The expert appliance of a people science

Psychology at Work
March 28, 2003

Applied psychology is psychology's life-blood - without it, "pure" psychology becomes sterile and meaningless. This was the view of several eminent psychologists of the past, including Sir Frederick Bartlett and Donald Broadbent, who argued that theoretical advances were likely to arise only from psychology involving itself in day-to-day problems. And it is firmly and uncompromisingly reiterated in Peter Warr's introduction to the fifth edition of his classic Psychology at Work.

Warr dedicates Psychology at Work to Bartlett and Broadbent, and almost aggressively insists on referencing psychological models in terms of the applied psychologists who have utilised them. That could, of course, be construed as an educational device, and not tub-thumping at all - just showing how models usually attributed solely to "pure" psychologists are far more useful in an applied context. So we can be charitable. The book aims to provide an up-to-date review of work psychology, and it succeeds.

Each of the 16 chapters deals with a different aspect of psychology at work, in a sequence that ranges from individual to organisational in focus.

Chapters dealing with the individual at work cover the study of wellbeing, behaviour and attitudes, the working environment, shiftworking and human-computer interaction. Chapters on managerial issues cover personnel selection, training, career management, job-related stress, emotion at work, occupational safety and designing jobs to enhance wellbeing. Chapters on the organisation as a whole cover leadership, team-working, human-resource management, organisations as psychological environments and organisational change. It is a comprehensive list, and one that addresses modern concerns as well as long-established areas.

The contributors, for the most part, are well-recognised names in their fields - indeed, at first glance, it looks a little like a who's who in work psychology in the UK, although there are also contributions from Australia and Canada. This in itself is refreshing, since this area is often so US-dominated, and the cultural differences in working life between the US and the UK are so profound - and so often unrecognised. But this is a UK book, and as a quick up-date on modern organisational and occupational psychology, it is superb. If I were teaching a module in organisational behaviour or work psychology, it would undoubtedly become the course text.

As it is, I shall definitely recommend it to any student - or anyone else - with an interest in the area.

Nicky Hayes lectures in social psychology at the University of Bradford.

Psychology at Work

Editor - Peter Warr
ISBN - 0 14 100010 4
Publisher - Penguin
Price - £14.99
Pages - 452

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