Burrhus Frederic Skinner

Behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher

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For what is he most famous?

Skinner is most know for developing his theory of behaviorism. To test this theory he invented the operant conditioning apparatus (the Skinner Box). This this he observed animals interacting with their environment. From these observations he concluded that reinforcement was necessary to learning.
Skinner Box - Lever Press

How did Skinner's research affect the field of psychology?

Skinner's views greatly changed how we understand and study human behavior, inspiring experimental psychology. Skinnerian behavioral therapy has also been effective when used to treat pathologies such as depression, simple phobias, and anxiety disorders. Though the effects of his research weren't always good, Skinners work has often been adopted by "conversion therapists" who used the same ideas that Skinner presented to change the sexual orientation of homosexual individuals, these therapist also used these idea to try to "condition" or "train" children out of autism.

How did Skinner's research change our understanding of how people act and think?

He changed the way we look at education by emphasizing the importance of positive reinforcement, individualized instruction, simple to complex ordering of content, the use of active practice by students, and frequent feedback to students and how these things positively effect the learning process.

How did the time period in which he lived affect his research or how it was received?

Skinner emerged in a period where Freudian psychoanalysts were dominant and broke from the norm and built anon the theories of John B. Watson and Ivan Pavlov. He lived in a very authoritarian time period where people you did what they were told to do by their superiors without question, thus, his theory fit with the common theme of the period in this way.

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