Berres Frederick Skinner is the inventor of the camera of operant conditioning and one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th century.
Childhood and early years
Berres Frederick was born in Pennsylvania, USA, in the family of the lawyer William Skinner and his wife Grace. The boy had a happy childhood, and from an early age he had a passion for all inventions. At an early age, he becomes a convinced atheist. He dreams of becoming a writer, and, in order to achieve his cherished goal, enters the College Hamilton in New York. However, because of his views, the boy will remain alien to the intellectual position of the institution. In 1926 Skinner received a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts in the field of English literature.
After that, in 1930, he entered Harvard University, where he received a Master of Arts degree.
At the end of the university, Skinner takes up the writing of the novel, but in his literary talent, he soon disappointed. Accidental acquaintance with John B. Watson’s book “Behaviorism” inspires Skinner to focus his efforts on the study of psychology.
In 1931, Skinner received a Ph. D. in Harvard, and until 1936 will be a research fellow at the University. It is here that he begins work on the creation of an operant conditioning camera – an adaptation also known as the Skinner’s camera and intended for studying the processes of instrumental conditioning
In 1936, leaving Harvard, he became a teacher at the University of Minnesota, where in 1937 he received the post of senior teacher, and in 1939 will become an assistant professor. In this position, Skinner will work until 1945.
In 1945, he will take the post of professor at the Indian University, where he will also be elected head of the department of psychology. After working for three years, Skinner leaves the university.
Returning to Harvard, in 1948, he enters the staff of professors at the university, in which he will remain until the end of his days.
Skinner founded his own school of psychology, known as “radical behaviorism.” His works in this field are based on the study of conditioned reflexes. Skinner firmly believes that a living organism does not have its own will, but only copies behavior leading to a favorable outcome for it.
He constructs a learning machine – a device that simplifies the educational process to a wide audience of his students. This apparatus teaches the training course incorporated in it, testing the received knowledge and, as motivation, encouraging for correct answers.
In 1948 Skinner wrote a novel-utopia “Walden-two” – a very contradictory literary work, in which the author refutes the theory of the existence of freedom of will, spirit and soul. He argues that human behavior is determined by genetic factors and the influence of a volatile environment, and not by free choice.
In 1957, Skinner publishes the work “Verbal Behavior”, in which he analyzes the use of language, language phenomena and speech – a purely theoretical work that is not supported by practical research.
In 1971 he published his most famous book, “Beyond Freedom and Honor”, in which Skinner presents his own approach to science, which he calls “cultural engineering.” This publication in the blink of an eye becomes a hit of sales of the publishing house “New York Times”.
Skinner invented an operant conditioning chamber that facilitates the study of the behavioral model of animals, encouraging them to perform specific actions in response to certain stimuli. These cameras have been used in a number of studies in the study of animal behavior and psychology. Skinner’s psychological teaching, radical behaviorism, is used in many, completely different spheres of modern society: in management, clinical practice, animal training and educational processes. His theories are used when prescribing therapy for autistic children.
Awards and achievements
In 1971, Skinner was awarded a gold medal by the American Psychological Foundation.
In 1990, for his invaluable contribution to the field of science, he received the “For Outstanding Achievement” award of the American Psychological Association.
Personal life and heritage
In 1936, Skinner marries Yvonne Blue. In the family, two daughters are born, Julia and Deborah. Julia later became a famous writer and teacher.
The Skinner Foundation, founded in 1988 with his personal support, was created to promote the philosophy of science proposed by the scientist. The president of this fund is his own daughter, Julia.
In 1989, Skinner was diagnosed with leukemia, from which he died in 1990.
The most ardent opponent of Skinner’s theories was the philosopher and cognitivist Noam Chomsky.
Skinner most often preferred to experiment on pigeons.