Public Affairs:

Joseph Tiffin

Dr. Joseph Tiffin is credited with first seeing the potential for a "humaneering" technology to simplify effective application of the human sciences for practical purposes such as work design and management. Limited information is publicly available on Dr. Joseph (Joe) Tiffin, yet evidence supports the understanding that he was a research scholar in industrial psychology at Purdue University from 1938 to 1971. During that time he authored two widely used textbooks, The Psychology of Normal People (1940) co-authored by Frederic Knight and Charles Josey, and Industrial Psychology (1942), with later editions co-authored by Ernest McCormick. Dr. Tiffin was the 1958-1959 President of the Society of Industrial-Organizational Psychology (SIOP), a division of the American Psychology Association (APA).

Tiffin's vision for humaneering is perhaps best expressed with these words:

The value of learning more about ourselves and human nature is obvious. Our social, political, and economic theories rest ultimately upon our understanding of human nature. Upon sound knowledge of human nature depends the possibility of directing social changes, so as to make social institutions and practices better suited to human needs. As citizens, then, we need to make our beliefs about human nature as sound and rational as possible. The nineteenth century was marked by great achievements in engineering. Advances in psychology, sociology, and physiology should lead us to as striking advances in "humaneering" during the twentieth century. (The Psychology of Normal People, 1940, p. 24)

Dr. Wendy Stainton Rogers, a critical social psychologist and current academic coordinator of the Open University's Research School, has included this quotation of Dr. Tiffin in her book, Social Psychology: Experimental and Critical Approaches (2003, pp. 31-32), to illustrate social psychology's well-recognized potential to "make the world a better place" (p. 32).

Dr. Tiffin explains in The Psychology of Normal People (1940) that the understanding most people have of human nature is "naïve" (p. 26). He says this naive understanding has value, but generally lacks scientific quality in five important ways: (1) is replete with hasty generalizations; (2) is disorganized; (3) is comprised of mostly imprecise terminology; (4) lacks effective methodology for problem solving, and (5) doesn't challenge the problems it creates. He concludes that people lacking more accurate knowledge of human nature routinely make decisions that are substantially sub-optimal. As Dr. Tiffin envisioned, the humaneering technology in development by the Humaneering Institute today has scientific quality in these five ways, thus enabling more effective decisions regarding human behavior.

Additional biographical information regarding Dr. Tiffin is available from the Society for Industrial/Organizational Psychology (SIOP) website.