For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Occupational Experience and Psychological Functioning: An Assessment of Reciprocal Effects"

by Kohn, Melvin L; Schooler, Carmi (1973)


[The central issue of this paper is whether men's adult occupational experiences affect or only reflect their psychological functioning. Our analysis isolates a small set of occupational conditions, twelve in all, which defines the structural imperatives of the job. These occupational conditions are found to be substantially related to men's psychological functioning, off as well as on the job. We argue that the relationships between occupational conditions and psychological functioning result from a continuing interplay between job and man, in which the effects of job on man are far from trivial. This argument is borne out by an assessment of the reciprocal effects of the substantive complexity of the work (a critically important occupational condition, for which we have the requisite longitudinal data) and several facets of psychological functioning. Substantive complexity has a decidedly greater impact on psychological functioning than the reverse.]

Key Passage

Although our principal interest is in the possible effects of the job on off-the-job psychological functioning, we include two in- dices of men's subjective reactions to their jobs. We see these phenomena as a sort of way-station between the concrete realities of the job and men's orientations to non- occupational realities. If occupational experience has psychological pertinence, we should certainly expect it to affect men's views of the job itself. [On the following page, p.109, this line of reasoning continues, concluding with]  The evidence consistently suggests that, although men undoubtedly do choose and mold their jobs to fit their personal requirements, it is not likely that these processes alone can sufficiently explain the relation- ships between occupational conditions and psychological functioning. (p.108)


Intellectual Flexibility, Reciprocity, Personality, Identity, Self, Distress, Psychology, Work Complexity


Kohn-Schooler, Psychological Centrality of Work

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