Creativity through Applying Ideas from Fields Other Than One's Own: Transferring Knowledge from Social Psychology to Industrial/organizational Psychology*

Article excerpt

Abstract

Subfields of psychology can be arguably characterized as islands of unconnected knowledge. The underlying theme of this paper is that these subfields have much to gain by looking at and studying each other's respective literature. This paper explains how the field of industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology has benefited from theory and research in social psychology, and suggests ways it can benefit even more so. Specifically, moral development, the group-serving bias, as well as inducing feelings of hypocrisy so as to foster subsequent behaviour change are discussed. Their potential for leading to further insight into existing problems, refining existing theories, and for raising new questions in I/O psychology is described.

Psychology is a behavioural science whose literature has grown rapidly. However, psychology has often failed to transfer knowledge across its subfields. Scientists and practitioners within the subfields frequently appear ignorant of ways they can benefit from cross-subfield research. These subfields, whether biological, clinical, educational, social, or industrial, contain interdependent ideas that should be shared in order to advance psychology for all.

Since the authors are researchers of organizational behaviour, this paper provides insights as to how transferring knowledge from social psychology has already enriched the science and practice of I/O psychology. In addition, new ideas as to how I/O psychology can benefit from social psychology are explored.

Benefits of Reading Literature Other than One's Own

The benefits of researching literature other than one's own are at least four-fold. First, sharing concepts among psychology's subfields allows researchers to extend their work to other areas (i.e., generalization). Second, it enables them to theorize and contextualize their research so as to connect their findings within larger conversations. Research designs often yield relatively sterile pieces of data that contribute little to knowledge and understanding when they are confined to narrow disciplines, or kept within the borders of a specific field (e.g., Locker, 1994; Sternberg & Grigorenko, 2001). Third, it helps researchers to be constructively critical of both the fields from which they draw information and of that in which they work. It can lead to proposals for using alternative methodologies in a particular program of research. Fourth, it enables researchers to raise questions not previously considered. Sharing knowledge across subfields may even lead researchers who investigate the same phenomenon, but who are in different areas of psychology, and hence have different perspectives and instruments, to interact with one another in ways that facilitate both knowledge creation and knowledge application.

History

I/O researchers have already benefited from theories and concepts (e.g., causal attribution, judgment heuristics, impression management, power and compliance, and leadership) developed within the field of social psychology to predict, explain, and influence the behaviour of individuals in organizational settings. I/O researchers looked at the social psychological literature because social psychological processes influence, to a great extent, an individual's behaviour in organizations. I/O researchers are pragmatic social scientists who often have to deal with concrete issues in real-world settings. Relative to other subfields, the bridge between I/O and social psychology has always been quite strong. These two subfields of psychology have systematically examined similar ideas albeit in different contexts, and in doing so, have advanced knowledge by showing that conclusions from within these two subfields have external validity.

The paper proceeds as follows. First, we provide two examples, causal attribution and impression management, to illustrate how I/O researchers have benefited from concepts identified and developed in social psychology. …