Skinner, B. F.

Skinner, B. F. (Burrhus Frederic) (1904–1990), a United States psychologist. Skinner was one of the leaders of the behaviorist school, and his research greatly influenced experimental psychology and education. Skinner developed what came to be known as the Skinner box. An animal placed in this device would automatically be rewarded (with food, for example) when it performed a desired task. Applying the principle involved—that rewarded behavior is repeated—to human learning, he created teaching machines that reward students by immediately informing them when they give a correct answer.

Skinner was born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. degree in 1931 from Harvard University, where he became a professor of psychology in 1948. He retired from teaching in 1974.

Among his other works are: Walden Two (1948; revised editions, 1960 and 1976); Science and Human Behavior (1953); The Technology of Teaching (1968); About Behaviorism (1974); Enjoy Old Age (1983). Particulars of My Life (1976), The Shaping of a Behaviorist (1979), and A Matter of Consequences (1983) are autobiographies.

More to Explore