The Psychology of Specialization and Specialization in Psychology


  • Fathali M. Moghaddam


Some years ago I committed blatant heresy by publishing a book that questions one of the sacred beliefs of the modern world; namely, that specialization is necessarily beneficial. This belief has become sacred because it is derived from two lines of argument, each of which is independently taken for granted as received wisdom. The first line of argument derives from the ideas of Adam Smith (1723-1790), particularly as set out in The Wealth of Nations. By increasing divisions of labor, Smith argued, workers could become more productive, “The division of labour… so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportional increase of the productive powers of labour.” The second line of argument is derived from an even more illustrious source, Charles Darwin’s (1809-1882) monumental scientific treatise on the Origin of Species. The theory of evolution seems to imply that specialization is necessary to maximize the utilization of environmental resources, find ‘vacant spaces’, and increase survival chances. Taken together, Smith and Darwin seem to present increasing specialization as an inevitable and necessary path to increasing production and improving survival opportunities.