Contributing disciplines to the OB field

Organizational behavior is an applied behavioral science that is built on contributions from a number of behavioral disciplines. The predominant areas are psychology, sociology, social psychology, anthropology, and political science. Psychology’s contributions have been mainly at the individual or micro level of analysis, while the other four disciplines have contributed to our understanding of macro concepts such as group processes and organization.


Psychology is the science that seeks to measure, explain, and sometimes change the behavior of humans and other animals. Psychologists concern themselves with studying and attempting to understand individual behavior. Those who have contributed and continue to add to the knowledge of OB are learning theorists, personality theorists, counseling psychologists, and, most important, industrial and organizational psychologists.

Early, industrial/organizational psychologists concerned themselves with the problems of fatigue, boredom, and other factors relevant to working conditions that could impede efficient work performance. More recently, their contributions have been expanded to include learning, perception, personality, emotions, training, leadership effectiveness, needs and motivational forces, job satisfaction, decision-making processes, performance appraisals, attitude measurement, employee selection techniques, work design, and job stress.


While psychology focuses on the individual, sociology studies people in relation to their fellow human beings. Specifically, sociologists have made their greatest contribution to OB through their study of group behavior in organizations, particularly formal and complex organizations. Some of the areas within OB that have received valuable input from sociologists are group dynamics, design of work teams, organizational culture, formal organization theory and structure, organizational technology, communications, power, and conflict.

Social Psychology

Social psychology blends concepts from both psychology and sociology. It focuses on the influence of the people on one another. One of the major areas under considerable investigation by social psychologists has been change— how to implement it and how to reduce barriers to its acceptance. In addition, we find social psychologists making significant contributions in the areas of measuring , understanding, and changing attitudes; communication patterns; building trust; the way in which group activities can satisfy individual needs; and group decision-making process.


Anthropology is the study of societies to learn about human beings and their activities. For instance, anthropologists’ work on cultures and environments has helped us understand differences in fundamental values, attitudes, and behavior between people in different countries and within different organizations. Much of our current understanding of organizational culture, organizational environments, and differences between national cultures is the result of the work of anthropologists or those using their methods.

Political Science

Although frequently overlooked, the contributions of political scientists are significantly to the understanding of behavior in organizations. Political science studies the behavior of individuals and groups within a political environment. Specific topics of concern here include the structuring of conflict, allocation of power, and how people manipulate power for individual self-interest.