Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

50. The Prediction of Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Industrial Monotony*

Patricia Cain Smith

MOST MODERN industrial jobs are repetitive and alleged to be uncreative. Observers of the industrial scene have been greatly concerned about the consequent feelings of monotony and boredom by the workers. Superficially, it would seem that repetition in work would be a cause of boredom, that work which appeared repetitive to the observer would necessarily be accompanied by boredom, and work with apparent variety by absence of boredom. Industrial investigations established very early, however, that jobs with all the appearance of being repetitive were not always considered monotonous by the workers.1 Investigations of clerical workers, school teachers, and professional workers, on the other hand, have repeatedly indicated that many persons find each of these more varied kinds of work boring. (For summaries of these studies, see Hoppock and Robinson2 or Viteles.3

An observer of a job may classify it as repetitive solely on the basis of the observed frequency of repetition of the task. This type of classification does not take into account the perceptions of the worker. Repetition for the worker depends upon what he perceives in the task, and his perceptions are not subject to immediate scrutiny by an observer. For instance, if a worker perceives variety in the minute changes of detail or in the social situation around him, the job is for him one in which there is variety. Repetition as defined by externally observable frequency of occurrence cannot be stated as a valid cause of monotony. Repetition is

____________________
The writer is deeply indebted to Dr. T. A. Ryan for his guidance.
*
From Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 5, 1955, pp. 322-29.
1
P. S. Florence, Economics of Fatigue and Unrest and the Efficiency of Labor in English and American Industry ( New York: Henry Holt, 1924); Chen-Nan Li, "A Summer in the Ford Works," Personnel Journal, Vol. 7, 1928, pp. 18-32; H. Münsterberg, Psychology and Industrial Efficiency ( Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin, 1913), pp. 195-98; S. Wyatt, J. N. Langdon, and F. G. L. Stock, "Fatigue and Boredom in Repetitive Work" ( London: Industrial Health Research Board, Report No. 77, 1937).
2
R. Hoppock and H. A. Robinson, "Job Satisfaction Researches of 1950," Occupations, Vol. 29, 1951, pp. 572-78.
3
M. S. Vitelis, Motivation and Morale in Industry ( New York: W. W. Norton, 1953).

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