B.F. Skinner, America’s Influential Behavioral Scientist Essay

B.F. Skinner, America’s Influential Behavioral Scientist Essay

To begin with, it is important to mention that this paper focuses on B.F. Skinner and his famous theory on behavior analysis. Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on 20 March 1904 in Pennsylvania, in a small town called Susquehanna (Bjork, 1993). Evidently, his parents were Grace and William Skinner. His father was a lawyer. B.F. Skinner described his childhood in Susquehanna as stable and warm. At that time, he enjoyed constructing and inventing various things. Obviously, this was a good base for his further profession for applying in different psychological experiments (Bjork, 1993).

B.F. Skinner went to New York Hamilton College, where he studied as Administration in English literature specialist. Skinner was involved in writing various school papers. After college, he spent much time struggling to write about his fictional ideas. Later, he became very disappointed by his writing skills and concluded that he possessed little experience of the real world and hence he had no inspiration and material on what to write. After this conclusion, he started discovering the writings by John Watson and Pavlov (Bjork, 1993). These writings made him to obtain a good basis of his research and brought him an understanding of the natural things and behaviorism. Furthermore, during his life, B.F. Skinner was also inspired by the works of Edward Thorndike, who studied learning in animals using a specific puzzle box to propose the theory, which is known as the Law of Effect.

The inspiration by John Watson made B.F. Skinner to have the desire to improve his study in psychology. Therefore, he started his education in Harvard University for a graduate Psychology program at the age of twenty-four. Later, Skinner realized that the behavioral approaches used at that time depended on the Pavlov and Watson’s works. He decided to change the method of their works in order to find some new conclusions. In 1931, he received his PhD of psychology and married Yvonne Blue. Later, he was a professor in University of Indiana and Minnesota University. In Indiana University, he was a chairperson of the psychology department for two years. Evidently, his service as a chairperson gave him the significant opportunity to advance his knowledge in behaviorism. These events influenced his views on the relations in the collective. As a result, he changed his opinion about few of his theories. In 1958, he returned to Harvard University and remained there as a permanent Professor for the remaining part of his life. He died in August 1990 due to the Cerebral Cancer illness.

In his theories, B.F. Skinner was dedicated in developing his personal scientific brand called Radical behaviorism. Obviously, he defined Radical behaviorism as the specific philosophy of science of behavior, which aims to realize behavior as dependent on environmental histories for reinforcement of consequence. Skinner believed that it was a waste of time to study the unconscious and hidden aspects of humans. As a result, this belief made him to reject some serious theories, which had a leading status in the psychological discipline. He believed that the core of behaviorism seems to lie on learning and reinforcement of animal and human behavior.

B.F. Skinner focused his time in analyzing observable kinds of human behaviors. Thus, he spent much of his scientific career trying to refine the various theories of reinforcement. Skinner always argued that personality is a specific element that develops in human beings (Skinner, 1965). In such an aspect, the behavior responds depending on various external events. Therefore, he defined personality as an aspect, which consists of the collection of different human behaviors in a certain environment. Moreover, he proposed that the differences in learning experiences of the person are the major reasons of the difference in human behavior. It is the reason why learning differences seriously affects human personality.
It is essential to mention that Skinner is regarded as the developer of the Operant Conditioning theory. Thus, he coined the term “operant conditioning”. According to his opinion, it means roughly changing of behavior strategy by the use of reinforcement given after the desired response (Skinner, 1948). A close look at his works indicates that Skinner identified three main types of responses or operant, which can follow behavior. Firstly, it is neutral operants, which are responses from the surrounding environment that neither decrease nor increase the probability of a behavior strategy being repeated. Secondly, it is reinforcers operants. These responses from the environment increase the probability of a repeating behavior. Reinforces could be either positive or negative. Finally, Skinner described punishers operants. These responses from the environment decrease the likelihood of a repeating behavior (Skinner, 1976). Obviously, punishment weakens behavior. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning theory plays a big role in the understanding of the impact of reinforcers and punishers on the human’s behavior.

Taking everything into account, it is possible to conclude that B.F. Skinner made a huge influence on the development of the modern psychological thought. The methodology and results of his main works, such as “Beyond freedom and dignity”, “Teaching machines”, “Superstition in pigeon”, “The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis”, “The technology of teaching”, and others continue to be the basis of the contemporary behavioral theories.

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Bjork, D. (1993). B.F. Skinner: A life. New York: Basic Books.298.

Skinner, B.F. (1948). Superstition in the pigeon.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38: 168-172.

Skinner, B.F. (1965). Science and Human Behavior. Free Press. 480.

Skinner, B.F. (1976). About Behaviorism. Vintage. 304.