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B. F. Skinner Essay Examples

B. F. Skinner

People do on a day to day basis, many actions without realizing it, and most of the time, they dont know why they do them.  Certain reinforcements, some positive, and some negative have conditioned their actions and thoughts.  All organisms, including humans, are greatly influenced by the consequences produced by their own behavior.  The environment holds the key to most of the changes that occur in the way a person behaves and a humans own behavior brings consequences that change his or her actions (B. F. Skinner).  Dr. B.F. Skinner forged the theory of Behaviorism, a school of psychology that rejects the unobservable and focuses on patterns of responses to external rewards and stimuli (Skinner, B. F.).

Burrhus Frederic Skinner was born March 20, 1904, and raised in Susquehana,
Pennsylvania, where his father worked as a lawyer and his mother was a strong and intelligent housewife (Boeree).  Skinners parents encouraged him in his schoolwork, and he was well read as a child (B. F. Skinner).  B. F. was an active, out-going boy who loved the outdoors and building things, and actually enjoyed school (Boeree).  He enjoyed literature and biology especially (B. F. Skinner).  Skinner attended Hamilton College in New York State (R. W. Kentridge).  He didnt fit in very well, not enjoying the fraternity parties or the football games.  He wrote for 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 (Boeree). He continued to read widely and to pursue interests in literature and biology.  He began to write a lot of fiction and poetry, and became known as an aspiring poet.  After his junior year, he attended the Summer School of English at Breadloaf, where he met Robert Frost (B. F. Skinner).  When he graduated, he planned to spend a year writing a novel, but found that he had nothing to write about and suffered through what he would later refer to his dark year.

Skinner considered pursuing graduate study in English, but eventually settled on psychology instead.  The choice of psychology followed Skinners realization that what intrigued him about literature was actually human behavior, a topic he felt could be approached more suitably through science  (B. F. Skinner).   The writings of Frances Bacon had interested since eighth grade.  In reading Bacon, Skinner
had been exposed to a view of science that emphasized observation, classification,
the gradual inductive establishment of laws, and the avoidance of hasty
overgeneralization and metaphysical Ernst Mach, an Austrian scientist and the
author of Science of Mechanics, which served as a model for Skinners doctoral
dissertation and as the chief basis for his own positivistic view of science (B. F. Skinner).
He got his masters in psychology in 1930 and his doctorate in 1931, and stayed there to do research until 1936.  In 1945, Skinner became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University, and in 1948 he was invited to come back to Harvard to teach, which is where he spent the rest of his life.

B. F. never became the award winning novelist he originally dreamed of, but he does write a large amount of papers and books on behaviorism.  He will be most remembered for Walden II, a book about a utopian society that is run on Skinners own operant principles.  He worked in the lab of an experimental biologist, and developed behavioral studies of rats. He loved building Rube Goldberg contraptions as a kid; 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’ve come to be known as Skinner boxes (A Science Odyssey).

B. F. Skinners entire system is based on operant conditioning.  The organism is in the process of operating on the environment, which in ordinary terms means it is bouncing around its world, doing what it does (Boeree).  While Skinner was in his office window at the University of Minnesota, Pigeons often roosted out side, which gave him the idea to use them as experimental subjects  they became his favorite.  With pigeons, he developed the ideas of operant conditioning and shaping behavior (R. W. Kentridge).  Unlike Pavlovs classical conditioning, where an existing behavior
(saliviating for food) is shaped by associating it with new stimulus (a bell
ringing), operant conditioning is the rewarding of a partial behavior or a random
act that approaches the desired behavior.  Operant conditioning can be used to
shape behavior.  If the goal is to have a pigeon turn in a circle to the left, a reward
is given for any small movement to the left.  When the pigeon catches on to that,
the reward is given for larger movements to the left and so on to that, the reward
is given for larger movements to the left, and so on, until the pigeon has turned a
complete circle before getting the reward (A Science Odyssey).

When B.F. was low on food pellets in the middle of one study he was doing, he decided to reduce the number of reinforcements he gave his rats for whatever behavior he was trying to condition, and the rats kept up their operant behaviors, and at a stable rate, no less.  This is how Skinner discovered the schedules of reinforcement (Boeree).  Continuous reinforcement is the original scenario: the rat does the behavior, he gets a reward.  Behavior modifification, or often referred to as b-mod, is the therapy technique based on Skinners work.  Extinguish an undesirable behavior (by removing the reinforcer) and replace it with a desirable behavior by reinforcement.  It has been used on all sorts of psychological problems (Boeree).

Dr. B. F. Skinner forged the theory of Behaviorism, a school of psychology that rejects the unobservable and focuses on patterns of responses to external rewards and stimuli (Skinner, B. F.).  Skinner believed that human behaviors were backed by reinforcements, good and bad.  He tested his theory by inventing the Skinner Box and operant behavior.  With his theories and testing, people now know how the many actions they perform throughout the day, and why they perform them.

Works Cited
A Science Odyssey:  People and Discoveries:  B. F. Skinner. PBS.  15 May 2000.  .
B.F. Skinner.  Boise State University.  9 May 2000.  .
B.F. Skinner Foundation – Documents – A Brief Survey of Operant Behavior.  The B.F Skinner Foundation.  14 May 2000.  .
Boeree, Dr. C. George.  B.F. Skinner.  9 May 2000.  .
Leahey, Thomas H.  “Skinner, B.F.”  Academic American Encyclopedia.  1995 ed.
R. W. Kentridge.  Skinner Box.  17 May 2000.  .
Skinner, B. F.  17 May 2000.  .
Skinner, B. F. About Behaviorism.  New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1974.
Skinner, B. F. Science and Human Behavior.  New York:  Macmillian, 1953.Words
/ Pages : 1,193 / 24

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