This entry presents the history of industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology in four countries: Israel, India, Singapore, and Australia. It points out some similarities in the evolution of the profession across diverse cultures.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology in Israel
Early 20th Century
The presence of psychology in Israel is traced back to 1930, when a group of German-Jewish psychoanalysts fleeing persecution in Nazi Germany arrived in Israel under the leadership of Sigmund Freud’s student Max Eitingon. In 1933, they established the Palestine Psychoanalytic Society.
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Post-World War II
The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 has accelerated the need for psychologists in the areas of clinical, educational, vocational, industrial, and military psychology. In the first three years of the State of Israel, the population grew from about 600,000 to 1.7 million people; and it is up to about 6,800,000 today. The number of people in the civilian labor force rose in 2004 by 2.6% compared with the previous year and reached 2.678 million. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the percentage of people in the labor force reached 54.9% in 2004.
Vocational psychologists and industrial psychologists helped develop the new civilian labor force.
Military psychologists and industrial psychologists were needed mainly for selecting soldiers and officers and placing them into their new roles in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
In 1947 Louis Guttman founded the behavioral unit of the military, which eventually became the Israel Institute of Applied Social Research. His research contributions to the theory and practice of scale and factor analysis, multidimensional scaling analysis, and facet theory have made a significant impact on the fields of social, military, and industrial psychology.
Attempts to establish a department of psychology in Israel began in the 1930s; but they were actualized only in 1957 when the first department of psychology in Israel was founded at the Hebrew University, headed by Professor Shlomo Kugelmass, an immigrant from the United States who emphasized experimental psychology.
In the same year, the Israel Psychological Association (IPA) was established, with divisions in clinical psychology; educational psychology; and later on a division of social, occupational, and industrial psychology. Since its inception with 170 mem-bers, the association has grown up. Today there are 3,500 members with 280 members in the division of industrial psychology.
Additional departments of psychology, with graduate level programs in industrial psychology, were established at Bar-Ilan University (1958), Tel-Aviv University (1967), and Haifa University (1967). Ben-Gurion University established a department of behavioral sciences, which includes psychological studies (1984); and the Technion established a graduate program in industrial psychology (1985).
In 1977 the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, passed the Psychologists Law. It mandated the establishment of the Council of Psychologists in the Ministry of Health to enforce the new law’s licensing procedures regulating who may practice psychology and a variety of regulations concerning professional practice.
Industrial and organizational psychologists in Israel practice in industry, in the IDF, and in private consulting firms. They are involved in numerous areas in personnel psychology, organizational behavior, and human factors. In the area of personnel psychology, Israeli industrial psychologists are responsible for establishing criteria and measures for personnel selection, assessing managerial potential, and appraising performance. Furthermore, they are involved in management development, training, and management consulting. In the area of organizational behavior, they design and implement organizational change; advise Israeli companies on how to become global companies; develop motivational techniques for enhancing productivity; consult companies on the development and shaping of the organizational culture; run stress reduction workshops; and offer advice on decision-making processes, gender issues, organizational justice, and other important issues needed for the competitive advantage of companies today. In the area of human factors, industrial psychologists are involved in new product design, taking responsibility for the interface between employees and the technology systems. There is a great demand for graduate degrees in industrial and organizational psychology as graduates of these programs get job offers from the Israeli industrial sector, high-tech sector, service organizations, and the public and government sectors.
Research in I/O psychology reflects the needs of the country. Among these are the need to absorb, integrate, and acculturate successive waves of immigrants with diverse ethnic backgrounds; to resolve the Arab-Jewish conflict; to improve leadership, decision-making, and work motivation; to improve the interface between people and technological systems; and more recently to research on cross-cultural management, reflecting the need to integrate into the global business context.
Israeli professors of I/O psychology are highly involved with the worldwide community of I/O psychology. They serve as journal editors (Applied Psychology: An International RevieW) and associate editors (Academy of Management Journal; Management Science); there are also fellows of the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology and the Academy of Management who are Israeli professors, and the past president of the division of organizational psychology at the International Association of Applied Psychology was also Israeli. The publication record of Israeli researchers in leading scientific journals is way above their proportion in the scientific community, demonstrating once again that science is universal and is shared beyond geographical borders.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology in India
The roots of psychology in India can be traced to ancient Indian religious-philosophical thought that evolved out of Indian religion and philosophical traditions, epics, and folklore originally in the oral tradition. The large number of Indian scriptures contains references to and the analyses of mental status and contents of mental activities of human beings over millennia. These ancient expositions are mostly based on the experiences of sages, and seers, wise men and self-verification by them. There were no clear distinctions between religion, philosophy, and psychology in ancient Indian culture; the overarching consideration was to assist individuals in their pursuit of self-realization and liberation from the miseries of life. It is, however, not easy to consider this psychological knowledge as scientific in the strict and modern sense of the term.
Early 20th Century
Psychology as a modern and scientific field of study was first introduced in India in 1905 as a subject in the philosophy department of Calcutta University; the first course offered was in experimental psychology, along with the establishment of a psychological laboratory. In time this laboratory evolved into the first department of psychology in India at Calcutta University in 1915. This was gradually followed by the setting up of psychology departments in several other universities. Two separate departments, experimental psychology and applied psychology, were started at Patna University in 1946.
Post-World War II
The early years saw a fair amount of research and publication. A survey done in 1972 showed that 90% of the publications in all fields of psychology were dated from 1950 and after; the only exceptions are the areas of experimental and social psychology, with figures approximately 70% and 77%, respectively, because research was done in these areas beginning in 1950 (Mitra, 1972). Three areas, clinical, personality, and social psychology, accounted for 50% of published material between 1950 and 1972. Industrial psychology made its appearance in the postindependence (1947) period. The reason was the priority accorded to industrialization by the government of the newly independent country. The focus was on development of heavy industry, which had concomitant development in industrial psychology. Mitra wrote that the 1972 survey by the Indian Council of Social Science
Research indicated about 11% of all the papers published in psychology to be in industrial psychology.
The rapid industrialization of the 1950s and 1960s created the need for better understanding of the psychology of the workplace; worker, production, and organizational efficiency; and labor management relations. Areas that received attention at this time were job attitudes, work incentives, absenteeism, and job satisfaction (Ganguli, 1961). One of the major centers for psychological research was the Ahmedabad Textile Industry Research Association (ATIRA), which was established in 1950. Well-known psychologists such as Erik Erikson, David McClelland, and A. K. Rice were frequent visitors to this institute where several large-scale surveys were conducted to study psychological issues related to the textile industry. Rice did some of his pioneering work in industrial psychology in India in 1955 using the sociotechnical approach in an experimental automatic loom shed here. A survey by Durganand Sinha in 1972 showed that while only 25 studies were done in the field of industrial psychology until independence in 1947, as many as 508 studies were done from 1948 to 1969. Two major areas that accounted for the bulk of the studies were performance and job satisfaction (139 studies), and management and organization (128 studies). Other areas studied were occupational choice and guidance; selection and placement; training, task, and work analysis; special environment; advertising and consumer psychology; engineering psychology; driving and safety; and surveys and general studies. This review also noted that research in industrial psychology had an academic focus possibly because of the absence of contact between academic psychologists, the research they produced, and other organizations.
The early 1960s saw initiation of formal management education in the country with the setting up of two Indian Institutes of Management, at Ahmedabad and Calcutta, which had separate are as of study called organizational behavior and behavior al sciences, which provided the impetus for organizational psychology.
The latest survey found the focus of I/O psychology shifting to motivation, leadership, and human performance (Kanungo & Misra, 2004). Some trends toward indigenization and cross-cultural psychology were, however, discernible.
Industrial/organizational psychology in India seems to continue to evolve in keeping with the broad socioeconomic situation in the country and also staying in touch with global trends.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology in Singapore
Singapore, with a population of more than 4 million, is an urban city-state. Eighty-five percent of Singaporeans live in public flats, of which 94% are owner occupied. The major components of Singapore’s gross domestic product by industry as of 2004 were manufacturing, wholesale and retail, transport and communications, business services, other goods industries, and financial services. Singapore is therefore a setting in which I/O psychologists can make major contributions.
Industrial and organizational psychology is presently offered as an optional undergraduate third-year module in the psychology department at the National University of Singapore. There are indications from Web site listings of the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Management University of plans to offer the module at some future date.
The Singapore Psychological Society (SPS) has the most comprehensive data about I/O psychologists who are members of the society. It is the sole national association of psychologists in Singapore.
According to the membership data as reported by the then SPS membership chair, the I/O SPS members reported their areas of specialization and highest academic qualifications as follows: seven members with doctorates in ergonomics (4), occupational (2), and I/O psychology (1); nine members with master’s degrees in occupational (5) and I/O psychology (4); and one postgraduate in I/O psychology.
The membership strength of SPS at that time was 247, out of which 159 had postgraduate qualifications. The I/O psychologists therefore represented 10.7% of the SPS members with postgraduate qualifications.
Although only 17 psychologists with postgraduate qualifications identified themselves as I/O or occupational psychologists and ergonomists, a total of 47 full members of the SPS indicated that they were engaged in work settings that typically engage I/O psychologists. Such work settings include work with the police (6%), military (21%), and commercial (23%) organizations. The highest percentage (47%) worked as consultants, whereas one (2%) was affiliated with a bank.
One inference that may be drawn from this disparity is that at least 64% (30 out of 47) of the psychologists working in these traditionally I/O work settings do not have postgraduate qualifications. As some of the postgraduate I/O psychologists are with academic establishments, a better estimate of the percentage working outside academia without postgraduate qualifications is more than 70%. Approximately 28% of the I/O psychologists work for the public sector. The private sector, composed of commercial establishments, consultancies, and a bank, make up the remaining 72%. The demand for I/O psychology in Singapore is therefore predominantly in the private sector.
The Singapore workforce has had to face the challenges posed by a downturn in the economy since the late 1990s. The Business Times, Singapore, reported on August 24, 1998, that 14 electronic firms had retrenched 4,800 workers in the first half of the year.
The Business Times, Singapore also reported, on April 7, 2004, that the Singapore workforce, which had regularly earned accolades in the 1980s and early 1990s by country risk consultancies (e.g., BERI [Business Environment Risk Intelligence]) for being among the world’s most productive, was now encountering stiff competition to maintain its position.
In the process of structural transformations in the country, widespread workforce educational upgrading and skills retraining programs, and calls by the political leadership to change mind-sets toward perceived low-status jobs, there is much that I/O psychologists can do. However, there needs to be set in place a process for the training of sufficient numbers of I/O psychologists to meet this need. Arguably, this could best be achieved by planning and implementing a full-fledged academic program to train I/O psychologists in one of the tertiary institutions in Singapore.
Industrial-Organizational Psychology in Australia
Industrial/organizational psychology has been an active part of Australian psychology throughout its history and has begun to diversify in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. At many points since its inception, the story of Australian I/O can be linked to major developments in the United States and Britain; but there are also interesting differences that we highlight, together with key milestones.
Early 20th Century
At the beginning of the 20th century, a close relationship existed between philosophy and psychology.
Henry Tasman Lovell was appointed to the first officially titled post in psychology in the philosophy department at the University of Sydney in 1910. Elton Mayo was appointed the first chair of philosophy at the University of Queensland in 1910. By 1913 most Australian universities were teaching mental philosophy or an equivalent. The close link between philosophy and psychology in universities remained for quite some time, substantially longer than in the United States and Britain.
Post-World War I
Elton Mayo and Bernard Muscio warrant specific mention during this period. Their legacy can be traced to issues in current I/O psychology, but Mayo’s name is the most immediately recognizable because of his work at Harvard and the Hawthorne Studies. The psychological and medical treatment of returning veterans was a focus for Mayo’s work in the postwar period. This work led to a series of papers concerning the state of consciousness termed revery and its relevance for managers and workers in industrial society. Elton Mayo is credited with a major role in the human relations movement, which included his views on industrial society and the role managers should play in industry.
Bernard Muscio was appointed the Challis Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sydney in 1922, and the development of the field of industrial psychology throughout the British Empire is credited to him. Like Mayo, he published a number of papers during the early 1920s on fatigue and related topics in industry.
In 1927 Alfred Martin at the University of Sydney established the Australian Institute of Industrial Psychology (AIIP). The primary industrial applications of psychology were directed toward vocational guidance and testing, spurred on by the establishment of a Vocational Guidance Bureau in New South Wales in 1926. By 1969 the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service employed 60 psychologists, and most worked in vocational guidance.
Psychological testing was more closely associated with education than industry. Australia’s first psychological laboratory, which first was established at the Melbourne Teachers College in 1903 and later closed, reopened in 1923. The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) began conducting psychological research in 1930.
Post-World War II To 1970
As in other countries, in Australia, World War II involved psychologists in a variety of activities to support the armed forces and broader society. In 1940 Martin brought together the Volunteer Emergency Psychology Service comprising the AIIP, the education department, and the Vocational Guidance Service (later known as the Vocational Guidance Bureau), and educational institutions. The Australian Council for Educational Research was involved in testing of military personnel.
Overall, Australian management was more reluctant than its U.S. and British counterparts to use industrial psychologists. In the decades following World War II, the application of testing was relatively limited and the focus of personnel activities remained vocational guidance and welfare.
Late 20th Century
In the 1970s several social psychologists became associated with organizational psychology, reflecting similar development in the emergent field of organizational behavior in the United States, where some of the Australian scholars such as Gordon O’Brien were trained. Norman Feather, a colleague of O’Brien’s at Flinders University, was another social psychologist whose writings became influential in motivational theories within organizational behavior.
In the 1990s a third stream of research started with the arrival or return to Australia of many organizational psychologists who had been trained at or otherwise associated with the Institute for Work Psychology at Sheffield University. These scholars are spread around the country; and their research addresses issues in the work design, teams, and organizational performance areas. Much of this work is now blending with that of organizational behavior researchers, whose work is focused on a wide range of areas, including motivation and emotions, negotiation, careers, and cross-cultural and other topics. The individual differences tradition, which has the longest history of the three streams, continues in studies of human resources systems. As in the United States, individual differences are more likely to be taught in psychology departments, whereas organizational behavior and work design topics are more frequently taught in schools of management and business.
There are many Australian researchers who are prominent scholars of international standing, but there is no distinctive Australian research approach or set of issues. In the last part of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries, there has been increased funding available in Australia for applied research conducted in collaboration with industry. Organizational psychologists have been among the more successful groups in the award of these grants. Thus there is the potential for an Australian set of issues and perspectives to emerge.
The Australian Psychological Society established the Board of Organizational Psychologists in 1972, and at this writing it has more than 14,000 members. There are research and professional streams in most of Australia’s 38 universities. Australian psychologists are well represented in the management of universities and professional bodies.
- Drever, P. (1998). EAPS: Bridging the workplace gap. In-Psych, 20(6), 18-20.
- Ganguli, H. C. (1961). Industrial productivity and motivation. Bombay: Asia Publishing House.
- Kanungo, R. N., & Misra, S. (2004). Motivation, leadership, and human performance. In J. Pandey (Ed.), Psychology in India revisited: Developments in the discipline. (pp. 309-341). New Delhi: Sage.
- Mayo, E. (1924). Revery and industrial fatigue. The Journal of Personnel Research, 3, 273-281.
- Mitra, S. K. (1972). Psychological research in India. In S. K. Mitra (Ed.), A survey of research in psychology (pp. xvii-xxxiii). New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science Research.
- Muscio, B. (1921). Feeling-tone in industry. British Journal of Psychology, 12, 150-162.
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- Singapore Infomap. (2005). Retrieved on October 29, 2005, from http://www.sg/
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- K. Mitra (Ed.), A survey of research in psychology (pp. 175-237). New Delhi: Indian Council of Social Science Research.