His father was a lawyer, and his mother a strong and intelligent housewife. His upbringing was old-fashioned and hard-working. Burrhus was an active, out-going boy who loved the outdoors and building things, and actually enjoyed school. His life was not without its tragedies, however.
|Published (Last):||26 February 2012|
|PDF File Size:||10.49 Mb|
|ePub File Size:||8.86 Mb|
|Price:||Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]|
Burrhus Frederic Skinner March 20, — August 18, was an American psychologist , behaviorist , author, inventor, and social philosopher. Considering free will to be an illusion, Skinner saw human action as dependent on consequences of previous actions, a theory he would articulate as the principle of reinforcement : If the consequences to an action are bad, there is a high chance the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, the probability of the action being repeated becomes stronger.
Skinner developed behavior analysis , especially the philosophy of radical behaviorism ,  and founded the experimental analysis of behavior , a school of experimental research psychology. He also used operant conditioning to strengthen behavior, considering the rate of response to be the most effective measure of response strength. To study operant conditioning, he invented the operant conditioning chamber aka the Skinner Box ,  and to measure rate he invented the cumulative recorder.
Using these tools, he and Charles Ferster produced Skinner's most influential experimental work, outlined in their book Schedules of Reinforcement Contemporary academia considers Skinner, along with John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov , a pioneer of modern behaviorism. Accordingly, a June survey listed Skinner as the most influential psychologist of the 20th century.
Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania , to Grace and William Skinner, the latter of whom was a lawyer. Skinner became an atheist after a Christian teacher tried to assuage his fear of the hell that his grandmother described. Skinner's closest friend as a young boy was Raphael Miller, whom he called Doc because his father was a doctor.
They had set up a telegraph line between their houses to send messages to each other, although they had to call each other on the telephone due to the confusing messages sent back and forth. During one summer, Doc and Skinner started an elderberry business to gather berries and sell them door to door. They had found that out when they picked the ripe berries, the unripe ones came off the branches too, so they built a device that was able to separate them. The device was a bent piece of metal to form a trough.
They would pour water down the trough into a bucket, and the ripe berries would sink into the bucket and the unripe ones would be pushed over the edge to be thrown away. Skinner attended Hamilton College in New York with the intention of becoming a writer. He found himself at a social disadvantage at the College because of his intellectual attitude. The school was known for being a strong fraternity college, and Skinner joined Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity while attending.
Skinner had thought that his fraternity brothers would be respectful and would not haze or mistreat the newcomers, instead helping out the other boys with courses or other activities.
The year before Skinner entered Hamilton, there was a hazing accident that caused the death of a student. The freshman was asleep in his bed when he was pushed onto the floor, where he smashed his head, resulting in his death. Skinner had a similar incident where two freshmen captured him and tied him to a pole, where he should have stayed all night, but he had a razor blade in his shoe for emergency and managed to cut himself free. He wrote for the school paper, but, as an atheist, he was critical of the traditional mores of his college.
After receiving his Bachelor of Arts in English literature in , he attended Harvard University , where he would later research, teach, and eventually become a prestigious board member. While attending Harvard, a fellow student, Fred Keller, convinced Skinner that he could make an experimental science from the study of behavior.
This led Skinner to invent a prototype for the Skinner Box and to join Keller in the creation of other tools for small experiments. After graduation, Skinner unsuccessfully tried to write a great novel while he lived with his parents, a period that he later called the 'Dark Years.
His encounter with John B. Watson 's Behaviorism led him into graduate study in psychology and to the development of his own version of behaviorism. Skinner received a PhD from Harvard in , and remained there as a researcher until He then taught at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis and later at Indiana University , where he was chair of the psychology department from —, before returning to Harvard as a tenured professor in He remained at Harvard for the rest of his life.
In , Skinner married Yvonne Eve Blue. The couple had two daughters, Julie m. Vargas and Deborah m. Skinner's public exposure had increased in the s, he remained active even after his retirement in , until his death. In , Skinner was diagnosed with leukemia and died on August 18, , in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Ten days before his death, he was given the lifetime achievement award by the American Psychological Association and gave a talk in an auditorium concerning his work.
A controversial figure, Skinner has been depicted in many different ways. He has been widely revered for bringing a much-needed scientific approach to the study of human behavior; he has also been vilified for attempting to apply findings based largely on animal experiments to human behavior in real-life settings.
Skinner referred to his approach to the study of behavior as radical behaviorism. In his words: [ii]. The position can be stated as follows: what is felt or introspectively observed is not some nonphysical world of consciousness , mind, or mental life but the observer's own body.
This does not mean, as I shall show later, that introspection is a kind of psychological research, nor does it mean and this is the heart of the argument that what are felt or introspectively observed are the causes of the behavior. An organism behaves as it does because of its current structure, but most of this is out of reach of introspection.
At the moment we must content ourselves, as the methodological behaviorist insists, with a person's genetic and environment histories. What are introspectively observed are certain collateral products of those histories.
When what a person does [is] attributed to what is going on inside him, investigation is brought to an end. Why explain the explanation? For twenty-five hundred years people have been preoccupied with feelings and mental life, but only recently has any interest been shown in a more precise analysis of the role of the environment.
Ignorance of that role led in the first place to mental fictions, and it has been perpetuated by the explanatory practices to which they gave rise. Skinner's behavioral theory was largely set forth in his first book, Behavior of Organisms He distinguished two sorts of behavior which are controlled in different ways:. Both of these sorts of behavior had already been studied experimentally, most notably: respondents, by Ivan Pavlov ;  and operants, by Edward Thorndike.
The idea that behavior is strengthened or weakened by its consequences raises several questions. Among the most important are these: [ clarification needed ]. Skinner's answer to the first question was very much like Darwin's answer to the question of the origin of a 'new' bodily structure, namely, variation and selection.
Similarly, the behavior of an individual varies from moment to moment; a variation that is followed by reinforcement is strengthened and becomes prominent in that individual's behavioral repertoire. Shaping was Skinner's term for the gradual modification of behavior by the reinforcement of desired variations. Skinner believed that 'superstitious' behavior can arise when a response happens to be followed by reinforcement to which it is actually unrelated. The second question, "how is operant behavior controlled?
Skinner answered this question by saying that a stimulus comes to control an operant if it is present when the response is reinforced and absent when it is not. For example, if lever-pressing only brings food when a light is on, a rat, or a child, will learn to press the lever only when the light is on. Skinner summarized this relationship by saying that a discriminative stimulus e.
This three-term contingency stimulus-response-reinforcer is one of Skinner's most important concepts, and sets his theory apart from theories that use only pair-wise associations. Most behavior of humans cannot easily be described in terms of individual responses reinforced one by one, and Skinner devoted a great deal of effort to the problem of behavioral complexity.
Some complex behavior can be seen as a sequence of relatively simple responses, and here Skinner invoked the idea of "chaining".
Chaining is based on the fact, experimentally demonstrated, that a discriminative stimulus not only sets the occasion for subsequent behavior, but it can also reinforce a behavior that precedes it.
That is, a discriminative stimulus is also a "conditioned reinforcer". For example, the light that sets the occasion for lever pressing may also be used to reinforce "turning around" in the presence of a noise.
This results in the sequence "noise — turn-around — light — press lever — food. However, Skinner recognized that a great deal of behavior, especially human behavior, cannot be accounted for by gradual shaping or the construction of response sequences. To account for such behavior, Skinner introduced the concept of rule-governed behavior.
First, relatively simple behaviors come under the control of verbal stimuli: the child learns to "jump," "open the book," and so on. After a large number of responses come under such verbal control, a sequence of verbal stimuli can evoke an almost unlimited variety of complex responses.
Reinforcement, a key concept of behaviorism , is the primary process that shapes and controls behavior, and occurs in two ways: positive and negative.
In The Behavior of Organisms , Skinner defines negative reinforcement to be synonymous with punishment , i. This definition would subsequently be re-defined in Science and Human Behavior In what has now become the standard set of definitions, positive reinforcement is the strengthening of behavior by the occurrence of some event e. Both types of reinforcement strengthen behavior, or increase the probability of a behavior reoccurring; the difference being in whether the reinforcing event is something applied positive reinforcement or something removed or avoided negative reinforcement.
Though punishment is often used to suppress behavior, Skinner argued that this suppression is temporary and has a number of other, often unwanted, consequences. Writing in , Skinner pointed out that Darwinian natural selection is, like reinforced behavior, "selection by consequences.
Skinner recognized that behavior is typically reinforced more than once, and, together with Charles Ferster , he did an extensive analysis of the various ways in which reinforcements could be arranged over time, calling it the schedules of reinforcement. The most notable schedules of reinforcement studied by Skinner were continuous, interval fixed or variable , and ratio fixed or variable.
All are methods used in operant conditioning. Skinnerian principles have been used to create token economies in a number of institutions, such as psychiatric hospitals. When participants behave in desirable ways, they are reinforced with tokens that can be changed for such items as candy, cigarettes, coffee, or the exclusive use of a radio or television set. Challenged by Alfred North Whitehead during a casual discussion while at Harvard to provide an account of a randomly provided piece of verbal behavior,  Skinner set about attempting to extend his then-new functional, inductive approach to the complexity of human verbal behavior.
Verbal Behavior had an uncharacteristically cool reception, partly as a result of Chomsky's review, partly because of Skinner's failure to address or rebut any of Chomsky's criticisms. An operant conditioning chamber also known as a Skinner Box is a laboratory apparatus used in the experimental analysis of animal behavior.
It was invented by Skinner while he was a graduate student at Harvard University. As used by Skinner, the box had a lever for rats , or a disk in one wall for pigeons. A press on this "manipulandum" could deliver food to the animal through an opening in the wall, and responses reinforced in this way increased in frequency. By controlling this reinforcement together with discriminative stimuli such as lights and tones, or punishments such as electric shocks, experimenters have used the operant box to study a wide variety of topics, including schedules of reinforcement, discriminative control, delayed response "memory" , punishment, and so on.
By channeling research in these directions, the operant conditioning chamber has had a huge influence on course of research in animal learning and its applications. It enabled great progress on problems that could be studied by measuring the rate, probability, or force of a simple, repeatable response. However, it discouraged the study of behavioral processes not easily conceptualized in such terms—spatial learning, in particular, which is now studied in quite different ways, for example, by the use of the water maze.
B. F. Skinner Biography
Skinner referred to his own philosophy as 'radical behaviorism' and suggested that the concept of free will was simply an illusion. All human action, he instead believed, was the direct result of conditioning. Among his many discoveries, inventions, and accomplishments were the creation of the operant conditioning chamber aka the Skinner Box , his research on schedules of reinforcement, the introduction of response rates as a dependent variable in research, and the creation of the cumulative recorder to track these response rates. In one survey, Skinner was named the most influential psychologist of the twentieth-century. Birth and Death.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner March 20, — August 18, was an American psychologist , behaviorist , author, inventor, and social philosopher. Considering free will to be an illusion, Skinner saw human action as dependent on consequences of previous actions, a theory he would articulate as the principle of reinforcement : If the consequences to an action are bad, there is a high chance the action will not be repeated; if the consequences are good, the probability of the action being repeated becomes stronger. Skinner developed behavior analysis , especially the philosophy of radical behaviorism ,  and founded the experimental analysis of behavior , a school of experimental research psychology. He also used operant conditioning to strengthen behavior, considering the rate of response to be the most effective measure of response strength. To study operant conditioning, he invented the operant conditioning chamber aka the Skinner Box ,  and to measure rate he invented the cumulative recorder.
Skinner was attracted to psychology through the work of the Russian physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov on conditioned reflexes, articles on behaviourism by Bertrand Russell , and the ideas of John B. Watson , the founder of behaviourism. After receiving his Ph. As professor of psychology at Indiana University , Bloomington —48 , Skinner gained some measure of public attention through his invention of the Air Crib baby tender—a large, soundproof, germ-free, mechanical, air-conditioned box designed to provide an optimal environment for child growth during the first two years of life. In he published one of his most controversial works, Walden Two , a novel on life in a utopian community modeled on his own principles of social engineering.