B. F. Skinner

Becca Imhoff

Information on Skinner

  • Born: March 20, 1904, Susquehanna Depot, PA

    Died: August 18, 1990, Cambridge, MA

  • Believed that a system of rewards and punishments explains much of human behavior. He believed in punishing and rewarding. Smiles, praise, an treats. However, man experts believe that the theory is too simplistic to apply to many of the complex tasks children must learn.

    *In 1945, Skinner moved to Bloomington, Indiana and became Psychology Department Chair and the University of Indiana. In 1948, he joined the psychology department at Harvard University where he remained for the rest of his life. He became one of the leaders of behaviorism and his work contributed immensely to experimental psychology. He also invented the 'Skinner box,' in which a rat learns to obtain food by pressing a lever.*


    • 1966 Edward Lee Thorndike Award, American Psychological Association
    • 1968 - National Medal of Science from President Lyndon B. Johnson
    • 1971 - Gold Medal of the American Psychological Foundation
    • 1972 - Human of the Year Award
    • 1990 - Citation for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to Psychology

    B.F. Skinner is famous for his research on operant conditioning and negative reinforcement. He developed a device called the "cumulative recorder," which showed rates of responding as a sloped line. Using this device, he found that behavior did not depend on the preceding stimulus as Watson and Pavlov maintained. Instead, Skinner found that behaviors were dependent upon what happensafter the response. Skinner called this operant behavior.