No, I Don’t Organize Closets For A Living… But I Like The Way You Think

A couple of weeks ago Adam Grant (who is a total research rock star in my book) wrote Why Behavioral Economics Is Cool, and I’m Not over at the Huffington Post. Here’s a snippet:

“When they think of psychology, they picture Sigmund Freud lying on a couch telling them they failed a driving test because they failed to kill their fathers and sleep with their mothers. (If you object to that, don’t worry; you’re in denial.)… 

Psychology has come a long way since Freud, but the brand hasn’t caught up. The new psychological science of the mind and behavior is based on randomized, controlled experiments with measurable behaviors as well as fMRI and physiological data. Ideally, we’ll start rebranding psychology as a source of interesting, rigorous ideas. Alternatively, Kahneman proposes that when it comes to formulating policy, we should stop drawing major boundaries between fields and just call ourselves behavioral scientists.

Either way, let’s say goodbye, Freud.”

It’s a great read — especially for any fellow I-Os. The article got me thinking about the various misconceptions folks carry about psychology in general, specifically about I-O psychology.

If you haven’t heard of industrial-organizational (I-O) psychology, you’re not alone. By a long shot. I-O psychology the study of people at work. That includes the things that affect behavior, attitudes, personalities, and motivation at work. People with a background in I-O are often referred to as “I-Os” (creative, I know). I-Os work in universities as professors and researchers. They also work for organizations focusing on every place that people intersect with their work.

A lot of people hear “industrial-organizational psychology” try to figure out what it means from the name. And if you were going off of the name… they make total sense. Plus, “industrial-organizational psychology” is not very descriptive (unless it’s explained), its too long, and its still up for debate.

Anyway, I’ve had three come up that are my all time favorites. If you just hear “Industrial-Organizational Psychology,” they make total sense so I’m not judging. I actually think they’re pretty smart for making the connections.  But they’re still wrong and I still think they’re funny, and who couldn’t use a little Thursday humor:

  1. “So I should only come to you if I’m really screwed up? Got it!”  She was thinking “industrial” as in “industrial strength.”  Love it. But please do not come to me if you so screwed up that the “standard  grade psychologist” couldn’t help you… if they can’t, then I really can’t. “Industrial Strength Psychology” is a good start to a title for someone’s book though… just sayin’.
  2. “Thank God I met you! I’ve needed help for a while with my closet. What’s your going rate?”  Get it? “Organizational psychologist?” While I don’t have any training associated with cleaning out any room of your home, lucky for you I happen to have a secret love of color coding.
  3. “It must be really hard to find jobs in the U.S. with so many of our companies outsourcing factory work.”  “Industrial” is often associated with factories. I can work anywhere there is work being done by people – no factory required!

Adam Grant is right… psychology need is in need of some serious rebranding.  And if we ever sit next to each other on a plane, please don’t ask me to explain what your dream meant, tell me that you really don’t blame your mom for that thing you did that one time (TMI, dude), or tell me not to psychoanalyze you… because I’m can’t and I’m not.


  1. SG

    I’ve gotten “oh so you organize the different types of psychology, right?”

    1. Author
      Chelsea Rowe

      Love it! I’d choose organizing a closet over organizing the types of psychology any day of the week!


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