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Walter Dill Scott (1869-1955) was one of the first applied psychologists. He applied psychology to various business practices such as personnel selection and advertising.

Scott was born in Cooksville, Illinois near the town of Normal, Illinois. He lived on a farm until the age of 19 when he entered Illinois State Normal University. He wanted to become a missionary to China, but following his graduation, could not find a missionary position in China. He decided instead to go to Germany and study psychology with Wilhelm Wundt. While there, he received his Doctor of Philosophy in psychology and education in 1900 from Leipzig University.

In 1900 he was appointed instructor of psychology and education and director of the psychological laboratory at Northwestern University. In 1905, Dr. Scott was made professor of psychology and head of the department of psychology. In 1909, he was appointed professor of advertising in the School of Commerce at Northwestern University and in 1912, professor of applied psychology in the School of Commerce.

Soon after returning from Germany, while he was teaching at Northwestern University, we was approached by an advertising executive looking for ideas to make advertising more effective. He turned his attention to this area and composed the book The Psychology of Advertising in Theory and Practice[1] in 1903. In 1908, he published another book about that topic: "The Psychology of Advertising".

In 1917 Scott approached the army, offering to help them by applying psychological principles to personnel selection. Although some of his contacts were skeptical, they did decide to incorporate some of his methods and awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal.

Some of his personnel selection methods included tests to measure certain desirable characteristics and rating scales to rate applicants on necessary skills and attributes (appearance, demeanor, neatness, judgment, accuracy).

During 1919-1920, he was president of the American Psychological Association. In 1920, he was elected president of Northwestern University and served until 1939. In 1933, he was awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor by the French Government for his contributions to education and the Goethe Plaque by the German Government "in recognition of Northwestern University's impressive celebration of Goethe's anniversary".

Scott Hall at Northwestern University is named for Walter and his wife Anna Miller Scott.

He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, and Alpha Phi Omega.


  • Shultz, Duane; Shultz, Sydney Ellen (2004). A History of Modern Psychology (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning.

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