Walter Dill Scott
Researched and written by:  Donald F. Kneessi
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work..



Walter Dill Scott was born on a farm near the town of Normal, Illinois.  Scott’s father was ill; therefore all the responsibility of running the farm was put on Walter’s shoulders.  While plowing a field one afternoon, he had the idea about work efficiency.  Scott realized that if he was going to accomplish anything, he would need to stop wasting time.  Scott realized that he lost ten minutes out of his time; he could be doing something important, every time he gave the cows a ten minute rest.  So he decided to carry a book around with him and spend every spare minute of his time reading and learning something new (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            Scott wanted to go to college, but in order to do that he had to pick and can blackberries, salvaged scrap metal to sell and take on other odds jobs.  At age nineteen, he enrolled at Illinois State Normal University.  He wanted to become a missionary to China, but by the time he graduated from Chicago theological seminary there were no room for missionaries.  Scott then started taking a liking to psychology when he enrolled in a psychology class and enjoyed it, and when he read a magazine article about Wundt’s Leipzig laboratory (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            On July 21, 1898, Scott went to study with Wundt, and then two years later he obtained his Ph.D.  Scott then became a psychology and pedagogy instructor at Northwestern University.  A few years later his interest changed when an advertising executive asked him to think of a way to apply psychology to advertising to make it more successful (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            In 1903, Scott wrote The Theory and Practice of Advertising, the first book on the topic of advertising.  In 1905, he was promoted to professor and in 1909, he was appointed to professor of applied psychology and director of the bureau of salesmanship research at Pittsburgh Carnegie Technical University (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            When the United States entered World War I, Scott offered to help the army select military personal.  At first his ideas were not well liked; and not everyone was convinced about psychology’s practical values. An army general was not convinced on Scott’s selection techniques, but eventually Scott was able to persuade the general in using his selection techniques.  Scotts was later rewarded with the army’s Distinguished Service Metal (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            After World War I, Scott formed his own company called The Scott Company.  His company provided consulting services to corporations wanting assistance with problems of personal selection and worker efficiency.  While running his own company, he was also president of Northwestern University from 1920 to 1939 (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            Scott argued that consumers do not act rational, and therefore they can be easily influenced.  He said that emotion, sympathy, and sentimentality are all factors that increase consumer suggestibility.  Applying his laws of suggestibility, he recommended that companies use direct commands to sell their products.  He suggested that companies use return coupons because they required consumers to take direct action.  His techniques were used by advertisers and by 1910 were used all over the country (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).

            Scott came up with a rating scale and group test to measure characteristics of people who were already successful as sales people, business executives, and military personal.  He also questioned army officers and business managers, asking them to rank the importance of appearance, demeanor, and character.  Scott then ranked job applicants on the qualities found for effective job performance.  Scott also developed psychological test to measure intelligence and other abilities, but instead of individual test he made test that could be given to groups of people.  Scott was not only measuring general intelligence but he was also interested how a person applies their intelligence.  He defined intelligence in practical terms such as judgment, quickness, and accuracy.  He compared applicants’ test scores with scores of employees who were successful, and was not concerned about what those test scores would say about the personals mental problems (Schultz & Schultz, 2004).



Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (2004). A History of Modern Psychology.

p. 239-242. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.



If you want more information about this web site, please send an email to Dr. Megan E. Bradley