B.F. Skinner

Skinner, Burrhus Frederic

Burrhus Frederic Skinner, 1904–90, American psychologist, b. Susquehanna, Pa. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1931, and remained there as an instructor until 1936, when he moved to the Univ. of Minnesota (1937–45) and to Indiana Univ., where he was chairman of the psychology department (1945–48). He returned to Harvard in 1948, becoming the Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology in 1958. Skinner was the leading exponent of the school of psychology known as behaviorism, which explains the behavior of humans and other animals in terms of the physiological responses of the organism to external stimuli. Like other behaviorists, he rejected unobservable phenomena of the sort that other forms of psychology, particularly psychoanalysis, had studied, concerning himself only with patterns of responses to rewards and stimuli. Skinner maintained that learning occurred as a result of the organism responding to, or operating on, its environment, and coined the term operant conditioning to describe this phenomenon. He did extensive research with animals, notably rats and pigeons, and invented the famous Skinner box, in which a rat learns to press a lever in order to obtain food. Skinner's more well-known published works include The Behavior of Organisms (1938), Walden Two (1948), Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971), and About Behaviorism (1974, repr. 1976).

See his autobiography (3 vol., 1984); studies by F. Carpenter (1974) and S. Modgil, ed. (1987).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Modern Perspectives on B. F. Skinner and Contemporary Behaviorism
James T. Todd; Edward K. Morris.
Greenwood Press, 1995
Walden Two
B. F. Skinner.
Macmillan, 1962
Verbal Behavior
B. F. Skinner.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957
Cumulative Record
B. F. Skinner.
Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1959
Psychology's Grand Theorists: How Personal Experiences Shaped Professional Ideas
Amy Demorest.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Behavioral Approach: B. F. Skinner"
Seven Pioneers of Psychology: Behaviour and Mind
Ray Fuller.
Routledge, 1995
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "B. F. Skinner (1904-90)"
An Introduction to Theories of Personality
Robert B. Ewen.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003 (6th edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "Radical Behaviorism: B. F. Skinner"
Psychology and 'Human Nature'
Peter Ashworth.
Psychology Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Not Separable from the World: Skinner's Radical Behaviourism"
Leaving the Cave: Evolutionary Naturalism in Social-Scientific Thought
Pat Duffy Hutcheon.
Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Twenty-Three "The Radical Behaviourism of B. F. Skinner"
Educational Psychology: A Century of Contributions
Barry J. Zimmerman; Dale H. Schunk.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 10 "B. F. Skinner: A Behavior Analyst in Educational Psychology"
Learning from Our Mistakes: A Reinterpretation of Twentieth-Century Educational Theory
Henry J. Perkinson.
Greenwood Press, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "B. F. Skinner"
A Psychology of Freedom and Dignity: The Last Train to Survival
E. Rae Harcum.
Praeger, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Skinner's Gremlins"
Cognition, Creativity, and Behavior: Selected Essays
Robert Epstein.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Part V "B. F. Skinner"
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