or not, the vast majority of students pursue higher education in hopes of increasing their employment outcomes (Eagan et. al, 2016, p. 70). Undergraduate psychology majors are not exempt from this trend given that over 56 percent of 2018 psychology graduates were either employed full-time or seeking employment (National Association of Colleges and Employers, 2019). Interestingly, and contrary to what most of us believe or would like to believe, the majority (56 percent) of psychology majors don’t pursue graduate studies of any kind (American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies, 2018). Although the inclusion of I-O psychology in introductory psychology won’t serve as a magic wand in preparing students for the workplace, it’s a good start.
Tips for incorporating I-O Psychology
I-O psychology isn’t usually included in introductory psychology for many reasons, but generally revolve around the following themes (in descending order): not in designated curriculum/textbook, not enough time, and lack of subject matter knowledge (Diaz, 2018). This section will provide tips and resources targeting each of these themes.
Not in designated curriculum/textbook
According to data collected from the Open Syllabus Project, the most frequently used introductory psychology textbooks don’t cover I-O psychology (Butina, 2019). The lack of coverage is a topic that the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) has made a concerted effort in tackling through the creation of the Getting I-O into Intro Textbooks (GIT SIOP) taskforce (https://www.siop.org/GIT-Blog). In addition to reaching out to publishers, GIT SIOP has developed a vast array of free educator resources (sample syllabi, one-page I-O content summaries, PowerPoints, a stand-alone I-O psychology chapter, and other supplemental material). These resources can be accessed via the following website - www.teachiopsych.com. In addition to SIOP’s educator resources, open source publishers such as OpenStax (https://openstax.org/) and the NOBA Project (https://nobaproject.com/) each have a stand-alone I-O psychology chapter along with a PowerPoint and test bank.
Lack of time
Unlike more specialized, or upper level, psychology courses, introductory psychology tends to cover an exorbitant amount of content which can often overwhelm instructors. It is not surprising that some instructors have difficulty incorporating additional content. When time is a primary factor, the best solution is to integrate new material into already existing content.
Using the table of contents from Myers and DeWall’s (2021) introductory psychology textbook (according to the Open Syllabus Project David G. Myers authors the most frequently assigned introductory textbooks), we highlight I-O psychology topics which can be discussed at varying points in the semester. I-O psychology draws from many other areas of psychology therefore it is not too difficult to integrate content into already used material.
1. Thinking Critically With Psychological Science - Cursory glance of the psychology of work
2. The Biology of Mind - Neuroleadership, Organizational Neuroscience, Neuroscience of trust
3. Consciousness and the Two-Track Mind - Drug use in the workplace, presenteeism
4. Nature, Nurture, and Human Diversity - Workplace diversity (e.g., training, recruiting, discrimination)
5. Developing Through the Life Span - Career transitions (e.g., entering the world of work, aging and work ability)
6. Sensation and Perception - Managing workplace perceptions (e.g., attitudes, interests, work setting)
7. Learning - Training and development, training transfer
8. Memory - Impact of memory loss at work, working memory and task completion
9. Thinking and Language - Judgement and decision making (e.g., evidence-based management); creativity and innovation in the workplace
10. Intelligence - Individual differences and their assessments in the workplace (e.g., cognitive abilities vs. emotional intelligence, relationship between cognitive abilities and performance)
11. What Drives Us: Hunger, Sex, Friendship, and Achievement - Application of motivational theories to work setting
12. Emotions, Stress, and Health - Emotional labor, burnout, workplace stress, occupational health and safety, impact of Covid-19 on workers, work-life balance, occupational health psychology
13. Social Psychology - Group dynamics, teamwork, leadership, power and authority
14. Personality: Individual differences and their assessments in the workplace (e.g., relationship between personality traits and performance, how and why is personality assessed), personality traits associated with different types of leaders (e.g., charismatic, situational)
15. Psychological Disorders - Mental health stigma in the workplace, work-induced disorders
16. Therapy - Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and other workplace interventions
Since the integration of I-O psychology content into current material only provides a surface level view of the field (versus having a unit specifically devoted to I-O psychology), instructors should also consider giving assignments that allow students to gain a more in-depth understanding of the subject (e.g., informational interviews, job analysis). One possible assignment is Department 12’s free I-O psychology mini-course. This 30-minute SIOP material-based course provides an overview of the field and culminates in a certificate of completion for anyone who obtains a 70 percent or higher on the end-of-course quiz. Department 12’s mini-course, in addition to other valuable information (e.g., articles, podcast episodes) can be accessed via the following link - https://department12.com/introduction-to-industrial-organizational-psychology-mini-course/.
Lack of subject matter knowledge
Not feeling well-versed on a subject can result in any instructor not incorporating said topic. But where should one start in hopes of better familiarizing oneself with I-O psychology? In addition to the educator resources mentioned earlier, SIOP publishes a free quarterly publication titled The Industrial Psychologist (TIP) which covers a variety of topics. Current and back issues can be accessed on the SIOP website (https://www.siop.org/Research-Publications/TIP). Other great resources include, ScienceForWork (https://scienceforwork.com/) and IOAtWork (https://www.ioatwork.com/) both of which provide research summaries.
Podcasts more to your liking? There are numerous I-O psychology related podcasts out there. Some well-regarded podcasts, in no particular order, include:
· Department 12 (https://department12.com/)
· The Indigo Podcast (https://www.indigotogether.com/indigopodcast)
· Mind Your Work (https://mindyourwork.io/)
· Midnight Student (https://open.spotify.com/show/5FoIus9RDw6JuIH3ifHsQJ)
· The World of Work (https://worldofwork.io/)
· Workr Beeing (https://workrbeeing.com/)
· Worklife with Adam Grant (https://www.ted.com/podcasts/worklife)
Still don’t feel comfortable speaking about I-O psychology? SIOP has you covered once again. Consider reaching out to an I-O psychology professional for a guest lecture via SIOP’s Advocacy Registry (https://www.siop.org/Membership/Registries/Advocacy).
In this article we have made the case for the importance of adding I-O psychology to the curriculum of introductory psychology. The concerns expressed by faculty members teaching introductory psychology courses have been noted, and we have attempted to provide solutions to each one. Specifically, resources are available via the national organization (SIOP) that allow for either a full unit on I-O psychology or integration of specific I-O topics into existing course materials. Further, expert resources such as speakers and podcasts are also available.
American Psychological Association. (2013). APA guidelines for the undergraduate psychology major: Version 2.0. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/ed/precollege/undergrad/index.aspx
American Psychological Association Center for Workforce Studies (2018). CWS data tool: Careers in psychology. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/workforce/data-tools/careers-psychology
Butina, B. (2019, July 25). The most assigned psych textbooks. Retrieved from https://department12.com/the-most-assigned-psych-textbooks/
Diaz, C.I. (2018). Incorporating I-O Psychology into Introductory Psychology. Psych Learning Curve: Where Psychology and Education Connect. Retrieved from http://psychlearningcurve.org/incorporating-i-o-psychology-into-introductory-psychology/
Eagan, K., Stolzenber, E.B., Ramierz, J.J., Aragon, M.C., Suchard, M.R., Rios-Aguilar, C. (2016). The American freshman: fifty-year trends, 1966-2015. Los Angeles: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA. Retrieved from https://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/50YearTrendsMonograph2016.pdf
Myers, D.G., DeWalls, N.C. (2021). Psychology (13th ed.). Worth Publishers.
National Association of Colleges and Employers (2019). First destinations for the college class of 2018: Findings and analysis. Retrieved from https://www.naceweb.org/job-market/graduate-outcomes/first-destination/class-of-2018/