Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

The Use of Knowledge from outside I/O Psychology by I/O Psychologists: A Critique*

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

The Use of Knowledge from outside I/O Psychology by I/O Psychologists: A Critique*

Article excerpt


The aim of the present paper was to comment on three different I/O initiatives involving the transfer of knowledge from outside I/O psychology into the workplace. Overall, it is concluded that the authors have been quite successful at demonstrating that knowledge of theory and research in other fields have enabled them to make some original contributions of their own to I/O psychology. However, it is noted that they draw techniques and constructs from different sources regardless of their conceptual bases, and without the support of a functional analysis of the factors affecting the situation they wish to address. To avoid being left with unenlightened technical eclecticism, it is suggested to them to ground their ideas in a comprehensive and unified theory of human functioning, to ascertain their assumptions about the factors governing human functioning in a work situation through a functional analysis of these factors, and to consider the whole body of knowledge on one issue before choosing a technique to intervene. They are also encouraged to work closely with psychologists in other subdisciplines so as to choose more wisely what knowledge to apply from what field to deal with a given issue in the workplace.

Dissemination and integration of knowledge within psychology may be one of the most important problems facing psychological science. In 1997, while I was President of the Canadian Psychological Association, I had the honour and the privilege to chair the National Conference on Psychology as a Science with Anthony Phillips in Aylmer, Quebec (Gauthier & Phillips, 1998). One of the goals of the conference was to identify how psychology as a discipline could make a meaningful contribution to the national research agenda to deal with the enormity and the complexity of the nation's social, health, economic, and environmental problems. To develop effective plans, it was essential to have the collaboration of all the subdisciplines of psychology. But skepticism and mutual distrust were rampant. Accordingly, it proved to be quite a challenge to convince some of them to participate in the conference. It proved to be a greater challenge still to get some of them to communicate with one another.

The good news is that the different camps were able to overcome their skepticism and their mutual distrust. In the end, not only the conference was successful in attaining its goals but also delegates to the conference were able to articulate a vision of the field of psychology that they could all support and that encompassed the complex interplay among biological, cognitive, emotional, and social determinants of human functioning. Everyone left Aylmer with a better knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of research and training in the fields that were not his or her own. The National Conference had broken through intradisciplinary barriers. It had set the stage for further cooperation and, as such, it had paved the way for other challenging initiatives.

As a scientist and a practitioner who is committed to bridging the gap between various bodies of knowledge (Gauthier, 1999; Gauthier & Phillips, 1998), I welcome the initiative that was taken by Gary Latham with some of his current and former students in industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology to encourage the dissemination and integration of psychological knowledge within the discipline. I also wish to thank him for inviting me to discuss the papers that were presented at the 2001 CPA annual meeting. For a clinical psychologist who has become interested over the past few years in the transfer of knowledge from clinical psychology into the workplace, this is an enriching and stimulating experience.


I will now review and comment briefly on each paper. I will conclude with some general remarks about how the authors could benefit even more from reading the literature outside I/O psychology.

The Paper by G. …

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