Evolution of Study

Psychologists were certainly not the first to study work settings and suggest changes, or even the first to apply the scientific method to the enterprise. For example, Frederick Winslow Taylor and Frank Gilbreth were industrial engineers who considered workers not too different from cogs in the machines also involved in industry. Their "time and motion" studies sought to discover how workers could most efficiently carry out their parts of the enterprise. Although their conclusions are often now cited as examples of inhumane manipulation of workers for companies' benefits, Taylor and Gilbreth envisioned that both workers and employers were to gain from increases in efficiency. Not surprisingly, most of what industrial engineering studied was appropriated by industrial psychology and remains part of I/O psychol-ogy—usually under the designations '"job design" and "human factors engineering" in the United States, or the designation "ergonomics" elsewhere.

Early psychologists had an advantage over the others studying and offering advice about work. They were popularly identified as people experts, and for the many problems thought to be based on human characteristics or limitations, their expertise was acknowledged, even while it was very modest. The advantage of being expected to make valuable contributions was put to good use, and within the first two decades of the twentieth century, industrial psychology became a recognized discipline with the ability to deliver most of what was expected of it.

Ironically, wars materially aided the early development of industrial and organizational psychology. World War I provided psychologists unprecedented opportunities to try intelligence testing on a very large scale and to develop and implement a very large personnel program. Robert Yerkes directed the intelligence testing of more than one million men between 1917 and 1919, and Walter Dill Scott and Walter Van Dyke Bingham interviewed and classified more than three million men before the war ended.

Testing, interviewing, and classification were also part of industrial psychologists' efforts during World War II, and many other lines of research and application were also pursued. Human factors engineering, which emphasized machine design tailored to the people who would use the device, was greatly advanced by the necessity that people be able to control aircraft and other sophisticated weapons.

Following each war, some of the psychologists who had successfully worked together chose to continue to do so. Major consulting firms grew out of their associations and remain a source of employment for many I/O psychologists.

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