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B.F. Skinner Essay

760 words - 3 pages

Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F. Skinner) was born March 20, 1904, in the small Pennsylvania town of Susquehanna. His father was a lawyer, and his mother- a strong and intelligent housewife. His upbringing was old-fashioned and hard-working. Skinner was an active, out-going boy who loved the outdoors and building things, and actually enjoyed school. His life was not without its tragedies; however in particular, his brother died at the age of 16 of a cerebral aneurysm.But After all the heart ache, Skinner did receive his BA in English from Hamilton College in upstate New York. He did not fit in very well, not enjoying the fraternity parties or the football games but he wrote for the school paper, including articles; critical of the school, the faculty, and even Phi Beta Kappa! To top it off, he was an atheist -- in a school that required daily chapel attendance.Skinner wanted to be a writer and he certainly did try, sending off poetry and short stories. When he graduated, he built a study in his parents' attic to concentrate but it just wasn't working for him.Ultimately, he resigned himself to writing newspaper articles on labor problems, and lived for a while in Greenwich Village in New York City as a "bohemian." And after some traveling, he decided to return to school, this time at Harvard. He got his masters in Psychology in 1930 and his Doctorate in 1931, and stayed there to do research until 1936. Then in 1945, he became the chairman of the Psychology department at Indiana University. In 1948, he was invited to come to Harvard, where he remained for the rest of his life. He was a very active man, doing research and guiding hundreds of Doctoral candidates as well as writing many books. While not very successful as a writer of fiction and poetry, he became one of our best Psychology writers, including the book Walden II, which is a fictional account of a community run by his behaviorist principles.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. He conducted pioneering work on experimental psychology and advocated behaviorism, which seeks to understand behavior as a function of environmental histories...

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