Humanist Profile

The Humanist, March-April 2004 | Go to article overview

Humanist Profile


"I would define a humanist as one of those who, because of the environment to which he has been exposed, is concerned for the future of mankind."

--B. F. Skinner, from "Humanism and Behaviorism" in the July/August 1972 issue of the Humanist.

Behaviorist B. F. Skinner, called "perhaps the most celebrated psychologist since Sigmund Freud," was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. A decided atheist at a very young age, he received a B.A. in English from Hamilton College in upstate New York, where he was required to attend chapel daily. He then earned a Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Harvard University.

Skinner devoted his life to the study of instrumental conditioning--later called Skinnerian conditioning--advancing research methodology by raising the standards for what was considered acceptable research within the field of psychology. In 1945 he was made chair of the psychology department at Indiana University.

In 1948 he published his famous utopian novel, Walden Two, which depicts a society where social problems are solved through a technology of human behavior that renders many traditional values obsolete. In that same year, he returned to Harvard, where he became Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology and taught for the test of his life. …

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Humanist Profile
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