B.F. Skinner

The Theory of Operant Conditioning

An Influential American Psychologist


  • DOB: March 20, 1904
  • Passed away in 1990 of Leukemia
  • Grew up in Pennsylvania
  • Middle class family
  • Received his BA in English from Hamilton College (NY)
  • Wrote articles on labor problems in NY and lived as a "bohemian"
  • Received his masters in psychology in 1930 and his doctorate in 1931 from Harvard
  • Taught at the University of MN
  • Married Yvonne Blue and had two daughters
  • Became the chairman of the psychology department at Indiana University in 1945
  • Invited to teach at Harvard in 1948 where he finished out his career
  • Most famous for developing the theory based on Operant Conditioning

Theory of Operant Conditioning

  • Schedules of Reinforcement - Using fixed intervals and variable ratios to study behavior.
  • Shaping - Reinforcement of complex behavior.
  • Aversive Stimuli - The opposite of a reinforcing stimulus, something we might find unpleasant or painful.
  • Behavior Modification - Extinguish an undesirable behavior (by removing the reinforcer) and replace it with a desirable behavior by reinforcement.
Big image

His legacy lives on...