Walter Dill Scott: Biography of this business psychologist

Walter Dill Scott was an American psychologist who made many contributions to applied psychology, especially in the field of industrialism. As his bio shows, Dill Scott reviews many of the psychological foundations of advertising and current human resource principles.

Below is the biography of Walter Dill Scott, one of the first to recognize and apply the principles of psychology in business. The latter compared to advertising, because he considered the latter as the “nervous system” of the business world.

    Who was Walter Dill Scott? Biography of a pioneer of applied psychology

    Walter Dill Scott (1869-1995) was born in Cooksville, Illinois. His training at Northwestern University was in the arts and education. He then moved to Germany to study psychology under the tutelage of Wilhelm Wundt at the University of Leipzig, where receive the doctorate in philosophy in psychology and education in the year 1900.

    With this degree, he returned to the psychology faculty at Northwestern University as a professor, laboratory director and later department head. He was also a professor of advertising and applied psychology at the School of Business.

    Along with several of his colleagues, Walter Dill Scott believed that the field of advertising had a bright future. Thus, in 1903, he published with other authors the first book on advertising related to psychology: The theory and practice of advertising.

    From psychology to advertising

    Walter Dill Scott was not only interested in psychology, but in world affairs and had a broad understanding of history. This, combined with his general orientation in culture, enabled him to see the possibilities of advertising as a popular educational force, which gradually led him to set standards of truthfulness and effectiveness.

    He soon realized that advertising could change his mind, so the laws that govern the mind must be taken into account to determine whether an ad will be effective or not. In other words, he suggested that advertising has psychological components that can be exploited.

    Also, as Dill Scott analyzed the ads, he realized that a lot of them were done poorly. From there he started to wonder how he could improve them, and one of the conclusions he came to was that the first thing to do was to select the right people qualified to prepare the ads.

    In other words, beyond the essential qualities of effective advertising, Dill Scott he began to consider the qualities necessary for a marketer to be successful. Thus, he quickly became the leading authority in the field of advertising psychology and in the selection and management of human resources.

    In turn, advertising and personnel management have been positioned as two key elements for the field of business, thus opening a very important door to applied psychology.

      Contributions for the management and selection of personnel

      Between 1908 and 1915 Walter Dill Scott ran a supplier selection studio for the American Tobacco Company. Its intention was to develop and test criteria for a systematic selection of suppliers.

      So he started with observe closely how the interviewees who were in charge of hiring staff functioned. He soon realized that they were using a simple method he described as “give or take”, so they didn’t give him the information he needed.

      So Scott set out to directly examine and analyze the qualities of the top performing salespeople in the business. He then discussed these qualities with his research team and with company investigators. This allowed him to train investigators on how to determine whether candidates met the desedas qualifications.

      Finally, Scott and his team monitored the implementation of their approach until it was fully demonstrated that interviewers were effectively selecting vendors. The result was very important for the company, which led Scott to acquire more tasks in staff assessment and management within the same company, and later in others.

        important works

        Some of Walter Dill Scott’s classics, published between 1903 and 1917, are: Increasing Human Efficiency in Business: A Contribution to Business Psychology. Business), Influencing Men in Business, Aids in Selecting Salesmen and the Psychology of Advertising article.

        Other books that were published later that had a lot of impact in business and advertising it is about people management and science and common sense in working with people.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Northwestern University Archives (2009). Walter Dill Scott. Accessed May 14, 2018. Available at
        • Jacobson, JZ (1951). Scott from the Northwest. The life of a pioneer in psychology and education. Accessed May 14, 2018.Available at

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