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Burrhus Frederic Skinner (1904-1990), American experimental psychologist. Skinner worked mostly at Harvard University, USA. He conducted numerous psychological experiments, developing his theory of operant conditioning. This elaborated classical theories of conditioning (from Pavlov), that state that a stimulus can act to reinforce behaviour. Skinner identified different reinforcement types and rates: intermittent or continuous, interval or ratio, and fixed or variable. Skinner’s work and theories influenced many theories on education of children and adults. Skinner is also known for his book Walden Two (1948), which described a utopian society run on his operant principles.
Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born on March 20, 1904, in the small Pennsylvania railroad town of Susquehanna, where he grew up. Known to most as “Fred,” his childhood was characterized by a strong curiosity about the natural world. He spent much time in exploration of nature and in devising gadgets of various sorts, which was to serve him well later. After leaving school, Skinner studied at Hamilton College and, on leaving, decided to become a writer (though only later was this aim realized and in the form of psychology texts).
Skinner’s reading of Bertrand Russell and John Watson exerted a profound influence on him in terms of philosophical foundations. At 24 years of age, Skinner became a graduate student in the Psychology Department of Harvard University. He studied the behavior of rats and pigeons and devised a number of laboratory gadgets to facilitate this research. Among these was the apparatus that was later to be called the “Skinner box” and the cumulative recorder.
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Toates, F. (2009). Burrhus F. Skinner. Mind Shapers. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
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B. F. (Burrhus Frederic) Skinner (1904–90) was the most eminent psychologist of the twentieth century. In philosophy, science, and technology, he sought to naturalize psychology to improve the human condition. His legacy is the discipline and profession of behavior analysis (http://www.abainternational).
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According to our current on-line database, Burrhus Skinner has 1 student and 198 descendants.
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One of B.F. Skinner’s (1904-90) contributions to education philosophy is his text Walden Two wherein he details the failings of society and education, as one is intricately and intrinsically linked to the other. The pedagogical methods Direct Instruction and Precision Teaching owe much to his ideas. Behaviorist theories play largely in his proposed ideas of social engineering.
Precision Teaching, developed by Skinner’s student Ogden Lindsley, uses the basic philosophy that the “learner knows best”. Each learner is charted on a unique graph known as a “Standard Celeration Chart”. The record of the rate of learning is tracked by this charting and decisions can be made from these data concerning changes in an educational program.
The psychology classic—a detailed study of scientific theories of human nature and the possible ways in which human behavior can be predicted and controlled—from one of the most influential behaviorists of the twentieth century and the author of Walden Two.
“This is an important book, exceptionally well written, and logically consistent with the basic premise of the unitary nature of science. Many students of society and culture would take violent issue with most of the things that Skinner has to say, but even those who disagree most will find this a stimulating book.” —Samuel M. Strong, The American Journal of Sociology
“This is a remarkable book—remarkable in that it presents a strong, consistent, and all but exhaustive case for a natural science of human behavior…It ought to be…valuable for those whose preferences lie with, as well as those whose preferences stand against, a behavioristic approach to human activity.” —Harry Prosch, Ethics