InfluenceB.F. One of them was “The Behavior of

InfluenceB.F. One of them was “The Behavior of


Skinner was one of the most influential theorists in modern psychology. Hiswork was very important and has been studied by many for years. Skinner was avery straightforward man and a very educated man. His theories have helpedmankind in many ways. He has studied the behavior patterns of many livingorganisms. Skinner was a well-published writer. His work has been published inmany journals.

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He also has written many books on behaviorism. His most importantwork was the study of behaviorism. First began by John B.

Watson, behaviorism isone of the most widely studied theories today. B.F. Skinner and His Influence inPsychology B.F.

Skinner was one of the most famous of the Americanpsychologists. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1904. Skinner was the father ofmodern behaviorism.

Skinner did not get into psychology until he was in graduateschool at Harvard. He was driven to Psychology after reading about theexperiments of Watson and Pavlov. He received his doctoral degree in three yearsand taught at the University of Minnesota and the University of Indiana andfinally returned to his alma mater at Harvard.

Skinner contributed topsychological behaviorism by performing experiments that linked behaviors withterms commonly used to describe mental states. Skinner was responsible for somefamous experiments such as the “Skinner box”. Skinner also wrote some veryfamous books. One of them was “The Behavior of Organisms”. This bookdescribes the basic points of his system. Another was Walden Two.

This bookdescribes a utopian society that functions on positive reinforcement. Skinnerwas a very productive person until his death in 1990 at the age of 86.Behaviorism is a school of thought in psychology that is interested inobservable behavior.

Skinner said, “Behaviorism is not the science of humanbehavior; it is the philosophy of that science”(Skinner, 1974). There arevarious types of behavior, such as innate behavior. Innate behaviors are certainbehaviors that we are born with, such as eating when we are hungry and sleepingwhen we are tired. Early Life Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born in Susquehanna,Pennsylvania on March 20, 1904 to William Arthur and Grace Madge Skinner.Skinners home was a warm and stable place. He lived in the house he was bornin until he went off to college. Skinner also had a younger brother named EdmondJames Skinner, born November 6, 1906.

Skinner was very fond of his brother andloved him very much. At the young age of sixteen, Edmond died of a cerebralaneurysm. Skinner was a very inventive young man. He always was making orbuilding things, such as wagons, model airplanes, etc. He also attempted toinvent a perpetual motion machine, but it failed.

He also read about animals. Hecollected toads, lizards, and snakes. He trained pigeons to do tricks after hesaw them performing one year at a fair. Training the pigeons probably was wherehe got his ideas of operant conditioning. He attended Susquehanna High Schooljust like his mother and father.

In his graduating class there were only eightpeople including him. He was a very intellectual boy. He reported that he reallyenjoyed school. Over the four years in high school Skinner became quite good atmathematics and reading Latin, but was weak at science. He made up for itthough, because he was always performing physical and chemical experiments whilehe was at home.

His father was an avid book collector. Skinner always had a goodlibrary of books around his house. Skinner recalled the little collection ofapplied psychology journals that his father had bought. Those books could havebeen the starting point in his psychology career. Skinner grew up in a veryreligious family. His grandmother often reminded him of the concept of hell. Hismother once washed his mouth out with soap literally for saying a bad word.

Hisfather never punished him, but he told him of the punishments that awaited himif he ever turned out to be a criminal. Overall Skinner had a good and happychildhood. College Life After graduating high school, Skinner went to HamiltonCollege where he majored in English Literature and minored in Romance Languages.He was drawn toward English when he was in high school by one of his teachersnamed Miss Graves.

She also was responsible for his enjoyment of art andsculpting. Skinner never really fit into the campus life and he was not much ofa sportsman. He said “my shins were cracked in ice hockey and better playersbounced basketballs off my cranium” (Boring, 1967). Skinners freshman yeardid not turn out to be what he expected. He felt that the college was pushinghim around with unnecessary requirements, such as daily chapel and physicaleducation.

Skinners college life became better as the years went on. He wasvery comfortable with college life by his senior year. Skinner turned out to bequite the joker in college. He and a friend once printed up a poster that saidthat Charles Chaplin was coming to speak about being in the silent movies. Theyprinted up some copies and distributed them throughout the campus. The effect oftheir actions was more than they expected. A large amount of people showed up tosee the famous star that was not coming.

The kicker was that Skinner said thatthe presentation was under the direct supervision of Skinners Englishcomposition teacher and all of the blame was on him when Mr. Chaplin did notshow up. Skinner graduated soon after that, and it was the start of a new life.Psychological Beginning After graduating Skinner started writing, but that didnot work out. Skinner started classes at Harvard University studying for hisMasters Degree in Psychology. Skinner always had been interested in animalbehavior after seeing the performing pigeons when he was younger. He also wasinterested in human behavior as well.

This began when the man that taught himhow to play the saxophone when he was younger told him how he would entertaintroops. He would write the alphabet forward with his right and backwards withhis left hand, add up some figures given to him and answer questions from thecrowd all at the same time. The man said that it gave him a headache. Skinnerwanted to know how he did all of that. Skinner read some of the works of somefamous psychologists. He read some books on Pavlov and the work that he did withthe dogs and the work of John B.

Watson, a famous behaviorist. He really becameinterested in behaviorism when he met two men, Fred Keller and Charles Trueblood.Keller was a strict behaviorist.

Skinner saw Trueblood carrying caged rats thathe was working with in the laboratory. After that Skinner really started hittingthe books. He had a complex schedule of waking up, studying during breakfast,attending classes, study until nine oclock at night, and then going to bed.He held this regimen for two years straight. He did not have much of a lifeduring those two years. When Skinner began working on his doctoral degree, hewas working part of the time at a medical school and the other part in asubterranean laboratory with his animals.

He remained in that laboratory for atotal of five years. While working on his research, Skinner found that Pavlovhad given him the most influence in the experimental method. Pavlov said,”control the environment and you will see order in behavior” (Boring, 1967).Skinner first used the term “operant” when some of his papers came underattack.

He said, “the term “operant” was to identify behavior traceable toreinforcing contingencies rather than to eliciting stimuli” (Boring, 1967).Behaviorism and Skinner Over the years after receiving his doctoral degreeSkinner became a strict behaviorist. In 1964, Skinner gave a speech on what hecalled “The Science of Behavior and Human Dignity.” The main point of thespeech was that people blame their shortcomings on the environment and take allthe credit for their achievements. This belief wound up being the theme of oneof Skinners books.

It was called “Beyond Freedom and Dignity”, publishedin 1971.This was a very popular book and a very unpopular book. Many thoughtthat Skinner did not believe in freedom and dignity. He wanted people to seethat if we could move beyond those things then perhaps our society could move onto be a more realized one. Skinner believed that the study of behavior dependson what the organism should and should not do. Skinner also was very productivein the laboratory. His most famous experiment was the “Skinner box”.

The”Skinner box” was just a plain looking box that could measure conditioningin many different ways. Here is how it works. A hungry rat is placed in the boxand left alone.

The rat will survey its environment. The rat eventually willfind a lever and when it is pressed, food is delivered. In operant conditioningterms, the food reinforces the rats behavior of pressing the lever. Skinnerexplained how this experiment worked in his first major work “The Behavior ofOrganisms: an experimental analysis”. He explained that the type ofconditioning the rat underwent was called “free operant conditioning”. Itwas free because the rat was uninterrupted and free to press the lever as manytimes as it wanted.

He explained it like this because he wanted to distinguishhimself from Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. One difference that was pointed out wasthat the dogs had to hear the bell in order to start salivating. The rat wasgiven no stimulation; it just pressed the lever because it knew there would befood. Skinner really wanted to study human behavior. The box did little of that,but he found that if you change a humans environment, a behavioral changewould occur just like the rats behavior would change, if you change the leverpressing.

So, the main idea of behaviorism is that human behavior is a productof the stimulus-response interaction and that behavior is modifiable(Behaviorism, 1997). In another of Skinners famous works he talks about histhree-part thesis on human behavior. He believed that biology, genotype, andconditioning all work together in natural selection, operant conditioning, andin the development of social environments. Skinners life appeared to be verygood. He had a good family, two loving children and wife. He also had a good jobteaching Psychology at his alma mater, Harvard University. America lost a veryimportant, intellectual man in 1990 when B.

F. Skinner died at the age of 86 ofleukemia that he had contracted when he was younger. Even though he was dying hestill delivered a paper to the American Psychological Association.

His work andtheories always will be looked at and studied far into the future. ConclusionB.F.

Skinner was one of the most important American psychologists ever. He wasknown as the father of operant conditioning. Skinners experiments have pavedthe way for many ideas and theories that may be developed by future generationpsychologists. He was responsible for writing many books that also have helpedin understanding behaviorism. He tried to explain how human behavior wouldchange if the environment were manipulated. In my opinion, Skinner was one ofthe most well known psychologists of all time. He was a very intellectual manand will be remembered far into the future.

BibliographyBehaviorism. (1997). The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved April07,1998 from the World Wide Web: http://www.utm.

edu./research/iep/b/behavior.htmBoring, E.G. (1967). A History of Psychology in Autobiography. New York:Irvington Publishers.

Retrieved April 07,1998 from the World Wide Web:, B.F. (1974).

About Behaviorism. New York: Alfred A. Knopf Press.

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