Featured Articles
Jenny Baker
/ Categories: 602

Max. Classroom Capacity: An Interview With Dr. José María Peiró

Loren J. Naidoo, California State University, Northridge


Dear readers,

Welcome! I am just back from the SIOP conference in Seattle (at the time of writing). It was great (albeit strange) to be back at SIOP in person. I hope you also had a chance to attend. One highlight for me was seeing and meeting Dr. José María Peiró of the Universitat De Valencia in Spain. Dr. Peiró is the founding director of the University Research Institute of Human Resources Psychology, Organizational Development, and Quality of Working Life, and a former president of the International Association of Applied Psychology. Dr. Peiró holds a PhD from the Universitat De Valencia, as well as honorary doctorate degrees from the Methodist University of São Paulo in Brazil, the Miguel Hernández University of Elche in Spain, Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the Universidad de Coimbra in Portugal, and Universidad Nacional Federico Villarreal in Peru. Dr. Peiró is the 2022 recipient of SIOP’s Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award—as far as I can determine, he is the only winner of this award from outside of the United States.1 I am delighted to say that Dr. Peiró has generously agreed to speak to me for this column. Our lightly edited conversation is below.

Dr. Loren J. Naidoo: Dr. Peiró, congratulations on receiving the 2022 SIOP Distinguished Teaching Contributions Award! It is an honor to speak with you for Max. Classroom Capacity! My first question for you is, how were you introduced to the field of industrial and organizational psychology?

Dr. José María Peiró: I graduated in philosophy and then in psychology. My master’s thesis in psychology was on the cognitive psychology approach to intelligence measurement and then in my PhD program I focused on the contribution of James Mark Baldwin, an American functionalist psychologist, paying special attention to his influence on the work of Jean Piaget. Then I was initially trained in general psychology and in history of psychology. However, at the end of the 1970s, one Spanish professor who had worked several years at the Max Planck Institute at Munich, Prof. Vicente Pelechano, drew my attention to the developments of organizational psychology, and also Professor Carpintero, my mentor, encouraged me to pursue a career in those areas, as they both were aware about the need of stronger developments of this discipline in Spain, given the social, economic, industrial structure, and labor market changes that were occurring in Spain. I remember that two important sources at that time for my study were the Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology by M.D. Dunnette (1st edition) and the one by Katz and Kahn, The Social Psychology of Organizations. Then, I initiated a research project on the context and processes of the relationships between role incumbents and their role set members, their role performance, and role stress. A couple of years later, I started to teach one introductory course on work and organizational psychology, and in 1983–84, my 2-volume Psicología de la Organización was published by the Spanish Open University publisher (1st edition 1983–84; 5th edition 1993; then nine reprints came over the next decade). In total, more than 15,000 copies were sold, and this handbook was studied in several Spanish universities (including, of course, Open University), both in psychology and in management (OB courses). It was also widely used in Latin American countries.

LJN: At the time that you were studying, how well-known was the field of I-O psychology or work and organizational (W&O) psychology in Spain and Europe?

JMP: At that time in Europe, and also in Spain, psychotechnics and work psychology were well known, studied, and practiced. This is not surprising, as a number of founders of our field were Europeans such as Munsterberg (Germany), Myers (UK), Lahy (France), and Emilio Mira y Lopez in Spain. In 1920, a number of European psychologists founded the International Association of Psychotechnics (later named as International Association of Applied Psychology: IAAP; see Carpintero, Ardila & Jaco, 2020). At the time I studied in Spain (1971–1976), industrial psychology was well established, especially in areas such as personnel selection, training, work psychopathology, work rehabilitation, and human relations. However, organizational psychology was hardly developed. In Europe, there were significant research developments, professional practice and education with several country traditions with limited mutual knowledge and interaction among them. The multiple languages in Europe made it difficult to communicate across countries. A number of countries were often focused on following the developments in the United States and UK, whereas those influenced by the francophone tradition focused on France’s developments. In the US, there was some interest in knowing the European developments. In the obituary for Charles de Wolff, Milton Hakel (2021) reported the contribution de Wolff provided through the 1976 article with Shimmin, titled “The Psychology of Work in Europe: A Review of a Profession.” This publication was followed by a book, Conflicts and Contradictions: Work Psychology in Europe, edited by de Wolff, Shimmin, and Montmollin (1981). The title indicates a clear view of the situation in Europe both intellectually—with conflicts of different types, including ideological—and with a clear need of strengthening cooperation in the discipline between the scholars of European countries. Interestingly enough, the cooperation to prepare this book was seminal for the foundation, in 1981, of the European Network of Work and Organizational Psychology professors (ENOP), with 2–3 members per country to promote mutual knowledge, interaction, and cooperation at a European level. I was honored to join this prestigious network in 1985, with the support of Professor Jose M. Prieto.

LJN: After you completed your dissertation at Universitat De Valencia, did you immediately go into academia? What drew you to a career in teaching rather than, for example, pursuing a career in industry?

JMP: When I started my studies in psychology, I already had a clear goal to pursue: My calling was to develop an academic career combining research and teaching. In addition, I was attracted especially by several fields of applied psychology. However, I was also convinced that it was important first to develop a solid education in cognitive psychology and also in the history of psychology. In these fields there were prestigious professors at the University of Valencia. My master’s thesis (Tesis de licenciatura) was on the cognitive approach to the measurement of intelligence, and soon after defending it, a position opened as assistant of the History of Psychology chair, under the leadership of Professor Carpintero. Without a doubt, I applied to it, as I was really impressed by the work of Professor Carpintero and his teaching. I succeeded and was hired. Then, with my PhD thesis, my research and teaching turned toward the history of psychology. In this area, I supported Professor Carpintero in the creation of Revista de Historia de la Psicología (1980), now a leading journal in the field in Europe. Moreover, with the support of a research grant that we received from the Joint Committee USA–Spain, we both attended the APA Convention of 1979 held in New York, and after it, we paid a visit to leading scholars in psychology (B.F. Skinner in Boston and Professor Brozek, a historian of psychology at Lehigh). We also visited prestigious researchers in history or sociology of science, such as Robert K. Merton in New York, Derek J. de Solla Price at Yale, Barbara Ross in Boston, and Morton Small, vice-president of the Institute of Scientific Information in Philadelphia, as we were interested in a “scientometric” approach to the history of psychology. Soon after that trip, I became a member of APA and also of its Division 14: Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

When I started as an assistant at the University of Valencia, the wage was really meager, and then I had to do some work as an applied psychologist, or rather by “applying psychology.” I participated in a community development program in Torrent, a town close to Valencia, where I was born. Along with some other psychologists, I also initiated a work cooperative to provide psychological services to the 10 schools of the town. My contributions (part time) focused mainly on the organizational facets and some management. These experiences created the breeding ground for the positive reception of the suggestions already mentioned from Professor Pelechano, as well as the support and nudging from Professor Carpintero. In 1979, I decided to work full time at the university, and then I initiated my work in organizational psychology, both writing the Handbook and starting my own research program in W&O psychology. During that time, after the transition to the democracy in Spain, a new university law created the conditions to facilitate university–business cooperation, and then, the development of applied research, transfer, and consultancy projects. This new opportunity, which has grown across years, offered excellent opportunities for my own academic and research activities and those of my team. It has made it possible to ground our studies, teaching, and interventions not only on solid theories and empirical evidence but also on practical needs and demands. The cooperation with several businesses and public organizations in a wider array of industries and sectors during 4 decades has been really fruitful.

LJN: I have SO MANY questions about your meeting with B.F. Skinner, but I’ll have to ask you those on another occasion! You have had a long career as an educator and have impacted the lives of many of your students in very profound ways. What are some teaching experiences that stand out to you? What are some of the teaching accomplishments of which you are the most proud? 

JMP: In the way of understanding my teaching I always have considered a number of core components. The teaching needs to be grounded in scientific knowledge: both scientific theories and rigorous empirical evidence. Here critical thinking is essential. A second core component is to take into account the context. When I was writing the Handbook of Organizational Psychology I reviewed a huge number of articles, books, and book chapters, and I always had in mind how the knowledge I learned there would fit and be useful, or not, in the Spanish context and culture. The third component is that just before the class I always ask myself: “What are the key messages I want to convey, and who are the people I want to share them with?” In addition, I ask myself: “How can I stimulate their interest on the issues and topics, and finally, what may be the resources that they can bring to learn the topic we are going to work on?” It is my conviction that assuming a Y theory of the student instead of an X theory is really productive and fruitful.

In what concerns your question about the teaching achievements I am most proud of, I must say that they are in fact “learning-together-with-students-and-other-teachers” achievements. For instance, in 2001, we initiated a joint PhD program together with other Spanish universities (UCM, Madrid, U. Barcelona, U. Sevilla and U. Jaume I of Castellon, coordinated by our team at the University of Valencia). We really focused on educating the PhD candidates for research and stimulated studying abroad during a period of their studies. Soon we achieved the “Quality Recognition” of the Spanish Ministry of Education, and that was important to receive granted candidates from several Latin American and European countries. This program, with several adaptations that were required by changes in Spanish laws, is still in place with great achievements. During more than 20 years it has kept the recognition of quality from the Spanish Ministry, in different ways, according to the changes in laws and regulations. Over this time, the contribution and learning innovations carried on in cooperation between students and the teaching staff to improve the ways of learning and teaching have been fruitful and enriching to all of us.

Another achievement I am really proud of is the Master Erasmus Mundus of Work, Organization and Personnel Psychology. It is a master program delivered by a consortium of European universities (Barcelona, Bologna, Coimbra, and, during some years, Paris-Descartes) and coordinated by our team in Valencia University (we also are proud to count several U.S. universities such as Baltimore, Florida Institute of Technology, Illinois Institute of Technology, Puerto Rico University and also Guelph University in Canada and Brasilia University in Brazil, in former times, Portland State and San Jose Universities as cooperating members of the consortium). Since 2005 we have been awarded the quality label Erasmus Mundus four times (the current one will last until 2026). This award means that we obtain funding from the European Union to grant highly talented students from all over the world every year, with special resources for students from low-income countries. It is really a great international and cross-cultural experience that also involves a number of highly prestigious international teaching staff. I cannot describe here what a thriving experience it has been to work all of these years in this master program, but people who are interested can find additional information here (see also Martínez-Tur et al., 2014). The master program has been acknowledged by the European Commission as a success story of the European program and as an example of good practice. Two peak activities of this master are the winter school and the practicum/internship that every student performs as part of their education with special attention to practice the competences included in the European Psychologists’ competences framework (Europsy, see Lunt et al., 2014). A description of these two activities and their adaptation during the COVID-19 lockdown can be found in the APAW Bulletin of IAAP.

A third excellent experience in the field of teaching is the most recent project we have initiated in cooperation with the University of Maastricht (coordinating institution), the University of Leuphana, and U. of Valencia to launch the International Joint Master of Research in Work and Organizational Psychology that soon will start the fourth edition.

I have also participated in an EU founded project to promote a master’s in “Psychologie du Travail dans des universités du Maghreb (MPTUM)” and in several tempus programs for the mobility of South African PhD and master’s students to Europe. In total, leading or being part of several university consortia, I have contributed to raise more than 25 million Euros from the EU, to promote international education programs. I see this as a great cooperative achievement because most of this money has been just directed to support bright students from low-income countries all around the globe, and I know that it has been instrumental for their education and in a good number of cases also changed their lives. It has been a great reward to experience how eager these students are to learn and how dedicated they are. It is great to accompany them, in cooperation with many other colleagues, in their learning adventure and in the development of their careers.

I am fortunate because some students, often several years after they have finished their master’s or PhD studies, come back to me and express their gratitude. I treasure these testimonies as the greatest award and recognition I ever have received. Let me just share one of those messages with you:

The professional credibility I am enjoying here in NZ can be traced to competencies acquired during the Erasmus Mundus programme… You deserve to be proud of your accomplishments in creating equity in opportunities for W/O psychologists from the developing and developed countries. You have been doing “God’s Work.” Thank you for the life you have changed. Families in the developing world that are dependent on your former student for one form of support or the other would also be grateful. God bless you, family, and your unborn generations.

You can imagine the joy and feeling of gratitude from my side when I receive messages like this one.

Finally, I would like to share with you some reflections that the leading team of the Master Erasmus Mundus and the teaching staff have reflected upon and lives in our work. Our philosophy and mission are to contribute to educate scientist–practitioner WOP professionals that may care for, sustain, and enhance the human capital of nations that is being promoted in their educational systems. One of the achievements of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is that “the literacy rate among youth aged 15 to 24 has increased globally from 83 per cent to 91 per cent between 1990 and 2015. The gap between women and men has narrowed.” The risks, in our view, are that these achievements may be lost or deteriorate if workplaces are not decent, humanized, and properly managed. That requires competent professionals in people management and development. Hence, an important need is to create workplaces that provide decent work and flourishing opportunities—and this should be provided by W&O psychology experts in companies and workplaces. We aim to make this happen, and to do so we prepare professionals that will help companies and workers to develop a human work context, with especial attention to the low-income countries.

To further progress on this endeavor, it is important that we pay attention to balance the interests and demands on our discipline raised by different stakeholder’s groups, beyond management and shareholders. It is also a worthy goal to provide a GLO-CAL (global and local) view of the demands for I-O psychology. We need to pay attention to the multiple regional contexts of the work and business realities for an international education of our students. If we become aware of these needs, we most probably will turn from the inside out our view on the participation of foreign students from different regions of the world in our education programs. They are blessing resources that may provide fresh and contextualized views of the challenges, demands, and opportunities for our discipline in different parts of the world; they may also bring the views of their former teachers, and in some occasions also professionals working in their countries. Thus, they enrich and provide inputs that may be relevant for the education of the professional and scientist of our discipline. It also may draw our attention to the huge contribution that we, as a science and a profession, can make to the more than 65% of workers working in informal, low-quality, and nondecent work nowadays all over the world. The education of I-O students in “dialogue” to consider the implications raised when becoming aware of the multiple demands our discipline may pay attention to is really challenging for just the mainstream approaches. This may become an important contribution to the progress of the Strategic Development Goal #8 that aims for decent work for all. The Global Organisation for Humanitarian Work Psychology (http://gohwp.org) and the Alliance for Organizational Psychology (https://alliancefororganizationalpsychology.com) are platforms that may help the work of those professionals, researchers, and academics who may be interested in becoming involved in this important issues.

LJN. Dr. Peiró, thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us!

Readers, as always, please email me with comments, feedback, or just to say hi! Loren.Naidoo@csun.edu


1 Although other winners have worked outside the US, Dr. Peiró is the only winner based outside the US.

Be sure to check out the next issue of TIP in January for an interview with Dr. Peiró by Liberty Munson in her SIOP Award WInners column.

466 Rate this article:
No rating
Comments are only visible to subscribers.


Information on this website, including articles, white papers, and other resources, is provided by SIOP staff and members. We do not include third-party content on our website or in our publications, except in rare exceptions such as paid partnerships.