Introducing the Basics

John B. Watson and B. F. Skinner

Who was B.F. Skinner?

Burrhus Frederick (B.F.) Skinner (1904–1990) was a famous champion of behaviorism. He wrote several books, including Walden Two and About Behaviorism, in which he spelled out his views on psychology, in particular the view that observable behavior was the only valid object of scientific study. Like John Watson before him, he had a flair for public relations and knew how to get his ideas into the public eye.

Skinner made numerous long-lasting contributions to behaviorism. He was interested both in the theory of behaviorism and its application to everyday problems. His two most important contributions include the principles of operant conditioning and the techniques of behavioral modification. He was also interested in educational methods and in techniques of animal training. Although Skinner’s radical behaviorism has been out of fashion for several decades, many of his core ideas survive. While they cannot explain all of human psychology, they do offer important insights into a broad range of behavior. Moreover, the techniques he proposed are still fundamental tools in a dramatically broad range of disciplines.


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