Original Research

Industrial Psychology: Goodness of fit? Fit for goodness?

Leon J. van Vuuren
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 36, No 2 | a939 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v36i2.939 | © 2010 Leon J. van Vuuren | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 22 September 2010 | Published: 03 December 2010

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Leon J. van Vuuren, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Orientation: This theoretical opinion-based paper represents a critical reflection on the relevance of industrial psychology.

Research purpose: Against a historical-developmental background of the discipline, the inquiry questions its goodness of fit, that is its contribution to organisation and society.

Motivation for the study: Regular introspection in the discipline ensures that it remains relevant in both science and practice. As such, such introspection calls for a meta-theoretical imperative, to ensure that industrial psychology is fully aware of how the theoretical models applied in the discipline influence people and the society that they form part of.

Research design, approach and method: The question of industrial psychology’s potential fit for goodness that is broader than what is merely good for the organisation and its employees is explored with a view to enhancing its relevance. The exploration is conducted through the utilisation of theoretical argumentation in which industrial psychology is analysed in terms of contextual considerations that require the discipline to evaluate its real versus its potential contribution to society.

Main findings: It is found that the fit is limited to its relevance for inwardly focused organisational behaviour due to its endorsement of the instrumental (strategic) motives of organisations that subscribe to an owner and/or shareholder agenda.

Practical/managerial implications: In light of the main finding, industrial psychology’s potential fit for goodness is explored with a view to enhancing its relevance in an era of goodness. The creation of a scientific and practical interface between industrial psychology and business ethics is suggested to facilitate movement away from a descriptive approach.

Contribution/value-add: The heuristics of reflection, reform, research and resources are suggested to facilitate movement towards a normative (multiple stakeholder) paradigm aimed at broad based goodness and sustainability.


industrial-organisational psychology; goodness of fit; business ethics; integrity; capitalism


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doi: 10.4102/sajip.v40i1.1193