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

A man's job affects his perceptions, values, and thinking processes primarily because it confronts him with demands he must try to meet. These demands, in turn, are to a great extent deter- mined by the job's location in the larger structures of the economy and the society. It is chiefly by shaping the everyday realities men must face that social structure exerts its psychological impact. (p.117)


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


Kohn-Schooler, Psychological Centrality of Work

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