Psychology 9646b

Psychology Advanced Topics in I/O Psychology:   Considering the Nature (&Future) of Work

Wednesday 2 – 5 pm


Over the past several years, interest has grown in “nature of work” issues – both in their own right and with respect to their relevance to, and reaction from, those in the field of I/O Psychology.  In this course, we will explore the following three issues/themes. 

The first focuses on the extent to which the field of I/O Psychology ­examines the “world of work” in a comprehensive (vs opportunistic) manner. What work contexts/settings, types of jobs and organizations are studied by I/O psychologists?  What gets little such attention?  How representative of workplaces/job types are these settings and samples?  And what, if any, implications might this contextual variation have for our understanding of particular psychological phenomena at work?

The second, referred to as the “end of work” argument, has been elaborated by several authors.   Notably, in The Future of the Professions, Susskind and Susskind (2015) make the case that technology will greatly reduce the need for sophisticated professional expertise –  the kind requiring lengthy training and updating  (think lawyers, engineers, accountants, psychologists) – and, hence, a decline in the numbers of people required in such professions.   In A World without Work, Susskind (2020) argues that technology and related forces will severely reduce the need for workers in all manner of jobs and organizations

The third, somewhat overlapping, issue considers the potential value of higher education (college; university) in shaping an individual’s subsequent life particularly as it relates to attaining satisfying / meaningful work.  Commentary and data are more diffusely distributed across academic and other literatures, ranging from Elon Musk’s view that “college is for fun not learning” view to research examining links between education and subsequent workforce participation/satisfaction in the “new world of work”.


In addition to the two books noted to above, readings will be easily available journal articles, chapters, and “popular press”/journalistic sources, some of which appear below.

(Some) Representative/Proposed Readings

Johns, G. (2006).The essential impact of context on organizational behavior. Academy of Management, 31, 386-408. 

Johns, G. (2017). Reflections on the 2016 Decade Award:  Incorporating context in organizational research. Academy of Management Review, 42, 577-595.

Susskind, D. (2020). A world without work.  MacMillan.

Susskind, R.  & Susskind, D.  (2015 / or updated 2021 edition). The future of the professions: How technology will transform the work of human experts.  Oxford University Press.

Thompson, D. (2015, July/August).  A world without work. The Atlantic.

Methods of Evaluation

These will include the assessment of  (a) thought/reflection papers, (b) participation in class discussion, and (c) a research proposal / review paper articulating (i) one or more “gaps” that exist in our understanding of one of the themes covered in the course, (ii) why it /they matter, and (ii) how they might be examined and/or addressed.