Skip to navigation menu

Skip to main content

Social-Organizational Psychology
Teachers College, Columbia University
teachers college logo columbia univertsity logo

Social-Organizational Psychology

General Information > What is Social-Organizational Psychology?

Site Navigation

What is Social-Organizational Psychology?

We're more than an I/O Psychology Program:

Traditional Industrial-Organizational Psychology focuses more on the "I" than on the "O", that is, it focuses on assessing individual differences and developing a deeper understanding of the person, as opposed to the context within which an individual is operating.  Various topics that are examined in I/O Psychology are the individual skills required for a particular job and how individual differences influence an individual's work performance. A goal of I/O Psychology is to improve organizational performance by placing the right people in the right jobs, thus enhancing the fit between the individual and the organization.  I/O Psychologists work in such areas as selection, training, performance measurement, and evaluation.

And, we're more than an Organizational Psychology Program too!

A central component of a program in Social-Organizational Psychology is the belief that behavior must be understood from the point of view of the individual and the context within which the individual is behaving. Kurt Lewin's famous statement that behavior is a function of the person and the environment is the foundation on which a program in Social-Organizational Psychology rests. Such programs examine the psychology of organizations and apply theories of both Social Psychology and Organizational Psychology to different organizational contexts. Instead of focusing solely on the individual, Social-Organizational Psychology emphasizes the impact that social forces have on performance and the factors that result in similar individual behavior across situations. A goal of Social-Organizational Psychology is to ultimately improve organizational performance through the creation of a suitable social environment. Social-Organizational Psychologists focus on such topics as motivation, rewards and recognition, leadership, group processes, conflict resolution, organizational culture, organizational change, and organizational performance.

What makes our Program unique:

In addition to analyzing behavior from the point of view of both the individual and the environment, we believe that it is important to utilize more than one perspective when examining an organization. Hence, our program examines organizational issues at the individual, the group, and the organizational levels. The individual level is focused on topics such as individual differences, motivation, and diversity. The group level emphasizes groups and teams and the dynamics involved therein. The organizational level deals with topics such as leadership, organizational culture, organizational change, and organizational effectiveness.  Each of these three levels is taken into consideration when examining an organizational problem or issue so that one can determine which level(s) is/are the most relevant to consider in a particular situation.

In addition, our program is guided by a scientist-practitioner model that emphasizes both the systematic study of primary, foundational areas of theory and research in a particular discipline and the application of such theory and research to organizational settings. The curriculum is a reflection of this in that our theory courses expose our students to the core concepts of Social-Organizational Psychology and our applied courses and practica help guide them in the application of such principles.  Our faculty reflects the scientist-practitioner model since they focus on both theory and research, publishing in the top journals in the field. In addition, many of them are also practitioners and take on such roles as that of the consultant, the executive coach, or the head of an executive education program.

Which Program is Right for You? >>