Walter Dill Scott.

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A Simple Exposition of
The Principles of Psychology

In Their Relation to
Successful Advertising


Director of the Psychological Laboratory of Northwestern University


Small, Maynard Gf Company

'R A R


Copyright 1902-1903 by

Walter Dill Scott
All Rights Reserved

Published October, JOOJ

Plates by The Fort Hill Press

Presswork by Geo, H. Ellis Co.

Boston, U.S.A.







1 23351


NEARLY all of the chapters included in this
volume were first published serially in Mahiris
Magazine, under the title of " The Psychology
of Advertising." The thanks of the author and
of the publishers are due to the publishers of
that magazine for permission to reprint these
articles in book form, as well as for the use of
many of the illustrations which appear herein.

An acknowledgment of courtesy is also due to
the Agate Club of Chicago, which has generously
transferred to the author the copyright of an
address originally delivered before their members,
which, in modified form, appears as Chapter II
of this book.

All of the reprinted chapters have been re-
vised to adapt them to their present use, addi-
tional matter has been added to many of them,
and new introductory and concluding chapters
have been written.




I. The Theory of^dvertising i

"II. Attention 4 : P<! 6

III. Association of Ideas . 34

IV. ' Suggestion* 'iXf 47

V. The Direct Command ' 62

-ATI. CJhe Psychological Value of the Return Coupo"rT) 79

^VII. Fusion 96

VIII. vf'sychologicai Experiment^. ....... 116

IX. , Perception 130

X. .Apperception 147

XI. Illusions of Perception^ 162

XII. 'Illusions of Apperception -, 175

XIII. Personal Differences in Mental Imagery . . . 194

XIV. 'Practical Application of Mental Imagery . . . 208

XV. Conclusion 229


Burlington Route . 1 1

Dr Slocum's Remedies 13

Ralston Purina Cereals 20

Murphy Varnish Co , . . 21

White Star Coffee 22

American Pencil Co 23

The Press Co 26

Franklin Mills Co. Wheatlet 27,77

Franklin Mills Flour 28

Pruden J ial Insurance Co 31

Advertising Schools 70

Return Coupons 80, 81, 83, 84, 89

Ballot Form of Return Coupon 93

Dr. Sleight's Fat Reducing Tablets 106

Insexdie 108

Swan Fountain Pen 109

Petoskey Rug Mfg. and Carpet Co., Ltd no

Wm. M. Walton's Cigars in

Racycle 112

Great Western Cereal Co 113

Quaker Oats 114

Railroad Time-tables 120, 121

Flame Proof Co. F. P. C. Wax 143, 145

Whitman's Chocolates 156, 158

Illusions of Length 163, 165, 167, 168

Illusions of Size 166, 170, 171

Illusions of Direction 169

Munsing and Oneita Underwear 176

Portable Houses and Fountain Pens 179

Human Brain 181

Rabbit-duck Head 182

Ambiguous Figures 183, 184, 185, 186, 187

Irrelevant Piano Advertisements 212, 213

Blasius Piano 214

Packard Piano 215



Irrelevant Food Advertisements 217, 218

National Biscuit Co. Nabisco 219

Crawford Shoe 221

Crossett Shoe 222

Omega Oil 224, 225, 227


T\ B


or <



SOME good "doctoring" was done when men
"picked up " their knowledge of medicine from
their practice. To-day the state laws require
that every physician shall have a basis of theory
for his practical knowledge. He must know
the exact chemical constituents

of the drugs used. He must know

Demanded ,

the anatomy and the physiology of

the human organism. He must be a theoretical
man before he can be a practical one. If the
laws did not prohibit it, he might pick up a good
deal in actual experience and might do a good
deal of excellent work. The state laws, however,
will not allow us to run chances with such people.

We would not call upon an architect to con-
struct a modern office building unless he knew
something of the theory of architecture. We
would not call upon a lawyer to defend us be-
fore the courts unless he knew something of the
theory of law. Some states and cities require
teachers to pass examinations on the theory of
teaching before they are allowed to give instruc-

In this day and generation we are not afraid
of theories, systems, ideals, and imagination.
What we do avoid is chance, luck, haphazard



undertakings, parrot or rule -of -thumbs action,
and the like. We may be willing to decide on
unimportant things by instinct or by the flipping
of a coin, but when it comes to the serious things
of life we want to know that we are trusting to
something more than mere chance.

Advertising is a serious thing with the business
[man of to-day. It is estimated that the business
(men of the United States are spending $600,000,-
r , ooo a year in printed forms of advertising. Fur-
thermore one authority claims that seventy-five
(jper cent, of all this is unprofitable. Every busi-
ness man is anxious that no part of these unpro-
fitable advertisements shall fall to his lot. The
) enormity of the expense, the keenness of compe-
tition, and the great liability of failure has
awakened the advertising world to the pressing
need for some basis of assurance in its hazardous

I have attempted to read broadly on the sub-
ject of advertising; I have tried to talk with busi-
ness men manufacturers, salesmen, publishers,
professional advertisers, etc., and in all that I
have read, and in all these conversations, I have
never seen or heard any reference
syc o> ogy ^ Q an y t hi n g except psychology

which could furnish a stable

foundation for a theory of adver-
tising. Nothing else is ever suggested as a possi-
bility. Ordinarily the business man does not


realize that he means psychology when he says
that he "must know his customers' wants what
will catch their attention, what will impress them
and lead them to buy," etc. In all these expres-
sions he is saying that he must be a psychologist.
He is talking about the minds of his customers,
and psychology is nothing but a stubborn and
systematic attempt to understand and explain
the workings of the minds of these very people.
In Printers' Ink for October, 1895, appeared the
following editorial:

Probably when we are a little more enlightened, the
advertising writer, like the teacher, will study psychology.
For, however diverse their occupation may at first sight
appear, the advertising writer and the teacher have one
great object in common to influence the human mind.
The teacher has a scientific foundation for his work in
that direction, but the advertising writer is really also
a psychologist. Human nature is a great factor in
advertising success, and he who writes advertisements
without reference to it is apt to find that he has
reckoned without his host.

In Publicity, March, 1901, appeared an article
which is even more suggestive than the editorial
in Printers' Ink. The following is a quotation
from that article:

The time is not far away when the advertising-
writer will find out the inestimable benefits of a knowl-
edge of psychology. The preparation of copy has
usually followed the instincts rather than the analyt-



ical functions. An advertisement has been written to
describe the articles which it was wished to place before
the reader; a bit of cleverness, an attractive cut, or
some other catchy device has been used, with the hope
that the hit or miss ratio could be made as favorable
as possible.

But the future must needs be full of better methods
than these to make advertising advance with the same
rapidity as it has during the latter part of the last
century. And this will come through a closer knowl-
edge of the psychological composition of the mind.
The so-called "students of human nature" will then
be called successful psychologists, and the successful
advertisers will be likewise termed psychological adver-

The mere mention of psychological terms habit,
self, conception, discrimination, association, memory, '
imagination and perception, reason, emotion, instind
and will should create a flood of new thought thai
should appeal to every advanced consumer of advertis
ing space.

These writers merely voiced the sentiment of
the leaders in the advertising world, and are but
two of many similar quotations which might be
given. The application of the principles and
methods of psychology to advertising was a need
which was felt by all and expressed by many.

No science is regarded as complete. The last
word has not yet been said in any realm of human
knowledge. During the thousands of years since
the dawn of civilization there has been a gradual
accumulation of knowledge, but during the last



few decades the advance in the sciences has been
phenomenal. Psychology is no exception to this
general statement. Since the establishment of the
first psychological laboratory in 1879 the advance
in psychology has been very rapid. To-day certain
general principles of mind and certain methods
of investigating the mind are well established.
It behooves the advertiser to take advantage
of this scientific knowledge, for it has practical
significance for him. The following chapters are
an attempt to present the principles and the
methods which the modern psychologists have
worked out and formulated. At the same time
an attempt has been made to show how these
principles and methods can be practically applied
by the advertiser.



WHAT does the advertiser seek to accomplish
by his advertisements ? The answers to this ques-
tion differ merely as to form of expression or point
of view. One says: "The aim of advertising is
to attract attention and to sell goods." Another
statement would be that the purpose of advertis-
ing is to attract attention to the
goods and to create such a favor-
Advertisers a ^ e i m P ress i n f r them that the
reader will desire to possess them.
Whatever the statement may be, this seems cer-
7 tain one _aim.^o_f every advertisement is to at-
I tract attention. Therefore, the entire problem of
attortion is^bne of importance to the advertiser,
| and an understanding of it is necessary for its
wisest application as well as for a correct under-
standing of advertising.

When we turn to the question of attention, the
first thing that impresses us is that our attention
is narrow, that we are unable to attend to many
things at once. Out of all the multitude of things
competing for place in our attention, the great
majority is entirely disregarded. At the present
time you are receiving impressions of pressure
from your chair and from your clothing, impres-
sions of smell from flowers and from smoke,



impressions of sound from passing vehicles and
from your own breathing, impressions of sight
from your hand that holds this book and from
the table on which the book rests. As I men-
tion them they are noticed one after the other.
Before I mentioned them you were totally
oblivious of them. You cannot say how many
distinct things you can attend to at once. This
was formerly a question of frequent
*" debate. Some asserted that we

,. ' could attend to but one thing at


a time, but others, with equal
vehemence, insisted that a score of things
could be attended to at once. The question
has been removed from the realm of mere prob-
ability, for it has been investigated according
to scientific methods in the psychological lab-
oratories, and definite results have been ob-
tained. Ordinary observers under favorable

conditions can attend to about four visual
objects at once. "Object" here is used to in-
dicate anything that may be regarded as a
single thing. About four letters, four simple
pictures, four geometrical figures or easy words
are as much as we can see or attend to at

As you look at this page the light is reflected to
your eyes from each individual word, so one might
say that you receive an impression from each of
the words on the page, but if you look at the page



closely you will find that you can attend to but
about four words at once.

If, then, there are multitudes of things to be
attended to and we are unable to attend to more
than four at once, why^ do we attend_tp certain
things and disregard all the rest? What charac-
teristics must anything have that it may force
itself into our attention? Since advertisements
are part of the things which may or may not be
attended to, we may be more specific and put the
question in this form: What must

be the characteristics of an adver-
Ouestion . r

04. . A tisement to force it into the atten-

tion of the possible customer?

If I am interested in guns, take up a magazine,
look for the advertisements of guns and read them
through, my attention is voj.uj[rtary. If, while
looking for guns, something else catches my eye
for a moment and I think ' ' that is an adver-
tisement for clothing," then my attention is
involuntary. In the first case I sought out the
advertisement with a conscious purpose. In
the second there was no such conscious purpose,
but the advertisement thrust itself upon my

Psychology is the newest of the experimental
sciences and the investigations of involuntary
attention are as yet far from satisfactory. The
complete analysis of it as applied to advertising
has to my knowledge never been made. With



its complete analysis the following six principles
will appear:

The first principle is_ihatJh^Qwe.r.Qtqnyj)bject
to force itself into our attention depends on the
'absence of counter attractions.

Other things being equal, the probabilities that
any particular thing will catch our attention are
in proportion to the absence of competing attrac-
tions. This may be demonstrated in a specific
case as follows : I had a card of con-
venient size and on it were four

Experiment liters. This car( ^ was exposed to
view for one twenty-fifth of a sec-
ond, and in that time all the four letters were read
by the observers. I then added four other letters
and exposed the card one twenty-fifth of a sec-
ond as before. The observers could read but four
letters as in the previous trial, but in this exposure
there was no certainty that any particular letter
would be read. I then added four more letters to
the card and exposed it as in the previous trials.
The observers were still able to read but four let-
ters. That is to say, up to" a certain point all could
be seen ; when the number of objects (i. e., let-
ters) was doubled, the chances that any particular
object would be seen were reduced to fifty per
cent. When the number of objects was increased
threefold, the chance of any particular object
being seen was reduced to thirty-three per cent.
If I should place any four particular letters on



the right-hand page of any magazine, and also
the same four letters on the opposite page,
and have nothing else on these pages, it is safe
to say that the letters would be seen, with more
or less attention, in one or both cases by every
one who turns over the pages of the magazine.
This follows, because at the ordinary reading
distance the field of even comparatively distinct
vision is smaller than a single page of ordinary
magazine size, and as one turns the pages the
attention is not wider than the page and therefore
the letters have no rivals and would of neces-
sity fill or occupy the attention for an instant of
time, or until the page was turned over. If one
hundred of these letters were placed on each of
the pages, the chances that any particular letter
would be seen are greatly reduced.

This seems to indicate that, other things being-
equal, the full-page advertisement is the "sure-i
to-be-seen " advertisement, and that the size of an
advertisement determines the number of chances
it has of being seen.

This principle, which holds for the parts of a
page, might not hold for adjoining pages. Thus
it might not be to the advantage of an advertise-
ment to be the only advertisement or the only one
of a certain class of goods in any periodical. If
there were eight advertisements of automobiles on
a single page, the casual reader would probably see
but one or two of them. If there were eight full-



page advertisements of automobiles on adjoining
pages of the same magazine, even the casual reader
would be likely to see them all./ Whether each

Cool Off
in Colorado

If it's hot where yon are and you want a change of air,

if you are tired and overworked and need a little outing; go
to Colorado. It is the one perfect summer spot in America,
of tl

The pure, dry, invigorating air, the glory of the

scenery, the quiet restfulness of the place, the fine fishing and

golf links, the comfortable hotels and boarding houses, all go to make

Colorado the ideal country for seekers after health and pleasure.

Send for our "Handbook of Colorado.

A trip to Colorado costs but little. Our handbook tells all about the
prices for board and the attractions at different places. 'Send for a copy
TO-DAY. No charge. At the same time I will mail you a circular telling

about the very cheap tickets we are selling to Colorado. Round trip from

Chicago, $25 and $30; from St. Louis, $21 and $25, according to the date,
t takes but one night on the road from either Chicago or St. Louis to Denver.

of these eight full-page advertisements would be
as effective as one would be if it were the only one
in the magazine is a question for further consid-
eration and will be taken up at a later time.



If on a single page there are but few words set
in display type, and if these words stand out with
no competitors for the attention
*! of the reader, the chances are in

* ,. .. favor of any particular person

reading this much of the advertise-
ment. Thus, in the advertisement of the Burl-
ington Railroad reproduced herewith (No. i),
the words "Cool off in Colorado" stand out
without having to compete with any counter
attraction. If this idea causes the reader to
stop but for a second he will next see the dis-
play "Burlington Route" and then "Send for
our Handbook of Colorado." No one of these
displays competes with the other, but each assists
the other.

In the advertisement of Doctor Slocum, as
reproduced herewith (No. 2), there is so much
put in display type and in so many styles of type
that nothing stands out clearly and distinctly.
Each individual display seems to screech at the
reader as he turns the page. The result is that
the ordinary reader feels confused, and turns
away from such a page without any definite idea
as to what it is all about. Each display is a
counter attraction to each other one, and so the
effect of all is weakened.

The second principle is that the power of any
object to attract our attention depends on the intensity
of the sensation aroused.



The bright headlight of the locomotive and the
red lanterns which are used as signals of danger


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No. 2

arouse such strong sensations that we simply
must see them.

Moving objects produce a stronger sensation /</ 1
than objects at rest. This accounts for the intro- '



duction of all sorts of movement in street adver-


Certain colors attract attention more than

others. Prof. Harlow Gale has made some ex-

periments to determine what the attention value
of the different colors is. He has
found that red is the color having

Colors ^ e greatest attention value, green
is the second and black the third.
Black on a white background is more effective
than white on a black background.

Large and heavy types not only occupy a large
amount of space and so force attention to them-
selves by excluding counter attractions, but, in
addition to this, they affect the eye and give a
strong sensation and thereby attract the atten-
tion. Experiments have been made to find the
attention value of the different-sized type. It
has been found that, within the limits of trr
experiments, the attention value of display type
increases in almost exact proportion to the
increase of its size.

The eye is like a photographer's camera. If
it is focused for any particular object, all others
appear through it to be blurred and indistinct. If
I fix my eyes upon an object directly in front of
me, all others are seen but dimly. My hand, held
to the extreme right or left, is then seen so indis-
tinctly that I cannot count the fingers. Objects
that fall under the direct gaze of the eyes make



stronger visual impressions than those which fall
out of the focus. The former ordinarily attract
the attention, the latter seldom do. As one turns
over the pages of advertisements, those which fall
directly within the focus of the eye have the best
chance of attracting the attention.

An important question for the advertiser is:
Where does the ordinary reader direct his eyes
as he turns the pages of a magazine ? Does he
begin at the front or at the back of the mag-
azine ? Does he turn his eyes first to the top
or to the middle or to the bottom of the page?
Are his eyes turned more to the right or more
to the left of the page? These questions have
been the subject of frequent discussion, but they
never have been subjected to sufficiently exten-
sive investigation.

The third principle is that the attention value of
\an object depends upon the contrast it forms to the
object presented with it, preceding or following it.

The contrast produced by a flash of lightning
on a dark nip-ht, or by the hooting of an owl
at midnight, is so strong that the attention is
absolutely forced, and there is no one who
can disregard them. Novel things and sudden
changes of any sort are noticed, while familiar
things and gradual changes are hardly noticed
at all.

This is a matter of common experience, but
has been strikingly illustrated with frogs. The


following quotation is taken from a recent work

of the director of the psychological laboratory

at Yale University: " Although a

. ^ frog jumps readily enough when
w put in warm water, yet a frog can

be boiled without a movement if
the water is heated slowly enough. In one exper-
iment the water was heated at the rate of .0036
of a degree Fahrenheit per second ; the frog never
moved and at the end of two and one-half hours
was found dead. He had evidently been boiled
without noticing it."

My explanation of these results is that at any
point of time the temperature of water was in such
little contrast with the temperature a moment
before that the attention of the frog was never
attracted to the temperature of the water at all ;
so the frog was actually boiled to death without
becoming aware of the fact!

As we turn the pages of a magazine we do not
see each page as an independent unit, but we see
it in relation to what has gone before. If it is in
marked contrast to the preceding there is a sort
of shock felt which is in reality the perception of
the ( itrast. This element is a constant force
in c 1 i wing the attention. What has been said of
the full page is equally true of the parts of it.

In the case of magazine or newspaper adver-
tising, the responsibility for making effective
contrasts is shared alike by the individual adver-



tiser and by the " make-up." Contrasts may be
so harmoniously formed that the things con-
trasted are mutually strengthened, just as is the
case when red and green are placed in juxtaposi-
tion. The red looks redder and the green looks

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Online LibraryWalter Dill ScottThe theory of advertising; a simple exposition of the principles of psychology in their relation to successful advertising → online text (page 1 of 13)