Bingham, Walter

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Bingham, Walter


Walter Van Dyke Bingham (1880−1952) profoundly influenced the development of applied psychology in America. For over forty years he worked for the establishment of an industrial and applied psychology based on rigorous experimental psychology. While he contributed to the understanding of a wide range of problems in applied psychology, he is best known for his significant contributions to the solution of problems centering on personnel selection in industry, military selection and manpower utilization, interviewing techniques, and psychological testing.

Bingham was born in Swan Lake, Iowa. He earned his b.a. degree at Beloit College, Wisconsin, in 1901; studied at the University of Berlin in 1907; and earned his m.a. degree at Harvard University in 1907. He received his PH.D. from the University of Chicago in 1908.

Bingham’s distinguished academic career began with his appointment to Teachers College, Columbia University, in 1908. He was assistant professor of psychology at Dartmouth from 1912 to 1915 and also served as director of the summer session. In 1915 he was asked by the Carnegie Institute of Technology to establish a department of applied psychology, the first in America. From 1915 to 1924 Bingham served at Carnegie as professor of psychology, head of the division of applied psychology, and director of the division of cooperative research.

While at Carnegie he embarked on his pioneering venture of using psychology as a tool to help clarify the problems of some of the large industries in the Pittsburgh area. At the same time, with the founding of a division of applied psychology, he endeavored to provide instruction for students planning careers in industrial management and other fields where success depended in some measure on the ability to understand and influence people. He hoped the instruction would enable such students to have a better understanding of human behavior. This work antedated such well-known historical developments in applied psychology as the Committee on Classification of Personnel in the army in 1917−1918 and the formation in 1919−1923 of the Scott Company, the first personnel consulting firm of applied psychologists.

Bingham became director of the Personnel Research Foundation, Inc., in 1924. He served as president of the Psychological Corporation from 1926 to 1928 and was appointed professorial lecturer in psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1930.

Applied psychology grew in importance during and immediately following World War i, and Bingham came to hold many responsible positions. He served as executive secretary of the Committee on Classification of Personnel in the army in 1917−1918; he held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the personnel branch of the U.S. Army General Staff in 1918−1919; and he was the first chairman of the division of anthropology and psychology of the National Research Council in 1919−1920. In 1927 he served as the American member of the board of the International Congress of Techno-psychology. His planning and consulting services to the army in World War II are acknowledged by the inscription “architect of the classification system of the army, 1940−1947,” which appears on his headstone in Arlington National Cemetery.

Another of Bingham’s major concerns was the measurement of the abilities of able and brilliant students and the early identification of the gifted. This aspect of his work was honored after his death by the American Psychological Association with the establishment of an annual lectureship in his name. The lectures have two purposes: to bring to the attention of psychologists and others the great value of accurate identification of exceptionally promising young people; and to do honor to psychologists and institutions working in this field.

Bingham was the author of over two hundred articles and books. He wrote on a wide variety of topics ranging from articles on tonal fusion, vocal functions, and studies in melody to such topics as the search for skill and talent in the army, the accident-prone driver, and reliability, validity, and dependability. Two of his books, How to Interview (Bingham & Moore 1931) and Aptitudes and Aptitude Testing (1937), are classics in the field of personnel psychology and guidance.

Bingham’s works have been widely used. His example helped make training in applied psychology a respectable and common part of the curriculum in institutions of higher learning. The testing movement has flourished. Research in industrial psychology, guidance and counseling, and personnel psychology has proceeded to develop in many of the problem areas along the lines he suggested. And his hope that more attention would be paid to students of high ability has certainly been realized in the greatly increased research and educational activity in this area. Bingham must be recognized as an important founding father of applied psychology whose vision and work have determined in large measure the directions applied psychology has taken and the considerable progress it has made since he started the Carnegie program in 1915.

Lloyd H. Lofquist

[For discussion of the subsequent development of Bingham’s ideas, seeAptitude testing; Industrial relations, article onindustrial and business psychology.]


1907 The Role of the Tympanic Mechanism in Audition. Psychological Review 14:229−243.

1910a Studies in Melody. Psychological Monographs 12, no. 3.

1910b The Use of Experiment in Teaching Educational Psychology: Report of the Meeting of New York Teachers of Educational Psychology, Held at Ithaca, N.Y., April 8−9, 1910. Journal of Educational Psychology 1:287−292.

1911 A Useful Demonstration of Tonal Fusion. Psychological Bulletin 8:57 only.

1914 Five Years of Progress in Comparative Musical Science. Psychological Bulletin 11:421−433.

1916 Bingham, Walter; Scott, W. D.; and Whipple, G. M. Scientific Selection of Salesmen: A Report on the Demonstration of Scientific Methods in the Testing of Applicants. Salesmanship 4:106−108.

1917 Mentality Testing of College Students. Journal of Applied Psychology 1:38−45.

1919 Army Personnel Work: With Some Implications for Education and Industry. Journal of Applied Psychology 3:1−12.

1923 On the Possibility of an Applied Psychology. Psychological Review 30:289−305.

1924 Bingham, Walter; and Davis, W. T. Intelligence Test Scores and Business Success. Journal of Applied Psychology 8:1−22.

1926a Measures of Occupational Success. Harvard Business Review 5:1−10.

1926b Personality and Dominant Interest: Vocational Tendencies of Introverts. Psychological Bulletin 23: 153−154.

1926 Bingham, Walter; and Freyd, Max. Procedures in Employment Psychology: A Manual for Developing Scientific Methods of Vocational Selection. Chicago and New York: Shaw.

1927 Bingham, Walter; and Slocombe, C. S. Men Who Have Accidents: Individual Differences Among Motormen and Bus Operators. Personnel Journal 6:251−257.

1929 The Personal Interview Studied by Means of Analysis and Experiment. Social Forces 7:530−533.

1931 Management’s Concern With Research in Industrial Psychology. Harvard Business Review 10:40−53.

(1931) 1941 Bingham, Walter; and Moore, Bruce V. How to Interview. 3d ed., rev. New York: Harper.

1934 Abilities and Opportunities: Some Meanings of Trends in Occupational Distribution. Occupations 12: 6−17.

1935 MacQuarrie Test for Mechanical Ability. Occupations 14:202−205.

1937 Aptitudes and Aptitude Testing. New York: Harper.

1938a Halo: Its Prevalence and Nature in Estimates of Objective Traits and in Inferential Trait-judgments. Psychological Bulletin 35:641−642.

1938b Testing in Vocational Guidance. Education 58: 539−544

1939 A National Perspective on Testing and Guidance. Educational Record 20 (Supplement): 137−150.

1941 Psychological Services in the United States Army. Journal of Consulting Psychology 5:221−224.

1944 Personnel Classification Testing in the Army. Science New Series 100:275−280.

1946 Inequalities in Adult Capacity: From Military Data. Science New Series 104:147−152.

1947 Military Psychology in War and Peace. Science New Series 106:155−160.

1948 Psychologists in Industry. American Psychologist 3:321−323.

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