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B.F. Skinner Essay

1906 words - 8 pages

B.F. Skinner was one of the important figures in the field of behaviorism. Initially, Burrhus Frederic (B.F.) Skinner majored in literature at Hamilton College in New York. He went to New York City in the late 1920s to become a writer, but he was not successful. "I had nothing important to say," (Vargas, 2006) he later explained. So, he decided to go back to school, and went to Harvard to study psychology, since he had always enjoyed observing animal and human behavior. For the most part, the psychology department there was immersed in introspective psychology, and Skinner found himself more and more a behaviorist. Behaviorist B.F. Skinner added many contributions to the field of psychology ...view middle of the document...

He had always been a tinkerer, and loved building Rube Goldberg contraptions as a child; he put that skill to use by designing boxes to automatically reward behavior, such as depressing a lever, pushing a button, and so on. His devices were such an improvement on the existing equipment; they have come to be known as Skinner boxes. He came up with the term operant behavior when he noticed that the rats would press the bar based on the following stimulus, and not the preceding stimulus like Watson thought. Skinner then came up with operant conditioning, which states that behavior can be controlled by manipulating punishments and rewards in the environment. (Pervin, Cervone, and John, 2005) He innovated his own philosophy of science called Radical Behaviorism. He founded his own school of experimental research psychology the Experimental Analysis of Behavior. Skinner's analysis of human behavior culminated in his work Verbal Behavior, which has recently seen enormous increase in interest experimentally and in applied settings. He discovered and advanced the rate of response as a dependent variable in psychological research. Skinner also invented the cumulative recorder to measure rate of responding as part of his highly influential work on schedules of reinforcement (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2007).Influences on PersonalityB.F. Skinner was extremely influential on the psychology of personality. Mischel, Shoda, and Smith (2004) found the following:-Analysis of the stimulus conditions controlling behavior replaces inferences about internal conflicts and underlying motives in Skinner's conceptualization.-Discrimination in learning is fundamental in the socialization process. When behavior yields similar consequences under many conditions, generalization occurs, and the individual may display similar behavior patterns across diverse settings.-Behavior may be shaped by reinforcing successively closer approximations to a particular desired behavior.-While continuous reward or reinforcement for behavior may result in faster learning, irregular or intermittent reinforcement often produces more stable behavior that persists even when reinforcement is withdrawn. Many potentially maladaptive behaviors are rewarded irregularly and may therefore become very resistant to change.-Irrational behavior may be created by accidental/ noncausal pairings of behavior and response.-The influence of punishment is complex and depends on many conditions, such as its timing (p. 243).Skinner's perspectives and these contributions and influences to the field of psychology of personality were influenced by some occurrences in his life.Influential Events and Accomplishments in Skinner's LifeIn 1936, Skinner wed Yvonne Blue. The two moved to Minneapolis, and he acquired his first teaching job at the University of Minnesota. Two years later the couple gave birth to their eldest daughter Julie. That same year Skinner published a book, The Behavior of Organisms. This book initially...

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