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B.F Skinner (1904-1990)

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Nicole Kraljevic

on 19 February 2014

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Transcript of B.F Skinner (1904-1990)

The Life and Times of B.F. Skinner

B.F Skinner (1904-1990)
His Early Years
William Arthur Skinner (father) and Grace Madge Burrhus (mother) wed in the spring of 1902, William was a twenty-five year old attorney with political aspirations, Grace was a twenty five year old legal secretary. The first of the couples two children was born on March 20th, 1904, who was formally known as, Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F Skinner for short). As a boy Skinner was said to love inventing, and building new things; a skill he would later need in his own psychological experiments. Throughout B.F Skinner's twelve years of grade school and high school, he proved himself to be academically gifted in a variety of area's including math, scientific subjects, humanities and loved literature. At a young age, he was said to have writen stories and poems for all his family members to hear.
Field of Research
Human Behavior/Observation
Skinner believed that we do have such a thing as a mind, but it is simply more productive to study observable behavior rather than internal events (not the mind).

Clinical & Experimental Psychology
Skinner's famous experiments: the 'Skinner-Box' and the ' Baby Tender'
Educational Background
Once Skinner graduated from high school, he ranked second in his class of seventy seniors, oddly enough both of his parents had achieved a similar class ranking at their respective high school graduations. For college, Skinner first attended Hamilton College in Clinton, New York to acquire his bachelor's degree in English. But, he soon realized his writing lacked significant content. So he decided to abandon his literary ambitions entirely for the sake of a Psychology career. He was accepted into Harvard in 1928, and earned his Doctorate in Psychology in 1931. He stayed at Harvard for a few more years for further experimenting and research.
Methods of Research: Operant Conditioning
Operant conditioning, which is often referred to as the 'Skinnerian Conditioning', is based on these three types. of behavior.
As a behaviorist, Skinner believed that internal thoughts and motivations could not be used to explain behavior. Instead he suggested, we should look only at the external, observable causes of human behavior (not the mind)
"The consequences of behavior determine the probability, that the same behavior will occur again"

-B.F Skinner
"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten"

-B.F. Skinner
Here is a clip to help
further explain the
Reinforcement Theory..
Skinner identified these three types of responses that can follow behavior as:
Neutral Operants:
Responses from the environment that neither increase nor decrease the probability of a behavior being repeated
Responses from the environment that increase the probability of a behavior being repeated (they can either be positive or negative)
Response from the environment that decrease the likelihood of a behavior being repeated. Punishment weakens behavior.
Important Contributions/Experiments for Psychology
Works Cited Page
John Boman, E. (2001). B. F. Skinner (Burrhus Frederic) (1904-90). Cambridge
Dictionary Of American Biography, 1.
Rudowski, V. (2000). B. F. Skinner. Dictionary Of World Biography: The 20Th Century,
Swirski, P. (2010). Walden Two. Masterplots, Fourth Edition, 1-3.
McLeod, S. A. (2007). Skinner - Operant Conditioning. Retrieved from http://
Rothenberg, M. (1993). B.f. Skinner: A Life. Magill Book Reviews,
'Skinner Box
" which Skinner developed to test the effects of behavior modification on laboratory animals
He is also known for inventing the
"Baby Tender"
, used for experimental research. The Baby Tender was a crib with an enclosed plexiglass window with controllable temperature system.
During WWII he worked for the Office of Scientific Research and Development, on such projects as training

pigeons to guide missiles.
Some of his professional writings include
; Science and Human Behavior (1953) , Verbal Behavior (1957)
The Behavior of Organisms
. In his books
Walden Two (1948
) and
Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971)
, included his controversial views on social engineering, but non the less influential on his utopian work of the century. In many ways they parallel Skinner's own exploration of the relation between literature and science or fiction and life.
"Schedules of Reinforcement
" was what he had discovered during his research on
Operant Conditioning
that follow both positive and negative reinforcement.
Schedules of Reinforcement :
1. Fixed-Ratio Schedule:
This schedule produces a high, steady rate of responding with only a brief pause after the delivery of the reinforcer.
Example: Shoe makers at a factory get paid for every 15 shoes they make. Resulting in a high production rate but can lead to burnout and/or lower-quality work.
2. Fixed- Interval Schedule:
This schedule causes high amounts of responding near the end of the interval, but much slower responding right after the delivery of the reinforcement.
Example: A weekly pay-check; the employee receives reinforcement every seven days, resulting in higher response rate as payday approaches.
3. Variable-Ratio Schedule:
This schedule creates a high steady rate of responding.
Example:Gamblers/Players have no way of knowing how many times they have to play until they win, all they know is that eventually they will win.
4. Variable-Interval
This schedule produces a slow, steady rate of response.
Example: Typically, you check your e-mail at random times throughout the day instead of checking every time a single message is delivered
How is B.F. Skinner Important to Our Study of the Social Sciences?
Helps us to understand and see how much he accomplished with such little resources (not as technologically advanced in his time as apposed to now)
Helps us to make connections in present day with some of his experiments.
Example 1:
The Reinforcement Theory shapes behavior in classrooms as a form of motivation (in elementary school you're given a sticker for good work, a form of positive reinforcement)
Example 2:
A student receives a bad mark on a test. For the next test, they decide it is better to not study at all. Rather than studying and receiving positive reinforcement (a good mark) the student actually sets themselves up for negative reinforcement, which reflects their poor mark.
So, How Can Skinner's Experiments Help/Impact Modern-Day Situations
Based on Skinner's Reinforcement Theory, an example would be, if I were to walk into a classroom and in studying the research methods of B.F. Skinner, will be asking 10 students out of 30, 20 questions each on various topics. It is likely that no one will participate in this seemingly boring experiment. But, if I were to include in that statement that for every 5 consecutive question's one get's right, they will get a piece of chocolate, it is much more likely for students to participate.
This form of research is called a Fixed-Ratio Schedule. This is just one of the four topics under the Reinforcement Theory.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner (B.F. Skinner
Skinner's Experiment: The Baby Tender
Skinner's Experiment: Skinner-Box
Positive and Negative Reinforcement
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