The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions

By Margaret P. Munger | Go to book overview

31
B. F. SKINNER

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904–1990), a boy who enjoyed tinkering, built a wide variety
of gadgets and models while growing up in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. This facility with
his hands presaged his various inventions that reshaped the study of behavior. As a student
at Hamilton College, Skinner wrote for a range of college publications, including humor-
ous tracts by “Sir Burrhus de Beerus.” Graduating in 1926 with a bachelor's degree in En-
glish literature, Skinner returned home with dreams of becoming a professional writer but
instead found loneliness, depression, and writer's block in the remodeled family attic.
Skinner first encountered behaviorism through a critique by philosopher Bertrand Russell
of John B. Watson's (p. 332) book Behaviorism. Further reading, including Ivan Pavlov's
(p. 178) recently translated works, led Skinner to realize that he “was interested in human
behavior, but had been investigating it the wrong way.” Following graduate school at Har-
vard University, Skinner taught at the University of Minnesota, where he started to exam-
ine behavior with pigeons. Later he worked at Indiana University and then returned to Har-
vard, first as a William James lecturer and the next year as a professor. His focus on the
control of behavior from environmental contingencies led him to question the validity of
an individual's experience of freewill, which garnered him some unpleasant publicity. Giv-
en this dry perspective on human existence, some may find it odd that Skinner enjoyed
music—particularly the romantic composers Gustav Mahler and Anton Bruckner.


VERBAL BEHAVIOR

CHAPTER 3

The Mand

In a given verbal community, certain responses are characteristically followed by certain consequences. Wait! is followed by someone's waiting and Sh-h! by silence. Much of the verbal behavior of young children is of this sort. Candy! is characteristically followed by the receipt of candy and Out! by the opening of a door. These effects are not inevitable, but we can usually find one consequence of each response which is commoner than any other. There are nonverbal parallels. Out!, as we have seen, has the same ultimate effect as turning a knob and pushing against a door. Both forms of behavior become part of the repertoire of the organism through operant conditioning. When a response is characteristically reinforced in a given way, its likelihood of appearing in the behavior of the speaker is a function of the deprivation associated with that reinforcement. The response Can dy! will be more likely to occur after a period of candy deprivation, and least likely after candy satiation. The response Quiet! is reinforced through the reduction of an aversive condition, and we can increase the probability of its occurrence by creating such a condition—that is, by making a noise.

It will be convenient to have a name for the type of verbal operant in which a response of given form is characteristically followed by a given consequence in a verbal community. The basic relationship has been recognized in syntactic and grammatical analyses (expressions such as the “imperative mood” and “commands and entreaties” suggest themselves), but no traditional term can safely be used here. The term “mand” has a

From B. F. Skinner, “The Mand.” In Verbal Behavior (pp. 35–51). New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1957.

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The History of Psychology: Fundamental Questions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Part 1 - What is the Mind? 1
  • 1: Plato 2
  • 2: Hippocrates 4
  • 3: Aristotle 20
  • 4: Saint Augustine of Hippo 35
  • 5: Saint Thomas Aquinas 46
  • Part 2 - Mechanisms of Mind 67
  • 6: René Descartes 68
  • 7: John Locke 81
  • 8: Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 96
  • 9: David Hume 113
  • 10: Immanuel Kant 127
  • Part 3 - Scientific Methods 141
  • 11: Gustav Theodor Fechner 142
  • 12: Hermann Von Helmholtz 154
  • 13: Hermann Ebbinghaus 168
  • 14: Ivan Pavlov 178
  • Part 4 - Emotion and Instinct in Animals and Humans 187
  • 15: Charles Darwin 188
  • 16: Margaret Floy Washburn 203
  • 17: William James 215
  • 18: Francis Galton 232
  • Part 5 - Human Development 249
  • 19: Milicent W. Shinn 250
  • 20: Sigmund Freud 258
  • 21: Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon 270
  • 22: Hugo Münsterberg 288
  • Part 6 - What is the Goal of Psychology? 295
  • 23: Wilhelm Wundt 296
  • 24: Max Wertheimer 308
  • 25: E. B. Titchener 324
  • Part 7 - Learning 331
  • 26: John B. Watson 332
  • 27: Edward C. Tolman 341
  • 28: D. O. Hebb 357
  • Part 8 - Cognition 367
  • 29: Jean Piaget 368
  • 30: L. S. Vygotski 387
  • 31: B. F. Skinner 399
  • 32: Noam Chomsky 408
  • 33: Sir Frederic C. Bartlett 430
  • 34: Ulric Neisser 447
  • Part 9 - Considerations of Context 467
  • 35: James J. Gibson 468
  • 36: James L. Mcclelland, David E. Rumelhart, and Geoffrey E. Hinton 478
  • 37: V. S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee 492
  • Bibliography of Readings 511
  • Bibliography of Biographical References 513
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