Burrhus Frederic Skinner
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Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
See his autobiography (3 vol., 1984); studies by F. Carpenter (1974) and S. Modgil, ed. (1987).
Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
Born Mar. 20, 1904, in Susquehanna, Pa. American psychologist; leader of behaviorism.
From 1939, Skinner was a professor at the universities of Minnesota and Indiana and at Harvard. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. He opposed neo-behaviorism, believing that psychology should be limited to the description of the observable, regular connections between stimuli and responses and the reinforcement of responses. Skinner proposed the concept of operant learning (from “operation”), according to which an organism acquires new responses because it reinforces them, and an external stimulus elicits a response only after such reinforcement. Based on this theory, Skinner distinguished a special group of conditioned reflexes, operant reflexes, which he regarded as fundamentally different from the classical conditioned reflexes discovered by I. P. Pavlov. Experimental psychology has demonstrated the erroneous-ness of such a distinction.
Skinner first studied operant behavior in animals, proposing a number of original methods and devices, including the Skinner box, in which the experimental animal receives reinforcement only after performing an operant, such as pressing a bar.
Skinner proposed concepts of speech acquisition, psychotherapy, and education, based on the idea that the mechanisms of human and animal behavior are identical. He was the originator of programmed learning, his version of which is strongly mechanistic.
Drawing on operant behaviorism’s ideas about the control of human behavior, Skinner proposed Utopian plans for reconstructing society. His proposals evoked sharp criticism from progressive scientists in various countries, including the USA.
WORKSThe Behavior of Organisms. New York .
Walden Two. New York, 1948.
Science and Human Behavior. New York .
Verbal Behavior. New York .
The Technology of Teaching. New York .
Contingencies of Reinforcement. New York .
Beyond Freedom and Dignity. New York, 1971.
“Answers for My Critics.” In H. Wheeler, ed. Beyond the Punitive Society. San Francisco, 1973.
REFERENCESLeont’ev, A. N., and P. Ia. Gal’perin. “Psikhologicheskie problemy pro-grammirovannogo obucheniia.” In the collection Novye issledovaniia ν pedagogicheskikh naukakh. Moscow, 1965.
Tikhomirov, O. K. Struktura myslitel’noi deiatel’nosti cheloveka. Moscow, 1969.
Iaroshevskii, M.G. Psikhologiia v XX stoletii. Moscow, 1971.
M. G. IAROSHEVSKII [23–1504–]