Personality at Work: The Role of Individual Differences in the Workplace

By Adrian Furnham | Go to book overview

Preface

My primary interest in the topic of this book arose from two quite different experiences: the one ‘applied’, the other ‘academic’.

My applied experience was the result of being called in as a consultant to a number of organizations interested in applying psychological principles and research findings to such things as recruitment, training and selection. It is not always easy for an academic to be faced by the questions of ‘real-world professionals’, who require, it seems, certain, succinct and immediate answers to complicated questions. Academics are trained to be cautious; their theories and findings are filled with caveats and warnings about over-generalization and over-simplification. The words ‘towards’, ‘perhaps’ and ‘notwithstanding’ pepper their writings, and the gestation period for theories, experiments and reports is fairly lengthy. They are primarily interested in getting the theory right; in replicating results; in designing and executing elegant experiments to disprove (or provide evidence for) hypotheses; and attempt to expound strong, powerful yet parsimonious theories.

Despite its undoubted progress this century, academic psychology is no match for the ‘hard’, ‘pure’ sciences like physics or even the applied discipline of medicine. Whatever the reason for this comparative lack of progress (and very many have been advanced), academic psychologists are therefore cautious and conservative about psychological findings and knowledge. Some laws, models and theories exist, but are highly specific. Other well-known, replicated (and occasionally counter-intuitive) findings have trickled down into ‘common sense’ and hence seem less interesting. But there are numerous grand, even imperialistic, theories in psychology that purport to give an accurate, complete, veridical (and radical) insight into the whole working of the human psyche. Like other grand theories (e.g. communism or catholicism), there are psychological theories that can ‘explain’ practically everything. Unfortunately, it is these grand theories which often invoke difficult and ambiguous concepts like the unconscious

-xviii-

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