Ernest Dichter and American Market Research, 1946-77

Joseph Malherek

In 1947, the Viennese psychologist Ernest Dichter, who had emigrated to the U.S. in 1938, published his first book, The Psychology of Everyday Living. The book was partly a motivational, self-help guide to personal contentment and successful living, and partly a summary of Dichter’s work as a market researcher and psychological consultant, first for the J. Stirling Getschell advertising agency, then for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), and finally as the head of his own firm. The picture-packed book covered a number of topics on the theme of “everyday living”—such as marriage, social anxiety, health, hygiene, and personal appearance—while incorporating the “lessons” that Dichter had derived from his commercial research assignments. Dichter argued that the mundane facts of day-to-day life, which often centered on various commodities and commercial goods, were more fundamental than abstract politics, social ideals, or even civic engagement to most people.