Modern Perspectives on B. F. Skinner and Contemporary Behaviorism

By James T. Todd; Edward K. Morris | Go to book overview

Chapter 1
Psychology 161
Fred S. KellerGood Morning! This is Psychology 161, listed in the catalog as Basic Concepts in Modern Psychology. Actually, the course is an introduction to reinforcement theory.
1. It should not be attended by persons who have passed through their undergraduate training at Columbia University or who have had a comparable course elsewhere.
2. It is to be pitched at a level which your instructor thinks suitable for M.A. candidates, and your instructor is fully aware of the difficulties involved in meeting such a requirement. He means that he will ask you to do reading that he could probably not get an undergraduate to do; to listen to talk that sometimes requires a captive audience; to answer questions on examinations that demand a more analytical attack than can be asked of most undergraduates.
3. The brand of reinforcement theory dealt with here will be of the sort initiated in 1938 and earlier by B. E Skinner and which is now taught at various universities in this country and abroad. The other, and not unrelated, brand is that associated with the name of Clark L. Hull and his pupils at Yale University. Our emphasis will be "Skinnerian."
4. The theory involved, as you may or may not know, refers to the systematic organization of experimental fact that was first suggested by Skinner in The Behavior of Organisms ( 1938), and which has now been extended in many directions and with some modification. It will not deal to any marked degree with the "testing" or "proving" of statements, experimentally grounded or otherwise. Nor will it be concerned with "explanations" of behavior in terms of either physiological or psychic events. Stress will be on the organization of laboratory findings, in the interests of clarity, economy, and usefulness--but I'd have a hard time in trying to define the last three terms.
5. Basic concepts refers to the basic concepts of reinforcement theory, suggested by such terms as conditioning, extinction, discrimination, and, especially, reinforcement. Although the course title says "basic concepts in modern psychology," the narrowness here may not be so great as you now feel.

-3-

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